Column: Navigate tiers of technical support when device stops working
It’s happened. Fail. Your gizmo, whether it is a computer, tablet, phone or even a cloud-based application, doesn’t work anymore.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
It’s happened. Fail. Your gizmo, whether it is a computer, tablet, phone or even a cloud-based application, doesn’t work anymore. It’s time to call for help. While many organizations provide chat-based support, phone calls are still the most popular and effective way to get help. Most of us hate having to do that, but with a little understanding, one can make this experience a little more palatable.
The first rule of calling for help is to try and be objective. As the saying goes, “Check your emotions at the door.” The person on the other end of the line almost never cares that you’ve spent countless hours, banged the mouse on the desk a jillion times and, my personal favorite, given the monitor “the bird” more times than you’d care to admit. If you yell and scream at whoever answers your call, you’ve already started off on the wrong foot and will be no closer to solving the problem.
Understand that for most large organizations, the first person who answers that toll-free line is probably an entry-level employee. While many successful technology professionals started their careers at the help desk, chances are that whomever you’re talking to is not exactly Michael Dell.
The 800 number is often termed as the “first line of support” or Tier 1. Tier 1 personnel are typically trained to follow a documented set of procedures, like a flowchart. Most problems should be fixable by following this flowchart. So don’t get frustrated when you are asked seemingly rudimentary or mundane questions. Simply answer them as factually as possible. Remember, you have checked your emotions at the door.
When dealing with Tier 1 support, don’t try and jump-start the process by providing information that you think is relevant. It may or may not be important, and you don’t want to deviate from the flowchart — yet. Be honest; if you think you screwed something up, admit it. There is usually a question in the flowchart for that, so answer it truthfully if and when you get to it.
A critical step that many folks skip is to keep a log of all of your calls to the help desk. Virtually every help desk staffer answers with his or her name. Write this down!
What do you do if your problem is not solved on the first call? First off, get a tracking or reference number. Sometimes you might simply be asked to refer to your customer or account number. In any case, there should be a procedure for you to easily refer to your case.
Ask whether you can be given an estimated resolution time. If not, find out how you can get a status update. Usually, if your problem is not solved, it is being assigned to another department or staff member who has more seniority than Tier 1. Obviously, the next level is Tier 2, with Tier 3 typically being the highest level. Tier 3 engineers are the most technically skilled, although their people skills can sometimes be suspect. When garnering a status update, you should get an indication as to whether the problem has been worked on since the last update, and an updated estimated completion time. Keep in mind that sometimes a completion time simply cannot be estimated.
If you feel that your problem has not or will not be addressed satisfactorily, you need to get to the next tier. This can usually be done by asking for an “escalation.” Once you get to Tier 3, however, there is no escalation.
Even the most seasoned technical professionals have problems solved by Tier 1, so don’t automatically assume you need to escalate.
John Agsalud is an information technology expert with more than 25 years of IT experience in Hawaii and around the world. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.