[Image: Flickr user ElDave]
Sometimes, you have to hate them. When your computer stops working, it's their job to fix it, and pronto. Who can blame you for popping a few capillaries when you're on hold for countless minutes or waiting for a response to an e-mail you sent last week? The poor wretches whose job it is to listen to your gripes are almost asking for it. Yep, when something's gone wrong, there's no better punching bag than the help desk.
I'm somewhere in the middle, because I provide support for Talance's clients and also have to appeal to our own tech pros for help when I'm having issues myself. So I know what it's like to start kicking trashcans because you're not receiving the help you want and also when you're not receiving the most illuminating questions from someone confounded by technology.
Thankfully, I adore our clients, and there's never any animosity when they call for help. But that doesn't mean I can't hear the frustration. So I thought I'd offer up a few items you can keep in mind when it comes to working with your tech support person. (Note: this goes for the phone company, cable company, internet company, etc.)
Step 1: Take a deep breath
Preparing yourself with the right information before calling the help desk is certainly important, but of greater significance is remaining polite when you're on the line. As frustrating as it can be to describe a problem you don't understand, take some deep breaths, get a glass of water, do a couple neck rolls – do whatever it takes, just as long as you are calm when you pick up the phone.
Step 2: Check the cables
Things come unplugged and you might not know about it. If your monitor is black but the computer is humming along nicely, it could be disconnected. Save yourself – and the help desk tech – a load of agony by jiggling the cables to make sure they're in place.
Step 3: Read the manual
Remember that you can eliminate most problems with a little forethought, thus avoiding the issue altogether. An effortless glance through the manual can end a lot of help desk frustration. You might be surprised that manuals exist for the equipment on your desk. Ask around to see if you can get a copy.
Step 4: Get the serial number
Assuming you've read through the manual and found nothing that can help with your problem, flip to the back of it and get the serial number of the product in question. This lets the help desk zero in on the right piece of equipment.
If you're having problems with software, note what kind of computer you have (PC or Mac), what your operating system is, what kind of browser you're using and what you were doing when the problem arose.
Step 5: Call the right number
Relax your help desk trigger finger for a minute and make sure you shouldn't be calling the software maker instead. It works the other way around too. Many people don't realize that if you bought a Dell computer, that company will provide support for the Microsoft Windows operating system. This is important because Dell tech support comes part and parcel with the computer, while you'll have to pay for Microsoft's help (and they don't have a toll-free number either).
Step 6: Volunteer the correct information
The number one question to answer is, "Has this has ever worked?" Address that question first, then tell the support person what you were doing when the computer broke. With this information, he or she may determine the root of your problem before you even begin explaining it.
Remember, help desks are chronically understaffed. Understand there's a human on the other end of the line, and they're probably doing their best to help. Don't be afraid to just call up when everything is running smoothly and say, "Thanks for all you do."