One the one hand, you've got the "tech support sucks" crowd, saying that support is their job, they should be expected to deal with whatever users need. How dare they put on their "elite" hats, as though esoteric knowledge of computer Black Magic makes them better than the average guy. There are plenty of well-educated, intelligent people who call tech support, are they "dummies" too? "I get paid to market product, not to know how to maintain a computer." Besides, if the software worked, maybe you wouldn't need to take eighteen months of training in how to use it.
On the other hand, you've got the "it's the luser's own fault for not knowing better" crowd, saying that if just one more moron calls in because he couldn't figure out his ELECTRONIC computer needed to be PLUGGED INTO THE WALL to work, they're gonna go nuts. If the users would take the time to think about what's going on, or—GOD FORBID—read the information on the screen, tech support wouldn't have to be such jerks.
Finally, you've got the "I know more than the tech, lemme talk to someone who isn't retarded" crowd, who explain that they know their system isn't the problem, there's a downed router at their ISP. This bunch generally complains about The Script, and that if they mention "Linux" they get stonewalled. "If the guy would just learn to recognize my l33t 5k1llz, I could tell him what the problem is, and how to fix it." They tend to complain about
outsourcing "best shoring" tech support, and call the people on the other end of the line "support monkeys." The so-called "techs" probably got fired from their last McJob and figured "there's lots of money in com-poo-ters."
The mind boggles. I'd bet good money that you read those, and sympathized with one of them. A little voice in your head was saying "damn straight" about one of them. Don't get me wrong, I'm hardly innocent, here—I did my best to present each group in an equal light, but I'm sure I didn't fully succeed in masking my own bias.
My preferences aside, though, there are a couple things about the situation that are just about unarguably true. First, that it's less than ideal. Far too many people spend far too much time complaing about tech support from one side or another for it to really be working. Second, and more importantly, each of the three main groups has a point! Pick the one that made you say to yourself, "oh, I hate those people," and try (painful though it might be) to look at it from their point of view.
Say you work a help desk, and there's nothing you hate more than the supercilious user who can't be bothered to learn the first thing about the machine he has to use. Put yourself in his place. It's possible that he's just a jerk in general, but probably he's just a guy trying to get his job done. His boss sets deadlines, and he's doing his best to meet them, just like you. He's got plenty on his own desk, and he just wants to get through it so he can go home to his family, watch the game, and relax for a bit. But first, he has to get this bloody spreadsheet to generate a regression line. No one bothered to find out if he knew how. No one in his area knows, either. He's struggled with it for more than an hour, and he finally has it. The chart appears. It worked! All he has to do is label the lines, and—BOOM, BSOD. #$@*! Is it surprising he just wants the help desk to fix it? He doesn't want to hear about how it was probably his own fault, he doesn't want to hear that he did something stupid, he wants it to have worked, and it didn't, and he knows he'll have to do it again, and he wasn't hired to generate charts anyway, and you're the computer guy, and JUST FIX THE DAMN THING ALREADY.
Or maybe you're an end user, and your application crashed. You're about to fire off a curt email to the help desk, but stop for a second. Think about it from his point of view. Think about how much email the help desk gets, almost all of it demanding they fix something, adjust something, or install something. Your department doesn't quite have enough people to go around, the help desk doesn't, either. Sure, it's possible that the guy at the help desk is the infamous Bastard Operator From Hell, but odds are good he's just a guy who's good with computers, trying to make a living with that skill. He'd probably love to make your system run just the way you want it to. But you're not the only person he's supporting, are you? You're about to send out an email saying "[x] isn't working, and I can't get anything done." He gets tens, dozens, maybe hundreds of these a day, on everything from Word to Lotus Notes to Oracle. He knows perfectly well that your computer gave you an error message, and knows he's going to have to email you back to find out what it was, and you're going to be even more annoyed as time passes. He doesn't want to deal with angry users. He already knows it's his job to fix the computers, he doesn't need you telling him that. Yes, your problem is important, but he's also got an open issue with the VP of sales, who's about set to fart fire, someone was just "sent this file in order to have your assistance," database load is peaking, and he's already going to be here all night configuring a new server, so if you could just back off for a bit, he'll take care of it as soon as he can.
Perhaps you're someone who knows computers. You'd never claim you know everything, but you know what you know, you're aware of what you don't know, and you've figured out what the problem is: their DHCP server is down or flaky. You call tech support, you each say "hi," then the guy says, "OK, I'm going to need you to reset your modem." Before you put on your "I'm smarter than you" suit, think about that guy's job. Sure, it's possible he's a clueless drone who couldn't care less about your problem, but odds are he's just a guy who'd love to deal with a competent user...but how can he tell? Remember the adage about how you can tell how much someone knows about computers by just asking them: if they say "nothing," they're completely clueless. If they say "a bit," they know more than 95% of the population, and know how much they don't. If they say "everything," they're almost as clueless as the first guy, but don't believe they are. So, how many people do you suppose the support guy deals with every day who tell him they already know what's wrong, he's clearly an idiot for not listening to them, and if they don't get to talk to his manager right now, they're going to file a complaint. Of course, when he kicks them up to the manager, who discerns that they're "scanning" faxes by placing them against the monitor and broke off their "cup holder" last week, who do you think the manager's going to blame? The support guy is tired of people explaining to him how much smarter than him they are despite the fact that they clearly couldn't solve the problem on their own. And if he hears one more guy just "mention" he's a doctor of esoteric-discipline-of-the-day, he's gonna scream, so if you could maybe just HIT the reset button so we can get ON with it, we'll BOTH save time.
Can't you see being any one of these people? What they're saying isn't unreasonable. They've all got good points; they've all been burned by someone on the other side. They're not jackasses or morons, they're people in a situation they don't like , doing the best they can to deal with it. People dealing with broken equipment, malfuctioning software, or a towering workload are unlikely to be in the best possible mood, and can you blame them?
And no one seems to realize the (to me) easy solution. Be polite. We all know that the majority of people are basically decent and helpful, but they're also susceptible to frustration and anger. The user/tech support interaction happens almost exclusively in that sort of situation. It's also no secret that people respond better to requests than demands; more flies with honey, and so forth. So maybe—just maybe—you might bear in mind next time you're involved in one of these exchanges that the whole thing will go faster and be less obnoxious if you can approach the situation calmly and politely. If you've been on hold for 45 minutes, you've got a right to be irked, but taking it out on the poor guy who ends up with your call isn't productive, so don't. Just work with him to get your problem solved, and if you still want to take your shots about the hold time, ask for a manager. If he can't (or won't) give you one, and you're still dead-set on taking a stand, send a letter.
If a user has just "lost" all his email (by selecting it all and hitting delete), don't sigh and give him your "what did you THINK the delete key did??" look. Say something more like, "yeah, I hate when I make that mistake; it only takes one press of the delete key, and everything you've highlighted is gone. Luckily, it's set up to save them in your trash until you close the program, so you can get them back without too much trouble." With luck, he'll remember, and it'll never come up again. Even if not, you haven't lost anything, have you?
If the tech you call begins running through a script which details everything you've already tried, why not just play along? It'll probably take less time than convincing him you don't need to, and with less frustration all around. If you're really pressed for time, you're still best off not acting superior. Try just introducing the problem by saying "here's what's happening, and I've tried X, Y and Z to fix it, with no results." But bear in mind that, quite often, the guy is required to go through the script, and no amount of ranting on your part is going to change that.
I've been in all of the above positions, and courtesy goes a long way. No matter what sort of rationalist, realist, pragmatist image the tech/geek/computer crowd has, we still respond better to the courteous than the curt.