Monday, June 6, 2011

Tech Support Tales: That One Guy

When my first marriage finally imploded, I decided that - among other things - it was time to find a way to make enough money that I could eventually retire. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially with an English degree.

So I moved back to Dallas, took a job as a plumber's assistant, and spent my free time studying computers until I could pick up a couple of Microsoft certifications. Then I started looking for work involving computers. As an entry-level person with a couple of certifications and no real experience, I wound up putting in some time - a year and a half, maybe two years - at The Company That Shall Not Be Named.

TCTSNBN was not a bad place to work. I called it that because it provided outsource technical support for other companies, and we were absolutely forbidden to identify ourselves as working for our actual employer. So people would call the tech support line for their computer (or printer, or scanner) manufacturer, and end up talking to us instead.

I was working on the contract for a PC manufacturer, which was perfect for my long-range plans. TCTSNBN gave us two weeks of training, then introduced us to working the floor (i.e. the cubicle farm) in a gradual, sit-with-someone-experienced process, designed to keep us from panicking and the customers from realizing just how green we really were. It didn't work perfectly, but it worked well.

After a while, I got moved to second-tier support - meaning that I got the calls that the newer techs couldn't solve, or the ones where the customer had asked to speak to a supervisor.

One of these was a fellow - an older man - who'd just bought a new computer from one of the retail chains. He'd taken it home, set it up, turned it on, and gotten an error. The first-level tech thought that he just needed to use the restore disk and reload the operating system, but the customer didn't want to do that.

So I start walking him back through things, and I listen to him describe the problem, and I agree: he really just needs to reload. It doesn't seem to be a hardware problem; it looks like the software just didn't install correctly at the factory. So I tell him this, and he says, basically: "You know, I could just take it back to the store, too."

"Sure," I tell him. "You can do that. But the computer itself seems to be fine, and if you'll just run this reload disk, I think it'll work just fine for you. And if it doesn't work, you can always take it back in the morning."

He thinks about that, and decides (only slightly grudgingly) that we might as well reload the disk. So we get it started, and while it's going, he asks: "So, are these good computers? I mean, are they well-made?"

There's a brief moment where, I think, he's waiting to see whether I'm going to Support Our Product, or whether I'm going to tell him something real.

"Beats me," I say. "Nobody ever calls me because their computer is working right."

And that cracked him up completely. It must have caught him out of left field - I don't think he'd ever imagined a tech support guy would actually come out and admit that. He actually put his friend on the phone and made me repeat it - and then wondered if there was a way to call me directly - say, on April Fool's Day. Because (and I agreed), the idea of someone calling tech support to tell us that his computer was working great struck him as really funny.

While we're on the subject... If you've ever wondered what it's like to work in technical support, let me introduce you to the Internet Helpdesk:


  1. I've heard several funny stories from the AH. He worked at a help desk before he climbed the ladder to his job now. Like people all upset because their computer is not working, but they didn't check to see if it's plugged in.

    I didn't watch the vid yet. Making hungry kids lunch, but I will be back later to do so.

  2. I have no funny stories of people who worked at help desks, only from the side of being helped.

    This wasn't the internet help desk, it was a satellite dish service. I was on hold for four hours. Not kidding. The recording kept saying that if you hang up you start back over and lose your place in line. So I put it on speaker phone and went about my business until a rep answered...who didn't speak English very well. I couldn't understand a thing he was saying, his accent was so thick. I finally got exasperated and asked him if there was anybody there who spoke English. I got put on hold - again! If this hadn't been for an internet connection at a remote location for one of the computers at work, I'd have just hung up on them and stopped the subscription.

  3. Wow. Four hours? That's impressive... and not in a good way.


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