The "tech support" I have to do is much more involved and detailed since it's involving huge contracts with corporations and government organizations and it involves expensive server software (occasionally requiring an onsite visit from someone and very often requiring a quick hotfix patch), but the rule stays the same -- never trust the customer.
It isn't necessarily that customers "lie", but that often admins, systems engineers and coders are completely unwilling to try the basic steps to resolve an issue or to debug it so we can write a patch for it and they just want "the fix" which, presumably, I'm to pull out of my ass with absolutely no information.
A customer who doesn't work with me within reason will quickly get the boot and, since they have expensive contracts, come to the conclusion that if they want to get their money's worth for that contract better work with me to resolve their problem. Most, usually being quite experienced, contact me with a list of things they've tried, from step by step explanation to reproduce a defect to generating their own stack traces on their system instead of dumping the core in my hand and making me spend extra time on it. A lot of them are known among my peers for being so respectful of the process that they do almost everything imaginable themselves and when an issue comes in, you can be assured that it is a true problem right away.
The point being that while people in the tech-support and engineering fields are intuitive, we're not mind readers. When I used to do tech support (especially when I supported a popular web browser with end-users), I would have been able to retire in a year if I had a buck for every customer who swore it was our problem and they had done everything. Even if I drew out step by step lists of what I wanted them to do -- very simple steps -- the problem would continue. Only to later find out that they had never performed any of the requested steps. After twisting their arm and refusing to support them at all, they would usually finally do what I had been wasting my time telling them to do all along and the problem would, of course, be fixed.
Then there were the people who said "I already know what the problem is -- how do I fix it". After closer inspection, they only thought they knew what the problem is and after a few minues of simple tests and data gathering, I was usually able to tell them what the problem really was (absolutely unrelated to what they claimed it was) and gave them a solution on the spot. There are also necessary intenral processes that are required if tech support persons are to convince the engineers to develop a code fix for a problem -- or even receive advanced support from their backling teams with your call. If they do not perform these minimal steps and gather the absolute basic data, they will be asked to do so when they escalate the issue to an engineer. Eventually, the tech support person will lose credibility with engineering and the slow response resulting from it will hamper the technicians future calls with other customers -- possibly you.
The moral of the story being tech support people (and engineers, programmers, QA persons) are not paid to take your word for things. They're paid to find the solution. If this means that you have to go through something that you believe you've already done three times, rest assured that you're being asked to do it for a reason.
Often at these call centers for consumer product support, you'll be dealing with someone who is just a frontline rep. These persons likely have no coding experience, little technical knowledge and only a minimum to intermediate knowledge of the product they're supporting. They've probably received no education on the product other than whatever documentation is already available to the end-user and the occasional conversation with their peers in the support center. Their only recourse is to re-hash the documentation, search the publically available database, search their internal call histories and follow through with some routine scripted steps. After you've gone through these initial steps (with the tech, not just on your own and then telling the tech that you're done trouble-shooting), the tech usually has the authority to escalate the call, where it can begin to receive actual knowledgable support and begin the process toward an actual resolution (usually with the backline at the actual company that makes the product; not the call center that is contracted to provide support).
So either way, it's important to work with the tech. Even in the worst call centers, the technicians don't want to waste your time and they certainly don't want to waste their own.
Thankfully, I haven't had to be in that line of business for a few years. There aren't a lot of jobs which require as much patience, are as frustrating and give you as little training as working in a generic tech support call center. You're the first person everyone complains to from every issue from sales to marketing to the way the program is writtin to the actual problems themselves. You'll be blamed for the way the product was packaged to the way the sales clerk at the retail store treated them during the transaction. About 95% of the time, you won't even be thanked for spending hours of your time, frustrated, trying to get a customer a solution so they can go about enjoying their weekend with their new gadget or program.
So when your tech support person makes you go through the routine steps, have a little understanding. At the minimum, have a list of the steps you did do to present to the person and be willing to try additional steps that they might require to diagnose your problem. Be willing to let the tech person make the call as to when the call needs to be escalated (unless the person is a bafoon, not working with you, not returning your calls, ignoring you or dragging the call on for ages). As long as the basics have been covered, most technicians will feel more comfortable seeking out advanced lines of support for you and you'll both be happy. And trust me, if your tech is happy -- chances are you will be too. Knowing the degree of training these guys get these days, the last thing I would do is call them for support. But, if I absolutely had to, I would not want to piss one of them off and find my call in oblivion and having the tech give anything but 100% effort to my problem.
I just read K5 for the articles.
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