note: in order to avoid putting some sort of disclaimer, the company whose tech support is illustrated's identity is being kept a secret.

My new comp, with its glorious geforce (32 meg, Nvidia). :) One day something with the video card goes wrong. Nothing that uses direct 3d or opengl works anymore. I reinstall drivers. I install updated drivers. Little progress. I call tech support for the company that makes the computer. After being on hold for a while, i get a guy. He asks me what the problem is. I tell him that anything that is using the video isn't working. He goes throuh steps to get me to reinstall the drivers. When this is completed, he asks me if my icons are still fuzzy. Fuzzy? they were never fuzzy i say. He says, oh, then it wasn't the drivers. He tries to convince me that there is something wrong with the settings on the software i put on my computer and therefore stuff that isn't covered by the tech support. I tell him that the windows 3d screen-savers aren't working (3d flower box, etc). He has me go through a procedure to delete these screen savers. I assume he will re-install them or something. He then says, well, the problem is gone. I say no, you just deleted some of windows screen savers. He says, yeah, software you installed isn't set right. I say, no those are windows screen savers you just deleted. He says, no, those are sceen savers that were put there by software they put on. I ask, who is they? He gives a run around and goes back to the idea of my software causing the problem. I tell him those screen savers were part of windows. They come with windows. Any idiot knows that. I wasn't dealing with just any idiot. He continues to try to convince me that those screen savers are not part of the original windows 98. I say, 'thank you' sarcastically and hang up. I call back, sit on hold again for a lengthy period of time and finally get someone who can find their arse with both hands. Too bad i didn't get that guys name.
I was fooling around with Bluelight's free internet access to compare different ones and see which one I wanted to stick with when I realized that their web site gives no information whatsoever about the POP and SMTP accounts I'd need to be able to run email through Outlook while I'm dialed up through them. So, with great fear and trepidation, to tech support land we went. This is as close to verbatum as I can recall:

BlueLight Tech Support Guy with Southern Drawl: Hi, can I just get your name and phone number to fill out the support ticket.
Me: Sure. (I give the information)
Tech: Okay, great. What kind of error are you getting?
Me: It's not an error, actually, I'm just curious as to what Bluelight's incoming and outcoming mail servers are so that I can check my email accounts through Outlook while I'm connected through Bluelight.
Tech: Uh...but can't you just check it at
Me: That's how I'd check my new Bluelight account, but I need Bluelight's mail server info to check other accounts, like say my school email account.
Tech: Ohhhh. Um, I'm not really sure how to do that. Let me go check with someone...
(Five minutes of silence)
Tech: Hello? boss said that you'd have to find out your server info through your school.
Me: (In a pleading voice) No, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna need Bluelight's POP and SMTP info so I don't get relaying errors.
Tech: Ohhhhh...hold on one second.
(Five minutes of silence)
Tech: Okay, here it is...(gives me the info)...have a nice day.

It's not drop dead funny or anything, I just through it was amusing that it took ten minutes for the brain trust over there to figure out what their mail servers were...
I work on the other end of tech support. The receiving end. Luckily, I only have to do tech support for the people in my building, and I only have to do it for a few more days.

The mail server has gone down today. This affects roughly about a third of the 300 or so people I support. The mail servers we use are spread across the US. None of them are located in our building. I can understand the employees not realizing this, but if you're having a problem, and your neighbor is having a problem, and your boss is having the same problem, chances are, me running up to your cubicle isn't going to solve much.

When I get in this morning, I check the voice mail.

You have.. 5 messages. To listen to the first message, press One-One.

"Hi jeremy, this is Bob, from up on the fourth floor. I'm getting an e-mail problem, whenever I try to start up Outlook, I get an error saying that I can't connect to the mail server. Oh, and a few other people around here are having the same problem. Can you come up and look at our computers for us?"

"Hi jeremy, this is Beth from AR..."

And once I work through all the messages, I get a phone call. I check the ID on the display: a new employee who came on Tuesday. I know for a fact that she's using the mail server that's down.

"Hi, this is (name withheld), and I'm having a problem with.."

"Is it an e-mail problem?"

"Yes, b.."

"The e-mail server's down. They're fixing it right now. Is that it?"

(shaken) "um... Yes"

"Okay, bye"

(Coworker bursts into laughter as soon as I hang up the phone)

BOFH, I am.

correct me if i'm wrong, but doesn't any customer support center always have a recording that comes on before you can speak with a human, saying, 'this call may be recorded for quality assurance'?

prole, above

Rest assured, my good fellow, that your calls are being recorded for Quality Assurance purposes. However, Quality Assurance measures only conformance to a strict set of 'guidelines':

  • Did the tech use the Official Greeting? (Never again will you wonder why we sound so soulless)
  • Did the tech get the customer off the line in ten minutes?
  • Did the tech use lots of we words (this is right off of our QA sheet) to build a rapport with the caller?
  • Did the tech step outside of the (extremely narrow) supported products list? (This is often worth more points than it has any right to, and explains why it's so hard to get help with anything other than The Product, the previous two versions of Windows, Internet Explorer, and Outlook Express.)
  • Did he ask all the mandatory questions? (Which is why ISP support lines almost always ask what operating system you have, even if it's obviously a problem with the connection, not the computer. Imagine the conflicts this can generate with the previous rule.)

Note that nowhere in the list does it require that the technician have any idea what he's doing. Half the time he's just reading off a script tree anyways. Your best hope in most situations is to just go along with it; he'll escalate you eventually.

Generally, internal helpdesks are more useful and less constrained than customer support lines; theoretically you can go down the hall and fix it yourself if you work in the same building and you don't have to worry about losing the caller's custom. Internal helpdesks are also less concerned about irate callers deciding to sue the company.

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