Photo courtesy of tyle_r on flickr.

This is a guest blog entry from Karin Gerber.

We’ve all been there, whether you’re a computer support technician or as a client looking for some customer service, it doesn’t matter how much technical expertise you have, if you order a computer online and the monitor that’s delivered is broken, you need to call customer service to have the problem resolved.  Being in computer technical support and being a customer myself, I get to see both sides to the customer service world.

I worked as a 2nd Level Technical Support Analyst for a number of years and would get the most irate customers after they finished dealing with Level 1 (which at the time, happened to be outsourced outside the USA).  Unfortunately, with many companies resorting to outsourcing as a way of cutting costs, quality assurance has dropped considerably (“Beware the Perils of Offshore Tech Support” via InfoWorld).  One way to handle this is to possess a very important trait… patience.  Lots of patience.  Having patience will actually work for you whether you’re the technician giving the support, or the customer looking for it.

As a customer, to make your customer service a little less stressful, make sure you wait for the technician to give you the next step.  Many times, if a customer jumps ahead of the technician and starts clicking and deleting items that shouldn’t be touched, not only will that make the customer service call all around frustrating, but it could also cause the computer to malfunction (i.e., not starting up ever again).  I remember one time I had to “reprimand” a customer to slow down and stop jumping ahead of my instructions.  I explained it as simply as this:  if you jump ahead and something goes wrong with your computer, it is not my fault.  I was called for support, and so the customer needs to follow along with me to insure nothing worse happens to the computer.  I find that when I tell my customers this tidbit of information, they tend to slow down and follow my guidance.

Of course, as a customer, I find that if the “technician” I am speaking with does not understand me or my problem at hand, I will politely, but promptly request to speak with their supervisor.  Don’t resort to name-calling or getting angry with the customer service representative… that will get you no where fast.  I know how difficult it is to keep your cool when you’ve just spent $1500 on a computer system to only find out the monitor isn’t working.  I don’t want to be told to “make sure my monitor is plugged in” before getting a replacement.  I want results and I want them yesterday.  How to help resolve this quickly?  Firmly, but politely explain to the representative the procedures you’ve already done.  If that doesn’t work, ask to speak with their supervisor.  You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

As a technician, one thing I’ve noticed with many customers is that when they are irate, many times they just want to vent their frustrations, and so I become the sounding board for them.  If I just allow the customer to vent and not take what they’re saying to me personally, they eventually calm down and will start listening to my recommendations.  Many times people just want to be heard, and if you give them that, they will start to listen.  Also, as technicians, we sometimes tend to forget that some computer users really have very little knowledge of the machine they’re trying to use.  I’ve heard many stories where people just don’t understand the basics of a computer… things that technicians and savvy computer folks take for granted.  How many technicians heard stories similar to “my cup holder” (DVD drive) and “my foot pedal” (mouse) aren’t working?  Put yourself in the shoes of the customer.  If you’re still having issues walking your customer through simple steps, ask if there is someone else you can speak with to help resolve the issue.  Be kind and compassionate, after all, they need your help.  It’s all in how you approach the customer, and as long as you’re not making the customer feel inferior, it will be easier for them to understand why you’d need to speak with someone with a little more technical savvy.  After all, what matters is getting the issue resolved with few headaches for both the customer as well as the technician.