Webmaster Papers








How to Get Better Technical Support


Whenever you have a technical question that needs answering, you want that answer as fast as possible, right? In the instantaneous world of the internet, patience has become a rare commodity, and the time you spend unable to send or receive email or waiting for your website to come back online can mean lost revenue. If you want to get a timely response from your support technician, there are things you can do as a customer to speed up the process:

  • Define the problem as accurately as possible

    The more detail you can provide, the more quickly the technician can identify the source of the problem and correct it. Try to determine the following information if possible:

    • What were you doing when the error occurred?
    • What program were you operating that produced the error?

      Note the version of the program and the operating system that you are running on your computer.

    • If there is a specific error message, what does it say? Be prepared to give this information to the technician by phone, email or fax.
    • What are the steps you take to reproduce the error?
    • What time did you first notice the error?
    • Did the error occur only once, consistently over a period of time, or only when you do a certain thing?
    • Can you reproduce the error on a separate computer?

  • Know the priority status of your request

    Support technicians get many requests during the course of the day, often at the same time, with varying levels of urgency, and these requests take time to resolve. If a request cannot be resolved immediately, then it will be assigned an appropriate priority level based on the type of problem to be resolved as soon as possible.

    • Outages - Always top priority. If your website or email is down, any good technician should drop all other projects until this is resolved.
    • Breakages - If a critical part of your website becomes inoperable due to a server error, such as a database for a shopping cart, this should always be addressed with high priority.
    • Time Sensitive Operations - If you need something to be done within a certain time frame, such as enabling or disabling a feature of your account, then you should make this clear to the technician. The operation should be performed within the prescribed time frame as long as a higher priority issue does not arise.
    • Ongoing Problems - If a particular problem continues to occur for an extended period of time, its priority should be raised as necessary the longer the problem goes on.

    • Non-Critical Operations - If your request does not adversely affect the function of your services or contain a time-sensitive element, it will receive the lowest priority, but it still should be handled as soon as reasonably possible.

  • Allow an appropriate response time

    As stated previously, most technicians have more than one problem to handle at once, so once you have an idea of the priority level of your request, allow a reasonable amount of time for it to be resolved. Server errors should be resolved within hours to same day, depending on the circumstances. Lower priority items which can be quickly resolved should usually be handled by the next day. If a request will require several hours of work to resolve, expect it to take longer. A technician's job is to be constantly interrupted all day, so such requests will usually be saved until time permits or passed off to another available person to be completed. Understand that any completion time estimate given to you is assuming the absence of any higher priority requests intervening in the process.

    Most types of technical support requests should be answered with an acknowledgement of completion. If you do not receive one or are unable to determine on your own that your issue has been resolved within a reasonable amount of time, then you should contact the technician again to inquire about the status of your request.

  • Be a pest if you have to, but be courteous

    If your request is taking an unreasonable amount of time to be resolved, then there is some truth to the old adage that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." If the technician can give you a reasonable explanation for the extended time frame, such as resolving a higher priority issue, then try to give them an appropriate extension to resolve your request. If the explanation for the delay is unsatisfactory and the problem continues to go unresolved, you may need to ask for the assistance of another technician. You should be assertive because you are paying for your services, but do not be abusive. Technicians are human beings too, and not all of them are going to respond well to your unpleasant remarks. If the situation becomes bad enough that you truly believe your anger is warranted, ask to speak with somebody else, describe the unsatisfactory response you received, and request that your issue be handled with the highest priority possible. If this doesn't work, then it's time to consider switching service providers.

  • Know the technician's responsibilities

    A support technician at a hosting company is not necessarily responsible for every possible problem you can have on the internet. He is only responsible for resolving problems with the services that his company provides to you. If the company only provides web hosting and domain registration services, then they cannot be held responsible for problems caused by website design flaws, internet connection service outages, email addresses obtained through other providers, or office network problems. Most good technicians are willing to give you a limited amount of assistance with these types of problems anyway, but it should not be expected of them and you should know who else to call if the technician determines that the problem is not within his realm of control.

  • Don't be a hypochondriac

    You should learn to help yourself whenever possible, because it's almost always faster than asking somebody else for help. If you are constantly asking for the same password or asking the technician to perform the same task over and over again when you can learn to do it yourself, you are wasting the technician's time and preventing other people from being helped quickly and efficiently. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them. If you are always making the same mistakes and asking somebody else to fix them, you will quickly find yourself at the bottom of anybody's priority list. If the technician explains to you how to do something, make sure that the procedure is recorded and stored where you can find it again. It's worth your extra time and his to do this if it saves you both time later on a repetitive task.

  • Although every case is unique, we believe that by following these guidelines you will consistently receive faster and friendlier assistance on most of your technical support requests.

    Copyright 2005 by Stacy Clifford

    Stacy Clifford is the founder of ChiliPepperWeb.net and has spent four years assisting customers in understanding how their web services work.

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