I'm not entirely sure how useful these 'tips' are. I've done tech support for a while, and I've seen new techs go through the same phases as they become more experienced in dealing with the 'quality' calls.

- Overly helpful
- Still willing to go the extra mile
- Quite helpful
- Professionally helpful
- Cautiously helpful

When I get a call from anyone, they have about a one in a hundred chance of actually waking me up from a techie coma - a self-imposed mental defense state where technicians don't have to listen to what their ears are hearing or their mouths are saying, because otherwise we'd go insane and start strangling people.

Firstly, they have to convince me that they have, in fact, managed to call the right number and aren't like that guy who refused to hang up until we took his pizza order.

Secondly, they have to convince me that the problem they think they are having is, in fact, an actual computer problem and not a training problem. If the photocopier in their office on the other side of the country is out of paper, that isn't a computer problem.

Thirdly, they have to convince me that the computer problem they are having is not one that their office management, office administrator or (if supplied) office computer technician should be looking at instead. This also comes under 'training', as in 'why were they not trained to talk to their local people before phoning the other side of the country'?

Fourthly, they have to convince me that the computer problem they are having which does not fall under the purview of the local office staff isn't one for which they were given the solution yesterday or earlier this morning, or for which the solution was actually read out to them while they were on hold.

Fifthly, if the non-locally-fixable, unknown computer problem they are having is one of the common ones in our extensive databases, and the solution is on our website, they get navigated there and advised to print and/or read the solution.

Sixthly, if the problem is recorded but is not listed on our website, I fix it with phrases, keystrokes and phone calls which have become so routine I don't need to wake from the technician coma. (If I did, I'd start ranting about the fact that these problems haven't been fixed in FIVE YEARS, ARGH.)

The reason for all this seeming callousness and uncaring attitude is twofold. It stops me attacking nearby objects and people out of sheer frustration, and by getting people off the phone as quickly as possible, I can free up those minutes to attend to:

Seventhly, the original reason I took this job. Very occasionally, perhaps once every few days, there will come a call which requires actual genuine analytical thought. It may take a second or two to wake up from the technician coma, but if someone calls with one of these they will have my full attention and interest. I'll do my best to help them, because it's (a) such a novelty to have to dust off the brain cells, and (b) it's usually not their fault in any way. Caller, your bad luck has turned, and I am now your personal guardian angel.

So what does this have to do with how to act when calling tech support? Well, check the above. See any entries for 'asking for a supervisor' or 'expecting satisfaction'?

No. This is because, contrary to people's expectations, I actually do have a lot of freedom. If they ask for a supervisor, I can (and will) tell them 'no'. If they ask for a refund of any kind, I will tell them 'no'. If we're not running our operation to their satisfaction, that's just too bad - unfortunately our contracts and policies are not based around what they personally think our jobs should be.

I pride myself on my patience and an even temper, but I can and will hang up on conversations I consider unproductive. It's not so much that they're wasting my time - after all, I'll have to pick up the phone and answer another question in 20 seconds anyway - but they're wasting the time of the people who are backed up in the phone queue and who have genuine issues.

I won't pretend that my situation is standard. The pushy techniques described above may well work on less experienced techs, or on call centre staff who have been primed to bend to a caller's every whim. But try something like that on me or my ilk, and you'll be cut dead or cut off in short order.

The caller has all the power? Don't make me laugh. The power resides firmly in the little red button on my phone marked "Release".