On walkabout in life and technology

My Own Support Call Line

My ideal vendor support line is a direct number to call the exact person I need to speak to for support. Unfortunately, this is not economic for vendors, especially since I may never call this lucky, and quite bored, person for support.

My second worst vendor support line is the most common, a 1800 number that puts one in the queue, where you wait, listening to a robotic voice tell you how long you still need to wait, like a lump. And when they do pick up, the person on the other end is a professional phone answerer not a tech. So you have to go through the process of first identifying yourself, then identifying the product, then, before you explain the problem, having to go through the script that the professional phone answerer must follow. Is it plugged in? Did you reboot? Did you try this? Did you do that? And when you explain the problem, they create a ticket and let you go, with the issue unresolved. As a professional IT person, the only time I call support is when I have exhausted all possibilities, all of which I have to redo as the dumb and useless script progresses.

My worst support vendor support line is one where they want you to pay first. That is a big fat fuck you to your customers. I have already paid for your software. I have already exhausted all channels to get the problem fixed. I am calling as a last resort. And now I must pay before you’ll even talk to me. Way to hate your customers.

And don’t get me started on robo-routers, those that ask you to talk to them. I speak Australian and none of them understand a word I say. I’d probably get better responses in Swahili.

The middle ground, a support line for professionals, would be the best economic solution for both customer and vendor. Give the professionals a different number, use caller ID or a quick identification to qualify those who do call, and send the rest back to the current lines. Professional customers take less support call time because they have already tried everything before calling support, and can usually explain the problem much more clearly. So fewer support resources are needed on the vendor side and the professional customer is happier because they don’t need to queue or dance to the script.

But how to identify these professional customers? Turns out my bank, HSBC, has done this and it works brilliantly. Long term and higher value customers at HSBC get the premier tag, which gives them a special support number and access to an account manager. When I call my bank, I get a person who is ready to deal and knows me. I can get right to the issue and the person on the other end knows what to do and is authorized to get it done.

Lets see how this could work at other companies. HP sells servers to the public and to corporates with IT staffs. The corporate with IT staff should get its own number because professional techs can talk to professional techs, and let the general public who have no idea how to use servers call the regular number. Apple and Microsoft could give registered developers who have been developing for the platform a longer time access to a number to call where they can talk to other developers in support. AT&T and Verizon can give customers who purchase and manage swathes of company phones access to a number where there is no wait to get an issue resolved. Cable companies can use the occupation field in their customer databases to identify technically savvy customers and let them get through directly to network techs. Nikon and Canon can have special numbers for pro-photographers. I could go on.

I think that companies can and should identify their professional customers, and give them access to better support lines without the script. It builds better customer loyalty and makes both parties happier.

Then add me to these programs.