Modern so-called customer service

Don’t waste your time

Hanging on the telephone

These days, computer and related equipment manufacturers, and ancillary service providers, only offer customer support through call centre hotlines and online chat facilities. They don’t want to deal with letters or e-mails, and they often don’t have enough people working the telephones and chatlines, so customers end up waiting in long queues.

Talking to a robot

In an attempt to shorten chatline queues, while saving money on staff, a lot of providers have even introduced robotic chatline operators that try to act like humans, but are actually just machines. They might work for simple queries, but not for anything complicated. If you end up talking to one of these ‘chatbots’ and it can’t solve your problem, you might get put through to a real person, but it’s another obstacle that you have to get past.

Jumping through hoops

One size fits all

For a complex issue, it’s probably better to telephone, but then you’ll run into several problems. First you’ll get the ‘press “1” for this and press “2” for that’ problem, which is enough to test anybody’s patience. Then you‘ll get the ‘your call is important to us’ routine. When you eventually get to speak to someone, they’ll ask you to go through various standard procedures that they always suggest, many of which are time-consuming and have virtually no chance of being the solution to your problem.

The same answers for every problem

Have you done a ‘clean boot’ of the system? Have you checked the hard disk drive for errors? Have you tried backing up all of your data then reinstalling the operating system? You have to play along with these suggestions otherwise you’re handing the support people the excuse they need to hang up, but a lot of their proposals are either steps on the road to nowhere or ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ solutions. When your system won’t even start up, the last thing you need is a numbskull suggestion that you run some diagnostic software that requires the system to be up and running. Support people often don’t think very hard about your particular problem, they just suggest the same old things as usual and hope for the best.

You have to do the work

The reality is that these businesses are no longer interested in taking responsibility for problems, if they ever were, but want their customers to do most of the work themselves. This is not real customer service. If you take your car to a garage because the engine is making a strange noise, you don’t expect to be directed to an empty corner of the building and handed a tray of tools to sort out the problem yourself, but this is how most of the computer industry operates. In fact the computer industry is worse because quite often, the tools they offer you don’t work and you just end up with useless ‘unable to solve your problem’ messages.

Recognise the limitations of the system

You can get some basic advice over the telephone or by chatting online, if you are prepared to wait long enough, but most of the work is pushed onto the customer. Making customers jump through a lot of hoops, waste a lot of time, and take a lot of risks, is an odd way to operate, but unfortunately that’s how the big players in the computer industry work, and I can’t see that changing any time soon. Fortunately, it is still possible to get real support from people like me who will solve your problems without expecting you to do the work.

Computers are complicated

Troubleshooting is not easy

I do have a little sympathy for the manufacturers and service providers. Computers are very complex machines, even if they look simple on the outside, and there are so many ways of configuring them that problems can be hard to track down and eventually solve. Consistency and ease of maintenance is one reason why most large organisations make sure that all their computers are configured in exactly the same way. However, in domestic environments computer set-ups are usually unique.

Problem-solving is not quick

Manufacturers and service providers can’t afford to spend very long on each problem that is reported to them because these puzzles are often difficult and numerous, and in any case, solving them results in little if any profit. Fixing domestic computers takes effort, and manufacturers and service providers generally don’t like making an effort. However, that doesn’t really do the customer much good. Nevertheless, there is an affordable solution.

The real answer

Find someone who’ll actually do the work

The solution for any customer who wants to get their problems solved quickly, and properly, is to hire a local expert who’ll sort everything out without any buck-passing. Engaging someone who’ll take responsibility for the problem means the customer can get on with things as usual and have peace of mind. So talk to a real computer person, not someone from a call centre who reads out lists of instructions from a script, often without the knowledge, skill, or inclination to help further.

Look at reliable online reviews

Finding a reliable computer person isn’t hard. I sometimes see people on Facebook and other websites asking for recommendations, but the easiest way to find a local expert is to search Google for something like ‘computer problem Mildenhall’ or ‘laptop trouble Mildenhall’. You’ll find far more opinions by doing this, going back quite a long time, and they’ll be a lot more useful than the ‘I always go to Fred’ responses that you’re likely to get from social media.

Choose someone who ranks highly

In this particular case, my details will probably appear quite near the top of the first page. You’ll be able to see my reviews on FreeIndex, Google, and Yell™, and compare me with local competitors. It should then be easy to make up your mind who to contact, based on professionalism, experience, and willingness to turn up and help without delay.