IT customer support dos and don'ts

In this reader's collection of IT experiences, customer service encounters are anything but boring

I have been working in computer support since about 1995 -- online, over the phones, and on-site. Here are a few gems from some of the customer service encounters.

Watch your language: My very first tech support job was working in customer service for an Internet services provider. The last day of training, we were all assigned to a floor agent for "buddy jacking," where we listened to both sides of the call but said nothing.

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The very first call I listened in on was from this sweet old lady who was unable to install the software. She was waiting for Windows to load when she got the message "System Error - C: No operating system found." Slight problem here.

The agent I was with simply replied off the bat in an expletive-laden way: "Wow, lady, you're in trouble." I noticed that every word being said had a slight echo, and that was the Quality Assurance gang listening. A short time later, he was fired and escorted out of the building. I was assigned a new agent and was simply told that was not the way to handle callers. "No kidding," I said to myself.

After I'd worked at the tech support job for a while, I'd remind myself of this incident whenever I wanted to yell or respond to a customer in an exasperated way. It sounds simple, but when you spend the day getting yelled and sworn at, it is hard not to respond. But while one may feel the need to yell back, it doesn't help to do so.

Be sure you know the company procedures: My next job was doing tech support via e-mail for a cable Internet company, and one of the biggest complaints we got was lack of speed. It was faster than the phone service and getting better all the time, but it was still the No. 1 issue we dealt with.

Well, I got an e-mail from a customer complaining the service was slow because (I still remember this phrase after 12 years) he "couldn't get his kiddie porn fast enough." I wasn't sure if he was joking, but no sane person jokes about child porn, so I forwarded the e-mail to the police. I didn't realize there was a procedure for this sort of thing (something I was never told of in my three-plus years with the company), and it was my turn to be escorted out of the building.

HR and my boss told me I was fired because I did not follow correct procedures. They said it was in the employee manual, but I'd never been given one and this issue hadn't been covered in our training. There were plenty of new jobs available, so I decided not to pursue the matter further. Now when I start a new job I make sure to learn the company procedures forward and backward, asking questions and documenting the answers. Live and learn.

"My printer won't print": I now do onsite setup, tutorials, and tech support, and I have seen some funny problems. One day I got a call from someone who wasn't able to print. They had clicked on Print numerous times, and the printer wouldn't do anything.

I arrived at the house, looked through the printer settings in Windows, and confirmed that everything was fine. I located the printer and noticed that it didn't have any lights on. I pressed the power button and the lights came on, the cartridge loaded and began to print 10 copies of the same document.

The client sheepishly laughed and thanked me. It's nice to get an easy call like that.

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