Nine Ways to Get More from Tech Support
As people who live and die by software, CAD users and other users of engineering technology form a love-hate relationship with their CAD vendor or reseller for technical support. Here are some tips to make you hate tech support less.
Read the manual and try to educate yourself on the function you are having trouble with. Read the relevant parts of the help. Read the forums, read the blogs. Read the system requirements. Read the FAQ and the training manual. Getting the most out of the software is partly up to you. Read up, and you can often avoid needing to make the call to tech support that you dread in the first place.
2. Ask the Internet
We say this half tongue-in cheek. You can get a lot of great wisdom from the internet; you can also get a lot of complete junk. You do have to know how to tell the difference. Sometimes junk comes disguised as wisdom, and vice versa. Sometimes the fastest and most complete answers come from other end-users on online forums. Go to a purpose-built site, and avoid Facebook, Reddit and other general social media. Remember that the loudest voice is not always the best one to listen to. For the internet to be an effective source for solutions, it helps to be familiar with the types of people who frequent the various sites.
3. Ask Your CAD Admin
If your organization is big enough, it is a great advantage to have an internal buffer against external tech support. Technology managers such as CAD Administrators have a lot on their plate, but it is likely that part of their job is to keep technical support internal as much as possible. External support requires more time, more communications bandwidth, more potential security issues and more miscommunication.
An internal contact can be the best source to start with, especially if you have multiple contacts for a potential problem—such as network, hardware, software A, software B, potential user error, etc.
4. Document Everything
Whatever it is, document it. Databases exist for everything now, and one of them should give you an easy way to document issues. Every time you have a tech call, document it. This way, when someone else has a similar issue, you’ll know. This is a great way to identify patterns and prevent small issues from becoming larger issues. Professional tech support people log all calls in a searchable database, and search for answers among related calls. You can learn from the things they do right.
Think of the questions you would ask if someone were asking you to solve your particular problem blind: What were you doing when it happened? How many times has it happened? How do you know it is happening? What data were you working on? What version of software/OS/hardware/drivers are you using? Was anything else out of the ordinary?
Much of this information should be kept handy for documentation. Sometimes your CAD Admin will also keep basic data on each workstation and user.
5. Use the Provided Tech Support Channels
Use whatever method of communication that tech support has set up. Even if it seems cold and impersonal, it is probably intended to be the most efficient. Many organizations have fantastic ways to communicate and share data quickly and easily, and they probably have a lot of your information already in their database. This means that they have an idea of what to expect when they see your name in the chat app. If you have to leave a voice or text message, or there is an online chat going on, or even using the good old telephone, follow their process.
When you step outside of their process, it just takes longer, and that is one more link in a growing chain of frustration. Looking for a group with a process that fits your needs might be part of an evaluation—if you are given the luxury to conduct one.
6. Avoid Taking Frustration Out on Tech Support Staff
When you call, do not take your frustration out on the person who answers. This should be obvious to most people, but it bears repeating. Even if you are frustrated and having had a bad day, take a deep breath and realize that you are likely going to get better service if you do not annoy someone right out of the gate. Try to remember it was not tech support who wrote the bad code; they did not make a messed-up model. They did not cause whatever the issue is. They are simply the people who can help you solve the problem.
Adding another link to the frustration chain does not get you any closer to solving your issue, so try to leave emotion out of your voice and words. Tech support needs to hear the chain of facts, events and actual data you are using. Emotion, in this case, only builds barriers.
7. Be Mindful of Business Goals—On Both Sides
If you take your issue outside your own organization, remember that the people involved in solving your issue are part of a business. You want to build good relationships and not waste time or other valuable resources. Yes, sometimes business goals get in the way of getting your answer—but again, try to work with the process.
- Sometimes the first duty a new tech support employee is assigned is to answer the phone.
- Sometimes the tech support person (or organization) sees themselves as a goalie, and the goal is to not let your issue get past them. It is your goal simply to get a satisfactory answer. Maybe the person on the phone can come up with an answer; maybe you have to convince them to send the question up the ladder, or to do more research. Don’t get frustrated, don’t frustrate the other person, and remember not to insert emotion.
- If you do not think the answer you get is reasonable, ask to speak with someone else, or call back and ask for someone specific. Also, if you get sub-standard service, don’t go and try to ruin someone’s career over it. Everyone learns from their mistakes.
- Usually within an organization, there is someone who really knows what they are talking about—but they are not always the one on the phone at the moment. Get to know the good support people and keep them on speed-dial. If you develop good relationships with them, sometimes they will take time out of their other duties to help you. Resellers work hard to keep customers they see as good customers, but it can be a fine line between advocating for your own needs and being a thorn in someone’s side.
- Reseller customers sometimes hire great support people from the reseller organization. Keep in mind that everyone you talk to at the reseller could one day wind up being the person who sits in the desk next to you. For this reason, you also need to represent yourself and your company well when talking with support people.
If you are lucky enough to be able to evaluate sources of tech support, give them an honest test-drive. Create a scenario where something is broken, and see if they can troubleshoot it. Call references. Look up comments in forums. People are touchy about being honest about service, but you can always ask. You might also consider having them train someone, to see what the organization is like.
9. Good Questions Get Good Answers
The first step to a good answer is a good question. From whatever source you get your tech support, it is crucial that you formulate your question carefully and precisely. The first step is to try and use the correct terminology. Detail is important, but so is the big picture. Include as much supporting information as possible, such as before and after model data. Describe the actual problem that needs to be resolved.
If you are the CAD Admin or the tech support person providing the support, it is important to realize that great tech support is as much about people and psychology as it is about technology and process. You have to know how to establish and handle expectations, how to prioritize without making people feel left out—and sometimes, how to deliver bad news.
Most of what you need to know about dealing with people you learned in kindergarten. It is a cliché, but it’s also true. You get more done by playing well with others—and it is always nice to be a good human being.
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