Saturday, November 25, 2006

Technical difficulties

I love being a geek.

My email has been flaky lately. It's not enough to really bug me, but I emailed Shaw for the heck of it. They determined that the problem was probably to complex to handle over email, so they gave me a ring. Here is how it went:

"Hi, it's Shawn from Shaw Technical Support. I'd like to try a few things to narrow down the problem, if you don't mind."

"Sure Shawn, no problem. Although to save time, I've tried a few things already if you'd like to hear about them."

"OK Great - You mind telling me what you've done?"

"Sure thing. Well, first, I have 4 POP3 accounts on my client, three from you and one from Telus. I'm only having a problem with the Shaw ones, the Telus is fine. I tried both the default and the Edmonton specific SMTP server settings, and I've left the port at the default 110. I've tried two clients (Mozilla Thunderbird and Outlook Express) and the results are the same, however with Outlook it alternates between an '0x800CCC90 timeout error and a non-responsive server error, leading me to believe that it is a problem with your server, or the proxy you've assigned me. I've also tried on two different machines, and I've tried bypassing the router and connecting directly to the modem, ruling out NIC card issues or software. I'm pretty sure it's your server at this point. But we can try anything you like if I missed anything."

"Uh.. yeah.. Can you hang on? (hold music) Yeah, um.. O.K. then - you've certainly covered everything I was going to try at this point.. um. I'll put in a server request and let the guys in maintenance take a look at it, O.K.?"

"Thanks Shawn, that'd be great."

It's not that I didn't think he was competent, or technical, but I've been a tech support phone worker, and I know where the conversation was going. I also know where their training runs out.

Generally the job involves trying to figure out if it's something simple we can fix over the phone, or not. If not, they send out the service people who try to figure out where the big problem is. I was able to logically deduce everything they were going to ask me to do, and I didn't really feel like paying for the time it would take to do it with them on hold. (I only have a cell phone. Minutes = $)

When I troubleshot computers over the phone, my favorite calls were from techs. By this I mean true techs, not people who think they are techs.

True techs are knowledgeable, patient, and pleasant. They probably know what the problem is already, but they know that it has to be proven to my satisfaction before I am going to send them a part. They also don't want to have to fix it again, so it's worth it to actually go through the motions to ensure that it is in fact a bad hard drive, as opposed to a motherboard.

Conversations with people who think they are techs go like this:

"Hi - My hard drive is broken, send me a new one"

"Ok - No problem. However sir, to be sure, do you mind telling me what you've done so far?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we just need to be certain before we go ahead and order that part - What have you done to ensure that the problem is with the hard drive?"

"I already told you - it's BROKEN."

"Yes sir, you said.. However-"

"Look sonny, I've been troubleshooting computers since 1925. I've got seven degrees in electro-magneto-computerism! I don't have to tell you what I've done? If I say the hard drive is broken, it's broken! Now send me a damn hard drive!"

"Sir, I do understand, however I'm afraid your warranty specifies that you must-"

"To hell with my warranty! I want to talk to your manager!!"

"Fine. (sigh) Please hold.."

I Like being a geek - I sure don't miss Tech Support.

"Modern technology Owes ecology An apology."
-Alan M. Eddison

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