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Supporting the Support

Having directed a world-class technical support department in the past, I know that top-notch technical support organizations are geared toward solving their customers’ problems quickly and efficiently.
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Be Prepared and Get the Most Out of Your Technical Support Inquiries

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Mike Detmer, the former president of
Niles Audio, is now a consultant to
custom installation manufacturers and dealers. He can be reached at: mdetmer@mikedetmer.com.
Having directed a world-class technical support department in the past, I know that top-notch technical support organizations are geared toward solving their customers’ problems quickly and efficiently. So when I tried to install my own network enhancements and got in over my head, I did what every panicked installer does: I called the technical support line for help.

After a 45-minute wait, a helpful technical support representative was able to walk me through the steps of getting the system up and running. However, as certain questions arose, I found myself unprepared to answer them, which chewed up a lot of time, embarrassed me, and seemed to frustrate the representative on the other end.

After the call, it dawned on me that a solution could have been attained a lot quicker and easier if I was more prepared. And I suspect that just about every custom integrator, no matter how tech-savvy, runs into problems that require technical support from time to time. So if getting in, getting out, and getting paid quickly is on your agenda, listen to what a technical support professional advises.

John Hamilton and I worked together at Niles where he managed the technical support department. Today, he is the manager of the Snap AV technical support team.

John offered a list of recommendations that will help you navigate your technical support calls more efficiently, so you can be a hero to your clients and your boss.

1 Slow Down to Speed Up

The more you’re prepared to answer questions about the problem and the system, the better a technical support representative will be able to help you. If you’re a small firm calling a manufacturer directly or a larger firm with in-house techs to help solve problems, be prepared to bring the representative fielding your inquiry up to speed quickly and with accurate information. Start off by making sure that you have the make and model numbers of the gear. If possible, check the manual first. This is because manufacturers spend a lot of time and money publishing manuals, and in the case of online manuals, they update them as the product and its applications mature, even publishing online videos to help you better understand what the product is, what it does, and how to install or troubleshoot it properly.

The more you’re prepared to answer questions about the problem and the system, the better a technical support representative will be able to help you.2 Be an Authority on the System

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Make notes so that you are able to provide as much detail about the system as possible. Know the associated equipment, the cabling and terminations, the sequences in a program or anything else supporting the system. Accurately describe the problem. Include as much detail as you can about when and how the problem happens, or doesn’t. Be clear on the specific events that led up to the problem. And be sure to have any passwords necessary to access computers or networks. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” if asked a question you aren’t sure about. Guessing the wrong answer will surely lead the solution sequence down the wrong path, taking even more time and energy to correct.

3 Respect the Tech Support Representative

Typically, by the time you get to calling for technical support, you’re at your wits end. So take a deep breath and realize that the person on the other end of the line is not as familiar with the specific problem as you are. However, he or she is trained to solve problems by stepping through a series of tests or questions. Be patient in answering these as it may take several failed attempts or you may even be transferred to a higher-level support engineer in the progression. Don’t get frustrated and lash out at the person trying to help you.

4 Hold the Line

Stay on the line until your problem is solved, even if it means that you put the technical support representative on hold while you implement their suggestions. You waited your turn to get to where you are, so don’t let that go. Also, be sure to note the representative’s name and extension, as well as your case number, so if you are disconnected, you can get back to where you were quickly. During the conversation make as many notes as you can about the solution sequence, so if the problem reappears, you can backtrack your steps and solve it again.

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