whether someone is for you. With a tech support call, you have eight seconds.
Your decision will determine whether your problem will be solved by an experienced, customer-attentive agent or not solved by an uninterested, unmotivated one. You’ll want both a technical wizard and a person who conveys clarity of expression, patience, persistence, resolve and diligence.
While it’s better to make the decision as quickly as possible, if you’re unable to make it in the first eight seconds, then make it in the first five minutes. If after five minutes you’ve gotten nowhere in solving your problem, say, “Thank you, I have to go now,” and start the wretched process over again, rather than lose even more precious minutes of your one and only life.
How do you make a snap decision based on one sentence at the other end of the line?
B. WHAT TO AVOID
Here’s what you don’t want to hear at the other end: someone who sounds tired or fails to speak up (mumbling rather than stating clearly, “Hi, my name is Sylvia . How can I help you?”) If what you hear is, “himynameissylviahowcanihelpyou,” Sylvia may be insufficiently awake, alert or communicative to be of any assistance. On the other hand, if the agent sounds overdosed on uppers and ready to speed over to a high school football pep rally — “Hey! What’s happenin’ today, dude?” — he or she may be too pumped to address your profoundly tedious issue.
C. WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR IN THE VOICE AT THE OTHER END
What you do want to hear is someone alert, awake, confident, and focused.
RULE 5: WHAT YOU CAN ACTIVELY DO TO MAKE THE CALL GO BETTER
A. LISTEN FOR AND THEN USE THE PERSON’S NAME
If you miss it the first time, just ask, “Did you say your name was Barry?” Once agents hear you using their names, it tends to instill a higher degree of motivation to do their best.
B. YOUR GOOD MANNERS AND PATIENT ATTITUDE WILL PRODUCE A BETTER RESULT AND WILL DO SO MORE QUICKLY THAN A SOUR OR CRANKY ONE
Try not to begin on the wrong foot. The person you’ve reached did not cause your problem. Someone in his or her company may have done so, by constructing a device in such a way that your problem could all too easily arise (after all, it did arise), but don’t hold that against the agent on the line.
You’ll have far better experience if you begin with a greeting such as, “Hi, Sylvia, How are you?” and then a quick sentence of self-introduction. You could say, “I’m usually good at tech issues but today I’m up against a problem that’s beyond me. I need your help.” Or, in the alternative, “I’m a techno-failure and I really need your help if I’m ever going to talk on my cell phone again.” Things go better if you sound like a real person, not just a problem with an angry voice attached to it.
C. KNOW WHEN TO CUT YOUR LOSSES AND HANG UP
If the agent is reading from a poorly-devised script and keeps repeating the same lines even after you did what you were told, and have clearly stated that the suggested action didn’t work, it’s time to say goodbye. When you ask, “Could we try something else, please?” and the answer is a robotic re-reading from the same script, cut your losses and say, “Thanks. I have to go.”
If you cannot understand what the agent is saying, this is not a shortcoming that’s going to improve in the course of a single phone call, so ring off and call back. It will save time.
D. IF YOU GET GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE AND GOOD TECH SUPPORT, DO THIS
Take one extra minute and ask to speak to the agent’s supervisor to tell the supervisor what a great job the agent has done. Your words of praise will be added to the agent’s personnel file, and you’ll have made the supervisor’s day: normally, they only hear complaints.
A BLESSING IN DISGUISE
With a modicum of patience, good manners and clear communication you’ll (a) achieve the goal of solving your technical problem, (b) have the best-organized sock drawer in your zip code, and (c) have contributed a positive comment to the agent’s personnel file. Who knew that three such delightful benefits could flow from a single technical glitch?
Why, with enough calls to tech support, by the end of the year you could get your entire home and office whipped into shape — and who says you can’t do thigh lifts and push-ups while waiting to hear the agent’s voice?
Don’t think of your next glitch as an undeserved punishment. It’s a priceless opportunity.
Send your questions about personal, political or cultural matters, or anything else that’s on your mind to Belladonna Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org . All correspondence with her is confidential, and all names, locations, places of employment and ages of the parties will be changed to protect the privacy of the readers who write to contribute questions.