I've found that a vast majority of people are massively devoid of clue on this particular topic, so without further ado, here is my little guide on how to talk to tech support.

  • Speak, don't bark.
  • Don't expect us to remember your name just because we talked to you last week.
  • Try and present us with a question instead of a statement. 'My web page is not working' does not tell me what your problem is.
  • Be as concise as possible. There're few things more frustrating than hearing someone's problem and knowing how to fix it right away, but being forced to listen to 5 minutes of inapplicable stuff.
  • If you are indeed one of the few with clue who call, don't be an arrogant ass. If you're so damn smart, why are you calling?
  • We do not give a rat's ass about your MCSE.
  • We know your email is important. You do not have to describe its contents.
  • Try not to whine. We know it's hard not to, but please try.
  • We're not a support group. We don't care to hear about your problems with your kids, co-wokers, other providers, ISP, phone company, vehicle, Network Solutions, etc.
  • The error message is usually correct. Disputing it will only frustrate you.
  • Contrary to popular belief, we are actually correct a large percentage of the time.
  • NEVER call tech support for someone else. Have them call. If they are 'too busy' to 'waste time' talking to us, then so are we.
Once again, that's it. Any additions, complaints, etc? Scroll down and node that puppy!
For ShadowNode: If you just need something specific, and ask for it, then you're not being an arrogant ass. And yes, a lot of tech support people are merely screen readers, and justifiably so. I just work at a small webhosting company and am thus getting to play tech support AND sysadmin. Joy.
A couple additions:

Please don't say any of the following:
"I'm so stupid"
"I'm computer illiterate"
"You must hate talking to stupid people like me"

Unless you want a truthful answer. There's nothing I hate more than coddling your ego while I try to fix your computer problems.

Also, don't lie. Trust me, I'll figure it out pretty soon anyway, and it's just going to make it more painful for both of us.

Only call when you are at your computer, it is on, and you have enough time to talk. Calls on your cell phone from the car on your way to work are not likely to be productive.

And always remember this, once you call tech support you forfeit your rights to being the smart guy. If we tell you to do something, don't question it. In addition to this, don't tell us what your computer savvy friend thinks the problem is. He's probably an idiot and we frankly don't care.

In addition to the rest

If you get an error on the screen, note it down or better yet get a screen shot if you know how. There is nothing worse than being told "It was error 12 something or other I think, do you know that one?"

Try to remember exactly what else was running and what steps you took to get to the point of the error, it can help a lot.

If you have recently installed some new piece of software that you maybe shouldn't have don't try to hide the fact. Let us know so that we can determine where the problem really lies

Don't say "The whole office has this problem" unless you know for a fact that they do. Just because you and the person you sit beside happen to have a similar issue doesn't mean the entire site is down.

Try and be sensible about the priority of your call. Is there some other piece of work you could be doing whilst this is being fixed, or are you at a complete stand-still? Remember there is a whole company full of people calling with issues and some ARE more important than yours

When did the error start, and I mean really start? Don't just say it happens all the time. If that was the case then why have you been suffering it for so long? If we know when the problem started we may be able to relate it to a recent update made to something.

Have you ever actually used this piece of software or this panel on the application before? I mean really? If it's the first time you have tried it it may just be a configuration issue so it's important to know. We won't try and judge you just because you were meant to be using it before.

When your friend who works for another company sends you an email he got from someone else telling all about a new virus please don't forward it to everyone in the company. Send it to us first, we can determine whether it is real and applicable to everyone before issuing an alert.

Finally, we are on your side, we are not a deliberate conspiracy to mess up your day. We will do whatever is possible but there are some things we are just not allowed to do.

If you happen to have purchased a computer from a large manufacturer like Dell or Gateway, please inform us when you've made upgrades. We have a monitor in front of us (usually) that has a list of what's in your computer. If I waste more than 20 minutes trying to fix a video card that you don't have, and you won't tell me about, don't be shocked when I hang up. Warranty or not, misleading me isn't going to help your cause.

If you call and ask for a supervisor immediately, humor me and let me try to help you first. If you can't give me ten minutes to try to make headway on your problems, then you don't have the time to pursue any of the options my supervisor is going to give you.

Just because tech support at XYZ, Inc. spent ten minutes on the phone with you and told you the problem was with my equipment, doesn't make it true. I'm going to try everything I can to fix your problem, but if you're on the phone with me for 2 hours and I finally tell you it's their problem, just fucking believe me.

At some point, I too have to listen to my hold music. You don't have to tell me how shitty it is. Also, don't complain when I cut into your favorite 80's power ballad to take your phone call. I'm almost certain to hang up.

When we have you format a 20Gig IDE hard drive, and actually stay on the line with you, we fully intend to take a break. If I put you on hold for ten minutes, it's probably because I needed a caffeine fix or needed to take a dump. Don't be offended. You've probably caught me 5 hours into a 9 hour shift, and I bet I'm not in the mood for your crap.

I've never seen your computer. I can't tell you if it's any good or not.

Seriously, threatening to sue the company isn't going to get your new Winmodem sent out any faster. Also, get used to the idea that I'm not going to give you my full name. I have an employee number for a good reason.

I don't care if you have to hog-tie and gag them, I don't want to hear your children screaming in the background when you call. Focus all your attention on me, because the third or fourth time I have to repeat instructions to be heard over your crotchlings, I'm gonna go nuts.

Yeah, I think that about does it for me.

My experience is with smallish companies, so my perspective is slightly different from your large company or in-house support staff. All the previous still applies, but keep in mind:

The following conversation is proof positive that we here on 'the help desk' are fully justified in being skeptical about users who call us.

This specific conversation never took place, but is a composite of all the worst clients I have ever spoken to.

It might be worth mentioning that most people we talk to aren’t like this at all. But it’s the ones who ARE that make you want to KILL.

It might also be worth mentioning that the people who work at the companies we support are mostly I.T. professionals of some sort. It is their job to know the basics about computers. Those of you who said you thought I was being too harsh on someone who was clearly undereducated with computers... take heed, and imagine yourself in my position.

The voice on the left is me, the voice on the right is the user in question, a regular caller whose voice bears a particularly grating Greek/Australian accent.


Hello, this is Michael, how may I help you?

A09X069.

This is one of our mainframe's user id's.

Hello? How may I help you? (said with rather more emphasis)

What? Err... Oh, I can't get into the thing.

Which thing?

Errr, the claims screen. I can't get into it.

Alright, What happens when you try?

Having to use this phrase is my pet peeve.

Well, I get the screen… The first screen, and then nothing happens.

Nothing happens? Did you log in with your user id and password?

Of course I did. What's your name?

First of all, I already told her.
Secondly, this is how people subtly threaten that they don't like my level of 'support' and want to report me to someone.

My name is Michael. Ok, so you put in your userid and password, did you get an error message?

Yes, I told you already, it said 'password invalid', but I know I was typing in the right password. Then I typed it in again and it said my password is suspended. I want to know who suspended it and why!

Well actually, you did.
When you typed your password in incorrectly for the third time, your account was locked automatically.
It's a security feature to stop people from being able to randomly guess your password and mess with your account.
It was probably just a simple typo, we all do them from time to time.

No I didn't! I typed it in right.

Why must they they lie to me?

The mainframe wouldn't just lock you out to spite you ma'am. I'll just unlock your account now so you can try again, so what was your user id?

I already told you!

Yes, I'm sorry, I was expecting you to tell me what problem you were experiencing rather than immediately telling me your user id.

At this point the tone used by the client usually shifts gear to pure exasperation.

AY ZERO NOIN IX FOR XYLOPHONE ZERO SIXTY NINE.

This woman's voice, and her name (brought up by the system as 'Isabella Pothitos') tells me more about her than I care to know.
She is a very large Greek woman with a moustache and 8 children.
I have never asked, but I know it without even thinking about it.

*clicky*clicky*clicky* ok, that's been unlocked, so you can try again with your usual password and it should be fine. Can I have your contact phone number for our records?

9555-2555 *Pause* So what's my password?

I haven't changed it. It's still set to whatever you last had it set to.

*clicky*clicky*clicky* Ah!

At this point I hear another click, and the line goes to a dial tone. I wait for a moment, then call back on the number she provided.

Hello this is Isabella.

Hello, it's Michael from the help desk here, sorry, I think we got cut off there...

Oh... no, I hung up.

Erm, why?

Because the problem was fixed and I didn't need you any more...

This is the last straw for me.

It didn't occur to you to tell me that the problem was resolved?

Why? You didn't care.

At this point I have been driven to the point of pure insanity. I mutter a 'thank you and goodbye' through gritted teeth and hang up.


So next time you call us, try a little tenderness. We're on your side, and we don't just do things to piss you off. Treat us like human beings and we'll treat you just the same way.

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