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Article : Companies, Customers, Products & Problems – Part 1

Introduction
Working in technical customer relations for over 15 years, I am consistently amazed at the dichotomy of the customer and the vendor. I have held several roles with networking infrastructure providers and services. I did a brief stint in a $100m dot.bomb from which I am still recovering. I have held positions in the very large to the very small corporate environment. I have traveled around the world performing training sessions on network design. I have attempted to make a PC function after it consumed a can of cola (Okay, it was a university environment, and it was a beer). I have walked around my office space donning a wireless headset helping a novice user repair a wireless access point. Presently, I manage the entire customer interface, which includes sales, billing and technical support. As diverse as all of my professional positions have been, there are a core of elements that remain consistent; customers and vendors do not always see eye to eye.

I have always been in roles helping people understand the technology that has been placed in front of them. That is what I do. While I may not be a traditional geek, I do enjoy technology. I love solving problems that elude others. I love sitting at a machine with a beautiful graphical user interface only to clutter it up with command line terminals.

My driving force in customer service, however, is the ability to help those who require it. Computers are interesting, but humans are fascinating. Resolving someone’s technical problem is a great accomplishment. Leading an agitated customer down the path of tranquility is even more rewarding. I am constantly analyzing the customer psyche with the goal of understanding what makes them tick.

I have written this piece to discuss the relationship that consumers have with their products and product vendors. First, let us discuss a few procedural points. Much of this article will be tongue and cheek. That is just who I am. In addition, I suspect roughly 5% of my beliefs and suggestions are bull plop. It will be your job as the reader to determine where those land mines lay. I make lots of generalizations. I know that generalizations are not popular with the kids in the new millennium, and I agree that they do not always belong in every topic matter, but for this topic, I believe in speaking to the average. I will illustrate the point of view of the company, the tech support staff and the customer. For each party, I will offer their perspective and their responsibilities. For those who might find it useful, I will also offer context adjustment.

The Customer
I feel your pain. Your soul desire when buying into a new technology is simple. You just want things to work. While this is a great goal, it is not, nor will it ever be a total reality within technology. So this leads to your secondary, and much more rational desire. You just want to be able to contact technical support and get accurate and decisive resolutions to your problems. Fair enough.

When I pick up a tech support call from a customer, I am able to determine in a matter of a few seconds if someone from the tech world has abused them recently. When calling technical support, positive interactions are remembered fondly. Conversely, negative interactions with customer service become lifelong baggage. Not unlike a bad relationship, the damage can be permanent and will alter future behavior. In my role, I witness two consistent symptoms of this phenomenon:

  • The customer starts the conversation with the cliché shoulder chip. Because of a past negative experience, all customer support reps moving forward will have to earn the right to be treated with courtesy and respect from this individual. This can be a tiresome dance.
     

  • Once the customer has received an obviously wrong answer with the goal of ending the call quickly, certain individuals have taught themselves to lie. The lies are designed and executed by the customer to avoid the support “blow off”. They do not want to hear “Ahah, that is not supported.” While I do understand this reaction, it will only accomplish the delay of future problem resolutions.

For those customers that are in this category, I offer the following suggestions that should greatly improve their future technical support experiences.

Suggestions

  • Do not lie to your support rep when asked a question. If you end up with a knee jerk reaction designed to get you off the phone, let it slide. This rep clearly does not know the answer. The correct answer is the holy grail of support. If they knew what it was, they would be already correcting the problem. Hang up and try again. There is a dud in every batch.
     

  • Don’t abuse the support rep. If you would not say these words to their face in a bar, then think how silly you sound yelling at them over a phone. You know better.
     

  • If the support from a company is poor, end the relationship. Life is too short for that hassle. It likely will not get better any time soon, and ultimately this is the only power you posses.
     

  • Do not purchase a technology beyond your means. I am not referring to financial means. There must be some other article for you to read on that subject. There are a lot of great doo-dads hitting the market on a daily basis, but many of them require knowledge. If you want to be an early adopter, then make certain you have the intestinal fortitude for blazing trails. Ensure that you have the knowledge or convenient resources to get the technology up and running. Read the book. Using tech support to learn technology is a painful approach for both parties.
     

  • Techies, please move to the next bullet item… Computers are hard. Computers are complex. Computers break. Computers are hard. If the sales person tells you otherwise, he/she is lying. If you are a small business owner, your money will be well spent having an IT professional on retainer. You do not need expensive furnishings. Corporate art will not enable your business to grow. A good tech in your pocket can save the day and improve long-term productivity. You don’t call the car manufacturer when the family truckster breaks down. Treat your technology investment in the same manner.
     

  • Buy the features you need. Bells, whistles and shiny moving parts do not make a good product. A good product will have the features you require and no more. The more moving parts, the higher likelihood of a breakdown. This is the Glance Networks mantra. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) approach to the web demonstration market has been well received by our customer base.

Read Part 2


About Glance Networks:
Company LogoAt Glance Networks, we believe people need a simple way to work together at a distance. Traditional web and video conferencing solutions are too complex, too over-featured and too expensive for most professionals. Most people just need a solution they can master in under a minute. It must connect instantly and reliably to anyone from anywhere on the Internet.
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Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2005

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