Thursday, May 27, 2010

More Adventures in Tech Support

Prior to retiring, I was a Supervising Computer Network Technician for the State of Oregon. One particular day we had just received a shipment of four HP laptop computers, one of which was defective having arrived completely dead.

In order to replace the defective computer I needed to contact HP technical support to obtain an RMA (Return merchandise authorization). This was supposed to be accomplished through their tech support “chat” page. As a “computer professional” I had access to tech support with other vendors, such as Dell and Microsoft, where I could bypass the usual “consumer” customer tech support operators and speak directly with a fellow technician; much like two physicians might consult with each other regarding an ill patient.

However we didn't have this tech-to-tech system in place with HP, so I had to contact them through their regular customer support process; specifically, a chat window. This is roughly how I recall the conversation went:
HP: Welcome to HP technical support. My name is {lots of consonants}, how may I help you?

Me: Hi, I am a network technician for the State of Oregon, we received four notebook PCs one of which is dead on arrival, no power whatsoever even when connected to line current using the power cord. I need to obtain an RMA to replace it. It is a model {model} serial number {serial number}.

HP: Where did you purchase the computer?

Me: I don’t know where it was purchased; the State of Oregon purchased a few hundred of these through Equipment Procurement; four were distributed to my office.

HP: You don’t know where you bought the computer?

Me: I didn’t buy the computer; the State of Oregon bought them.

HP: Do you have the receipt from where you purchased the computer?

Me: Equipment Procurement would have the PURCHASE ORDER used to purchase the computer, I don’t have it. I just have a dead computer that you need to repair or replace under warranty.

HP: Have you tried charging the battery?

Me: I am a professionally trained computer service technician; the battery won’t charge because the computer won’t run from line current.

HP: Have you tried plugging it in to the wall using the power cord?

Me: {by now I have typed the following phrase into Notepad and am copying and PASTING it into the chat window with every response} I am a professional trained computer service technician, I have put this computer through the trouble-shooting procedure; there is no power to the computer.

HP: What does it say on the screen when you start the computer?

Me: Nothing, it doesn’t start. It’s dead (now I am picturing the Monty Python “Parrot sketch). It doesn’t boot, it doesn’t beep, it is cold stone DEAD! {paste my computer professional statement into the chat window}
At this point, at everything he suggests, I am pasting this same response into the chat window over and over. After about three of these, he begins to suspect that I am going to give the same answer to every question.
HP: Ok we can have you send the computer to us for servicing. Do you have a credit card?

Me: Why would I need a credit card? Just give me an RMA and I will send the computer back to you and you send me a new one.

HP: We have to get a credit card number so we can charge you if the computer is not returned to us.

Me: I’m not floating a loan to the entire State of Oregon using my personal credit card!!

HP: We are required to get a credit card number, sir, or we can’t do the exchange.

Me: How about this; I contact Equipment Procurement and have them CANCEL the order for THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS order for HP computers and recommend we give that business to DELL instead? {...not that I had any authority do that, of course}

HP: {long pause; no typing…} You will receive a shipment from us in a few days, use the box provided to you to return the computer. Your RMA number is…
Several days later I received an EMPTY box with which to return the dead computer. About a month later the SAME computer is returned to me. It worked.


I'm Jane said...

I got to use the chat support service with Apple for the first time about month ago. Got an answer to my question, but had to endure extremely long pauses between responses. I suspect the tech was getting high, watching porn and only responded after I entered HELLOOOOOOO? about a hundred times.

The Mother said...

I hate chat support. I know it's convenient for the tech folks, but when they have 5 chats going at once, they get lost and don't remember. I end up saying everything 20 times.

At least, though, chat support doesn't ask if you plugged it in, being that you have to be on the computer and all to use chat support.

The Genius Bar was a genius maneuver from Apple. Person to person tech support. I love it.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. It is stupid people like me who require this type of moronic support that makes you have to go through it, too. I did feel vindicated, however, the last time I had to work with a tech support person. Iknow they thought I was too stupid to know what the problem was, and two differend tech departments couldn't figure it out. They finally sent someone out, and it was their mistake, not mine, in entering a code incorrectly. The morons win!

Robert the Skeptic said...

Jane I guessing those long pauses is the tech guy copying and pasting your chat between his English-Hindi translator.

Dr. Mom Now here I thought that Apples were so "intuitive" that one didn't need tech support!?! *eyebrow raised*

BackRow Indeed, having been on the other side of the tech support continuum, I recall dealing with a user who demanded that I fix her monitor... you see, the screen "jiggled" when she chewed the ice from her soft drink!

TechnoBabe said...

Frustrating and that repair took much too long. Sounds like you kept your cool and got the job done.

Penny said...

I've never had to go through that, being surrounded by computer geniuses and all. Sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Techno I will confess I was getting a bit irritated, however I actually expected this would happen so I was prepared for it.

Penny It's good to have those resources available to you. But even at home now, and with my expertise, I get frustrated with how this stuff doesn't work or how poorly engineered much of it can be.

secret agent woman said...

I don't like the chat support and I also don't like being told to try the things I've already informed the tech person I've tried.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent Indeed, that's why I copied/pasted of my narrative from Notepad in to the chat window. In thinking back, the poor guy probably thought I was an incredibly fast typist.

Charlie said...

Tech support. An obvious oxymoron, with the emphasis on moron.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Charlie I think these tech support people's calls are monitored, they are required to follow the "script". But every once in a while you get someone who is really sharp.

Eric said...

I called late Saturday night and got good help with a moderate amount of "lost in translation"

I called later on in the evening [10:30 pacific time] and lost even more in translation.

when I called Sunday morning and got service and understanding that was so much beter than late the night befor.

I'll instruct the new hard drive to crash suring normal business hours. It'll make everything go much smoother.

Okie said...

Wow...that's absolutely ridiculous. Sadly, I've had similar experiences with technical support or "customer service" and even more sadly, they often end with no satisfactory resolution and I just have to give up and rant about the company.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Okie I must cop to having worked on both ends of Tech Support. When you think about it, it's pretty tough to "describe" any technical issue over the phone and expect a successful outcome.

Luckily tech support people know a secret: 90% of computer problems are solved by rebooting the machine. Seriously!