Guest Blogger - When Support Fails

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Colin Harford (Edmonton, Alberta, IT Pro)

Advice for calling tech support

Colin Harford recently wrote a post on a positive support experience he had.  Unfortunatley he also had a bad one and I asked him to share the story along with some advice on dealing with support.  Here is what he had to say.

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Previously, I wrote an article on my dealings with Microsoft Professional Product Support, I have recently finished dealing with one of the personal support team, in particular the Windows Live Messenger Technical Support team.  I did not have the same success with them, as I did with the Live Communication Server support team.

Like many, I was one of those affected with a recent “server issues” using Windows Live Messenger.  Checking online, I found a solution to blow away the contacts cache so I went about doing this, but just in case, I renamed the directories instead of deleting them.  This was unsuccessful so I decided to leave things until the next day.

I tried again the next day, and things still were acting up for both issues so I tried another PC, and it also had the same issue.  I tried the old uninstall/rebooted/re-installed but the same issue remained.  I even fired up regmon and filemon and watched the sign in process with the acting up client, and discovered it was busy hitting the same registry keys over and over when I did not have my contacts cache, and it had to re-download them.  At this point I decided to email the Windows Live Messenger Technical Support team, and went into intimate details everything I did and they replied with a number of things which I had told them I already had accomplished.

I responded back to them explaining things yet again, and re-answering their questions figuring it was just a standard cut and paste email.  The following day, I get an email back, with some questions, requesting permission and instructions for getting things setup so they could access the account.  The questions they asked were already answered in the previous emails, I spent two hours completing the answers to their questions in intimate details, giving everything that they could need.  This process went back and forth with the team asking me the exact same questions over and over again.  Eventually I solved the problem myself.

During the incident I spoke to Rodney Buike, one of the Canadian IT Professional Advisors and Rodney spent some time tracking down some individuals within the support team to find out what happened.  After a few conversations he found someone, I got the following answer and an apology from Jeremy Bostron the Lead Support Program Manager with Microsoft.

“The Windows Live Messenger support team sincerely appreciates the feedback that you have provided about the technical support issue that you encountered.  We are currently working to remedy the situation so that others users that may encounter this same issue will have a better support experience.  Thank you very much for your feedback and helping to make our customer support better for everyone”

I can understand why a lot of people can be afraid to call tech support and I have some advice for those sitting on the fence.  The most important thing to remember is always be polite, but firm with the support staff that you are talking to.  Nothing good will ever happen if you are rude or mean with the person you can talking to, rather, you will find yourself hung up on.  If you must lash out, try to avoid doing it on the automated telephone system, some of them are able to tell, and will hang up on you :)

The second most important thing is to document everything.  As soon as you start speaking with someone, confirm their name, ask for spelling if necessary, and ask for their contact information.   The higher up you go, the handier this information can be later on, even in future support cases, but don’t abuse it.  Record the date, times, as well as the general gist of the conversation, as well as any action items that you or they are going to do, confirm with them on the time frame that it will take for this to happen.

Third, repeat back to the support professional throughout everything their name, especially in the earlier stages of support.  This reminds the support professional that you know their name.  Also try making some small talk with the person you are speaking to, find out where they are from, what the weather is like, etc.  This information can help distinguish them from other co-workers with the same name, in the event someone from management has to speak to them regarding the case. It also helps to form a bond with the support person.

Fourth, be realistic.  Sometimes, what you may want is impossible for the company to provide.  Listen to what the company says, respect and understand what they are saying and what their position is.

Rodney, and the rest in the Canadian IT Professional Team at Microsoft are a great resource to know.  The best way to meet them, is to come to the User Group Events, which are going to be smaller than the events that they run and allow for more one on one conversation.

(Note from Rodney: There is also a Contact Us link near the top of this page :) )

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Colin Harford is a computer professional with a wide range of experience; working with computers for more years than he would often like to admit. His focus is on system administration, primarily involving AD and Exchange. Colin was also involved in the creation of two user groups including EMUG.

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  • I would be interested to see what "remedies" the support desk comes up with.  It isn't just Microsoft that has this problem, all of the major software vendors do the same thing.  It seems to the outsider that they never actually read more than the first line of an e-mail.  Maybe that is another lesson when dealing with support desks...keep your questions short and put the problem in the first sentence.

  • nice to see a balanced view