Tales from the tech support trenches

Real stories from the life of field technicians show how dirty tech support duty can get -- and the value of personal touch

I was recently discussing trends in customer service and technical support with Brendan Keegan, president and CEO of Worldwide TechServices. We got a little off topic as he regaled me with entertaining anecdotes from his field technicians. I told him that my readers at the Gripe Line would enjoy hearing some of these stories. After reaching out to his technicians for recent stories from the field, he unearthed the following gems.

Time to hit the shower -- over and over again

Michael, a field tech, was sent on a service call in Oklahoma. He was told he was going to a customer's home. Nearing the remote, rural address given to him, Michael was on the lookout for a farm.

[ Also on InfoWorld: For more dirty IT jobs, see "The 7 dirtiest jobs in IT" and "The dirt locker: Dirty duty on the front lines of IT" | Frustrated by tech support? Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

"As it turns out, the call was from a facility that nurses baby pigs," Michael says. He pulled into the mud parking lot and followed his nose to the facility. "I didn't need my GPS for the last half mile of the drive," he says. "The smell of pigs was overwhelming."

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He was greeted pleasantly by the customer and followed the man to a waiting area. There he was told he could go no further until he had taken a shower. Michael was a little stunned by this unusual request. How could he smell any worse than those pigs? He gave the client a puzzled look.

"Pig farmers bring baby piglets here to nurse," the customer explained. "If anyone brings a disease into the clean area, it could kill all the piglets and ruin my business."

The request wasn't specific to Michael; no one was allowed into the clean piglet area till they had showered.

"So I stripped down, showered with their special soap, put on a bulk-laundered set of clothes, slipped on boots with covers and entered the clean area," reports Michael. Of course, he soon discovered that the problem required that he go in and out of the clean area several times. The modem was in the clean area, but the antenna was up on the roof.  

"I had to set things up in the clean area, go up on the roof, then go through the whole showering process again to get back to the modem," he relates.

Five showers and three hours later, Michael left. The piglet facility had a working system, and Worldwide TechServices had one very clean field service tech.

Not all rage is about the machine

Ron called a customer to give him an estimated time of arrival. The client was furious already, insisting that the vendor had told him someone would be at the house at 8 a.m.

"I politely explained that there must have been a mistake because we always call customers between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. to give them our estimated time of arrival," Ron says. "I was already at the first customer's front door. But I assured him I'd be there as soon as I had finished that repair."

At the designated time, Ron arrived and was lucky enough to find parking near the customer's front door -- though it was a tight squeeze next to a canal.

"As I got out of the car, the customer's door flew open and a giant of a man rushed out -- shouting at me," Ron says. With his back to the canal and the irate customer headed right for him, Ron put his phone and wallet back in the car. He was certain he was about to be sent into the drink for a swim. But the man rushed at him only to hand him a parking permit so that he wouldn't have to pay for that perfect parking space.

Ron retrieved his phone, wallet, and tools from his car and followed the man into the house. However, Ron had already determined that whatever had happened to this customer would require more than technical know-how and tools to fix.

"Before even looking at his computer, I asked him why he was so unhappy," Ron says. "It turns out he had been trying to get an engineer to his house for three months."

It was a slow day for Ron, so he sat down and asked the customer to tell him everything that had transpired. The two drank coffee and talked. "By the time we finished our second cup, the customer had calmed down," reports Ron.

"I proposed to go and have a look at the PC. I had already determined it was an intermittent problem and explained that these are hard to troubleshoot." But the minute Ron turned on the computer, the error presented itself and he was able to fix it quickly.

"A short time later, the customer submitted a service satisfaction survey with a near perfect score," says Ron -- and this was after waiting three months to get service. "It is a good reminder that sometimes what people need is for someone to take the time to have a cup of coffee and hear them out."

Do any of you have hilarious tales of irate service situations you'd like to share?

Got gripes? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "Tales from the tech support trenches," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

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