Ask good support questions to get good support answers

Anyone who has used a computer or any piece of technology has encountered a problem with it. A select few are able to figure out the solution almost like magic and they make it seem easy. For everyone else they have to ask someone and that usually means calling their computer service tech or technical support. No one really likes to do it, especially since they can usually fix the issue in a few moments and it makes you feel really inadequate as it was something simple that you overlooked. Either that or you wait on hold and get bounced around before hanging up out of frustration.

Recognizing that no one wants to take time out of their day to call or email technical support and either have to wait for hours for a response or days for someone to come out to their home or place of business there are a few things that can be done to make the process go much smoother (for everyone involved). As a former tech support professional there was nothing worse that a customer who called up, said whatever it was wasn’t working and expected you to fix it right then and there based off of that information alone.

Tech support is more than just a 1-800 number

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are resources available at your fingertips that you can use before you sit on hold for an hour to get a live person or before someone responds to your email request. A great place to start is a place like Google. You are probably not the first person to have the issue that you are having and a quick Google search will bring up others who have had the same issue, whether it is an official support page or a support forum, these are valuable sources of information. It is possible that you may find the answer that you are looking for there in a fraction of the time it takes to reach out to someone. Don’t forget to check YouTube as well as there are numerous support videos on that platform or social media as a dedicated Facebook group could help out as well.

There are other valuable resources available as well. While few products today come with an actual physical manual they can be found online. Most manuals have a section to detail not only basic usage of a product (it always helps to use the product correctly!) but also simple troubleshooting options. Most product websites also have sections for troubleshooting, usually listed as some sort of FAQ. Since there is a very good chance that you are not the first person to have that issue it may be listed there which means it can be resolved much quicker. Of course for some products you can simply give it to a younger person to get working. Watch and learn!

Don’t forget online forums and social media

So let’s say that you can’t find the answer that you are looking for online, where can you turn besides that 1-800 number? Internet forums are a great place to start, but just remember that not all forums are equal. You know how familiar you are with a product that is if you are a beginner, a seasoned user or an experienced user. This could determine which forum you choose and how you craft your query. Forums can exist for different tech comfort levels so pick the right one. It shouldn’t be too hard to determine, if you understand the terminology being used in other posts you are probably at the right one. Your query is also important. Simply stating that you need help or demanding help will not usually bring the desired help. Details are important. The title of the query should have a brief summary of the problem and the body should include the meat of the issue. It is OK in the body to state your level of expertise. What is happening and when? What error messages are being given? What have you tried already? Including system information can also be helpful for some issues.

Screenshotting and screencasting

Most forums also allow for the uploading of some sort of media. That can mean a screenshot or a brief video (screencast) of what you are doing. Screenshots can produce a picture of an error message so that it can be seen in its entirety (let’s face it some of them are a pain in the butt to type out!) and can be taken by pressing the Control key and Print Screen (PRT SC) keys at the same time and then copying the image into photo editing software like Photoshop or simply into the post. If you need something more substantial a service like Snagit could work for you. Several services like Screencast-o-matic, Active Presenter, Camtasia, Filmora and iSpring also allow for screencasting and are easy to use. If you are using a Mac ScreenFlow is built for them. These services are all free or offer a free trial of the software. This can show everyone what steps are being taken that lead to the issue at hand and can be very helpful for someone trying to help out. These can be helpful as well if you actually have to contact your tech guy or call the support number as well.

You might just have to call the number

Worse comes to worse you may have to call the tech support line. Again, details are important. That person cannot see your screen, you will have to describe it to them. It may seem like you have had to do this a thousand times already but it needs to be done. What is the error message? When are you getting it? Things like that help you craft a good query and can help to supply the relevant information. That may be all that they need. Chances are they have already seen the common error messages hundreds or thousands of times and know exactly what to do and if they haven’t there is a knowledge base that they have access to. Also have whatever is the issue ready to go. Tech support people hate two things: Having to pry information out of people and having to wait for the customer to be ready.

You have probably heard the phrase that prior planning prevents poor performance. Well it is no secret that when it comes to tech support a well crafted query makes any support situation go much smoother. It also helps to try a few things beforehand to try to fix it yourself. At the very worst it will give you something to do while you wait on hold for a human being to pick up. You may just find the answer and can fix it right there and if not you will be more prepared.

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