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A word of warning on this one. If you can’t take a joke and laugh at yourself, don’t even bother reading this.


Tech support… everyone needs it every now and then.

You know how it goes. You get some program / gadget and the damn thing just won’t work right. No matter what you do, you continue to have trouble. Believe me, I know how you feel.

You see… I know your pain because I am tech support. When it comes to support, I have done it all. Before working for WorldStart, I had several years of telephone tech support under my belt. Within these years, I have heard every last tale.

Today, since I know it all, I am going to share with you the top tech support “no-nos”. Just to reiterate my message above, this will probably offend each and every one of you.

1. You are not a comedian.

A very important thing to remember when calling tech support is that they have heard it all. Starting the conversation with a little joke like “I’m a computer idiot, LOL” or, “I hope you’re ready for a DOOSEY, LOL”  to set the mood is not a good idea. Tech support is not there to be amused by you. Tech support is there to fix your problem and move onto the next person.

2. We don’t care how good you are with computers.

If I had a dime for every time some called me and started by telling me how good (or bad) they are with computers I would be a millionaire. Again, tech support does not care about your skill level. Everyone is treated the same and there is a reason for this. You see, computer “skills” are a relative term. You may be the pro in your house, until I step into the room. I may be the best computer tech at WorldStart, until they hire someone better.

The bottom line is that YOU are calling THEM for HELP. If you are calling them, all you need to do is follow their directions. Your computer skills don’t matter at that point.

3. Errors might not mean anything to you, but they do to tech support.

OK, this might be the single most annoying thing ever for a Tech support rep. I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve had that go something like this:

“I keep getting this error and it says something about the thing not working.”

WOW. That was so informative. I definitely know exactly how to fix your issue (that was sarcasm).

When you get an error, TELL US WHAT IT SAYS.  Every last little detail. Errors weren’t put on your computer just to bug you. They actually tell you what is wrong.

3.5 The Path actually means something to tech support.

This is closely related to #3. When you get an error, usually it gives a path to the bad file. It goes something like this: C:\program files\…

When people call tech support they like to skip this as if it doesn’t matter. I honestly don’t know why. It would be like me calling you and saying “hey come over to my house. My address is 123 blah blah blah numbers numbers numbers.”

Not very helpful is it?

Again, errors are important. Every last word.

4. Details, Details, Details….        Details.

Let me say it again, Details.

Have you ever contacted tech support and said “this thing doesn’t work”? If you have, this one is for you.

I look forward to the day that tech support can read minds and see through the phone, but until that day comes, we’re just going to have to rely on the customer explaining the problem.

I don’t know how else to explain this. WE CANNOT SEE YOUR SCREEN. In order to help properly, you need to tell tech support exactly what is happening. Where did you start, where are you now, what happened when you clicked that button, at what point did you run into a problem and what was the problem?

5. Don’t click unless you are told to.

This kinda goes with number 2.

Calling tech support can lead you into some uncharted computer territory. You might see things on your computer that you have never seen before. You might be asked to click thing that you have never done before. This is why you should never click ANYTHING unless you are asked to.

This happens to me all the time: ME: “Right click on My Computer”. CUSTOMER: “OK, I’m in the device manager. That’s where you wanted me… right?”

UGH. So, it becomes pretty obvious. I can’t read your mind, you cant read mine.

6. Your computer does not actually have a mind of it’s own.

Now this is just hilarious to any tech support rep out there. At least once a day, someone will say to me “my computer doesn’t like me today”, or “My computer doesn’t want to do that”.

Believe it or not, computers don’t have feelings. They are machines. They simply do as instructed by a set of programming parameters.

Tech support will always see it this way. When computers “misbehave” they simply have a conflict with the instructions that they are given. Tech support is there to find the conflict and resolve it. We are not computer counselors, we are computer repair specialists.

OK, that’s all i have for now, but I’m sure there’s more that I’m not thinking of currently.

I know that some of these will come across like me telling you that tech support doesn’t like you. I assure you that this is not the case. Most tech support people, me included, actually enjoy fixing computer issues for people. I can’t speak for everyone, but I truly enjoy being able to resolve a problem for a customer. It is very satisfying to know that I was able to make someone’s day a little better.

The entire point of this post is simply to point out that there are productive tech support calls and there are wasteful, time consuming tech support calls. If you can avoid the 6 and a half “no-nos” above, your problem will be resolved faster. This saves more time for tech support to get to the next person that needs help.

If everyone follows these rules, everyone will get help faster and not wait on hold as long.

One last word (or paragraph) of wisdom about tech support that most people don’t think about. When you are on hold for tech support, the support rep is suffering right along with you. You see, when you are waiting on hold, this means that every tech support rep is currently helping someone else. It also means that as soon as the support rep gets off their current call, another one comes to them immediately after. This is the most terrible thing that anyone can experience. Imagine call after call with no break in between. This gets even worse when every call starts with a complaint about the hold time.

Just think about this the next time you call for help.


33 Responses to “Top Tech Support No-Nos”

  1. Billy Dion says:

    I have nothing but praize for all the support I have received! What ever I learned about computers I did so by trial and error or what I learned from World Start! Thanks from all of your fans; which I am one of them!!!

  2. Phyllis E. Fox says:

    This was very interesting and informative, I will certainly try to keep all this in mind when I have to call a Tech. I can sure understand how this would make your job just a (little easier) if all us customers would comply. I am guilty on some counts I admit. We certainly all need to learn patience.
    Thank you so much for this info,
    Best Regards,

  3. Cherie Fruge says:

    I am a fan, too, since I am the tech person for my Mom and my brothers… I know exactly how you feel. Mqybe it’ll sink in some day…

  4. TOM BOYLEN says:


  5. Barbara Pickett says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you…for saying it again…and for all the patience you all show us. I only wish I had the elephant memory techs do…’course I know they have cheat sheets to…still, gotta love’em all.

  6. Alvin Foster says:

    Okay. I’m guilty of just about every one of your no-nos. In my defense, most of what I learned about computers came about through trial and error, mostly error, and I feel so helpless and embarrassed when I don’t know what to do. Due to you folks at Worldstart, I’ve gleaned loads of info from your Computer Tips. And, because of your forum, I see I’m not the only one who gets lost every now and then. You are A-OK in my book. Thanks.

  7. Roy says:

    Great information!
    I am (from now on…used to be) one of those who will start telling support that I know nothing about computers.
    Hoping that he/she will tell me what to do as easy as possible.

  8. WayneW says:

    I’m “that guy” for friends and family and it’s tough.
    Tell someone to right click on the desktop and get “where’s the desktop”.
    It’s easier if they don’t have a page up, but it’s never easy.
    Also, trying to walk someone through vista while I’m on XP or 7.
    You can’t see what they see.
    I usually just go with crossloop if they have a connection.

  9. Clay Lawson Jr says:

    Hey it is anodd looking thing, but it is just an illusion that plays with your sight.

  10. Chuck says:

    I have the highest praise and respect for the Tech Support people but I just wish they spoke English and not sound like they are on another planet and were in this Country, but I guess that is asking for too much. Where can I find American Tech Support?

    • Evelyn says:

      Chuck….I know just how you feel. When I was a beginner on computers and scared to death of them and real scared when I started doing on-line I was given a tech support that couldn’t understand me and I sure couldn’t understand him. He screamed at me to DO WHAT I TELL YOU TO DO!! and it scared me so bad I hung up….called Gateway back and ask for an American speaking Tech. I did get one but I don’t think I ever called Gateway back for help again. It was just as well as my fumbling through all of it….with the help of Worldstart…..what I learned stuck with me. I have no idea how I found Worldstart but I assure all of you I am grateful for all of them.

  11. Kathy says:

    I agree with Chuck I would much rather talk to Gary or one of you guys. I called for tech support on my first computer and honestly I couldn’t understand what he was saying. The accents make it hard and I’m guilty of going say again please over and over to try and understand what the guy on the other end said. I love the tips and I save them everyday. There is always something I can go to and reread for a better understanding. Thanks World Start for being such tech guys. I will make sure I listen very close and go step by step with you.

  12. Collene says:

    great post, I remember when my friend told me about your site. She said “it may be too basic for you, but I like it”, that was six years ago, guess what I read cover to cover every day, and have for the past six years.
    Go Bucs

  13. Evelyn says:

    It has been a long time since I first started with a computer and I am sure I have given tech help just about all the idiot question and crazy things that could have been heard. I do appreciate all the tech helpers in America. I appreciate their help, their patients and for not laughing at me. I have printed this out and will post it for when I do have to call for tech help again I will have a guide as to what not to do or say. Thanks Gary, not only for this blog but for the many tips you have sent by e-mail from Worldstart.

  14. Hugh Distelhurst says:

    Gary..I found your blog to be very informative and I for one am the first in line to support a good tech.Therein lies the problem.In my 7 year tenure of being a computer owner I had(in the earlier years)occasion to call and or interact with a number of different tech support people.I learned the ground rules you numbered in your blog early on from my son.He is not a computer tech by trade but he is very knowledgeable about computer problems and how to fix them.In my first six months or so of being a computer owner,I must have called him a bazillion times.No..wait maybe only a million times.He lives in Florida..I live in Nevada so his coming over to the house to help me out was out of the question.I’d complain about this go on and on about that until he finally said..”Dad you’re old but not DEAD.The problems you’re having are common to all first time computer users.You’re a smart guy,Pop try figuring out what makes a computer tick”…or words to that effect.From that time on I did just foward a few months.I had occasion to contact tech support at one of the better known virus security providers.He was smart,capable and very nice.My problems were fixed in a jiffy.Between that incident and(again fast foward..this time two years)until I had a team of two techs take over my computer and fix it remotely..I delt with one after another tech who could barely speak English and who obviously were reading from a book(thats the only reason I can think of that they would all ask me the very same questions)and were in the end no help at all.This is all by way of saying that there are many of us who know the rules and will follow them religiously as long as we feel we are getting real help and not words from a book.

  15. Gregg says:

    I had the unfortunate thrill of calling two tech support people yesterday. One for a Hawking Range Extender, the other for a Cisco (Linksys) router. Both calls, plus a follow up were to india. The call time could have bee cut in half if I did not not require thet repeat everything at least twice, because I could not understand them. They might have had the same problem to with me I suppose.

  16. George says:

    Dear Steve , All you tech support people have a lot of knowledge which is great but if the person you are talking to is hard of hearing and tell you so !. Don’t continue with a rapid fire delivery and make sure the person can understand you. 2 If you are from India or Pakistan please understand with your accent some people cannot understand you, Especially those who cannot hear in the decibel range of your voice. Please lower the decibel range and speak slowly and distinctly. We are not stupid nor prejudiced, just hard of hearing.

    • Steph says:

      Oh, George – I totally relate. I even have hearing aids (key word is aids, which many people don’t get) but if I get a a person in tech support who (a) speaks softly or (b) speaks really fast or (c) speaks with a heavy accent OR all three (!), I get so frustrated. I WILL ask the person to speak slower and distinctly but some simply don’t get it, get frustrated w/me, talk while I am asking a question, etc. I have had to say/ask to speak to someone else since our conversation is going downhill fast, many get “offended” & I just have to say goodbye and call again (praying I get a different person), So, there are some customer “no-noes” too. 1. Don’t act like we are interrupting you and are a bother. (I want to stop here because I have never called World Start so don’t want to infer that any of what I have said and will say applies to WS). 2. Don’t be condescending and/or treat us like we are children. 3. Speak in a medium tone and distinctly. If you have an accent, and are told that we/I can’t understand you, slow down some more or find a co-worker to step in. 3.5 Don’t get offended if we/I can’t understand you! Don’t assume we are intolerant or bigoted! As said by someone else, you may have a hard time understanding us! 4. When we tell you the steps we have already taken, don’t interrupt us – listen and maybe you’ll hear what we left out or what step was incorrect (I particularly have this problem with our broadband provider whose knee-jerk reaction is to turn off the router and modem and turn them back on. I do that before I even call them since 90% of the time, that fixes it). My hand is getting tired here (broke an arm so can only type one-handed) but maybe some of you can think of more?

  17. Mark says:

    I feel for tech support, I am one of the people that has family and friends constantly calling with their computer problems. The best (or worst) is my mother, she’s terrible at describing what she is seeing on her monitor so I usually get her to take a picture of her desk top and e-mail it to me.
    The first time she did this I told her to bring the program up again and where to click. Every time she brought up the program nothing would work. It took me half an hour of getting her to click here and there until something she said made me realize she was bringing up the picture, not the program.

  18. L A Graham says:

    I have changed ISPs twice because they switched to off-shore tech support; in each instance, it was after spending 3 hours on a 15 minute problem – if the techie had been able to speak and understand basic English. I did not violate your mantra on behavior. :0) I think, however, my biggest (and latest) gripe is the poor help I recently received from Norton. There was a conflict between Norton 360 and Avast, which was on my computer when I upgraded the Norton product. There were no problems between the two programs with the prior version, but this time I received a message that I had to uninstall Avast AND Norton 360 and then reinstall the Norton product. There was no problem uninstalling Avast; the computer ran as it was supposed to for the several reboots needed, etc. BUT I couldn’t get the upgrade to “take” after I’d done the removal the Norton tech had told me to do an once that Norton techie took over my computer, all hell broke loose. He deleted .dll files that should not have been removed, and which I’ve not been able to restore (had to restore the computer twice!!) and caused several Windows errors to start appearing; and then he informed me that what I had was not a Norton problem but “a Windows problem” and needed to have Microsoft fix it. This for a mess that HE made and which had not existed previously. No more Norton products for me. Sorry.

    • Evelyn says:

      WOW!!! I guess I have been lucky with Norton….I got so irked with them because I had to hunt down what ever problem I had and fix it from their reading instructions and believe me their reading instructions is so over my head that I have to spend time reading them over and over before the light goes off in my brain as to what they are talking about. But I had rather spend my time playing “what are they talking about” than have one of their tech people screw up my computer. I hope you reported it to Norton. They have a site for feedback and I hope you went in and let them know what happened.

  19. Peggy says:

    People learn or follow directions in many different ways. So when I repeat something back to you I am trying to reinforce and/or retain a verbal instruction (or possibly write it down). Sometimes I am just making noise as I try to find where/what it is on my screen that you are talking about, or many times making sure I RIGHT click. It seems my brain wants to do the most common move when someone says right – instead of left. I still have to physically move my eyes to my fingers to make sure I am actually moving my middle finger rather than my index. Many techs give several instructions at once – so I DO START BY SAYING I’M SLOW. I can only take one instruction at a time. Then I need a moment to see where I am. There are millians of us out there that process differently or slowly. It’s not that we can’t do it – we may just need the information said again or again using different words if possible.

  20. Julianne says:

    I do tech support for a local ISP… what drives me the craziest? People who call me way late in the evening or worse IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT (sorry, got to yelling there, I’m a little tense) ON A WEEKEND (woops, there I go again!) and immediately tell me that they have been down for FIVE FREAKIN’ DAYS (Now that time it wasn’t ME yelling, that was my customer!) and becoming angry when I cannot get someone out to their house right then and there!

    Hello? It is Friday night, 9 PM… WHY, oh why, did you wait five days? “Oh, I figured you’d fix it before THIS!” they growl, immediately casting the blame back on me.

    MY response: We would have if we would have known, BUT we can’t know if someone doesn’t let us know!

    “You’re supposed to KNOW that!” they’ll respond, unwilling to give an inch.

    I have told a few folks that if we really wanted to be able to monitor their signal and be able to tell “Woops, the Flugmesterston’s signal just went down” it would require some really expensive monitoring equipment- I don’t even know if such a thing exists- PLUS paying people to sit and monitor said equipment 24/7, so we’d have to really do some price raising!

    Bottom line, folks, if you have a problem, tell us!

    One more thing… if I dare to ask you if it could maybe… just maybe… be something in your computer, PLEASE don’t act like I am saying bad things about your sainted mama! You’d be amazed at the number of people who get angry and insulted if they think I am trash-talking on their computer. I’m not… I am bringing up possibilities… just trying to help, okay?

    Here’s the truth: WE want it to work as bad as you do!

    • Evelyn says:

      OMG….I apologize for these rude people, Julianne. There is not one reason for anyone to be rude to a tech help person. MS would be jumping with joy if one of my ISP tech help would join them. I now know when I apologize to my ISP help for being such an idiot about some problem I should have been able to fix myself they always respond to it by saying “it was a pleasure helping you….you have no idea what we have to help sometimes”. Thanks for opening my eyes to what a load tech help has to put up with out of some people. I always figured my ISP tech help was just being nice to me. :-) Who knew???

    • Gary says:

      After working for the largest cable company in the US (look it up), I know exactly what you are talking about. Believe it or not, no matter how big the ISP is, they don’t just sit and look for things going down. Outages are found by trending the phone calls coming in and by putting together the reports.

      If we were to monitor your uptime, I’m sure someone would start screaming about privacy issues.

      I’m not exactly trying to defend the big ISP (many of them are terrible), but I am trying to say that its important to recognize when it’s the time to be upset at your ISP. If you have had 5 techs out in the last month, its time to be upset.

      If you’ve been wondering when they are going to fix a problem that you have not called about, this is not the time to be upset.

  21. Ptricia Filby says:

    Love you guys! Since I found WorldStart some years back I have learned so much from your tips. I am also grateful for these last tips on top-tech-support-no-nos, too. Anything that makes for clearer commumication is good to know. I imagine that all/most of us “learners” want to be able to communicate helpfully and sensibly, but I’ve noticed that heaps of folk get so terribly embarrassed at feeling like a child in beginners grade again, that they seem to fall apart when sitting in front of a computer
    Thanks again to all at WorldStart!

  22. Eric Grunewald says:

    Thanks, Gary. Noticed lots of strong opinions toward foreign-language tech help. Grow up people, it’s a big world out there and you’re the one’s speaking the foreign language. The language is Windows, or Linux, or Cobol, or MS DOS. Get over it. Any southerners out there? Anyone
    from Maine or Missouri? Let’s not even mention Texans. You ALL have accents, and are just as unintelligible as someone from Mumbai or Chennai to anyone unfamiliar with the accent or dialect.
    And people should accept the fact that, either through mishap or mistake, sometimes it’s broken and can’t be fixed. Start over and try again.
    And learn the valuable lesson to back up everything often & regularly, set restore points, keep instructions and program disks handy, and make notes of user IDs and passwords. If all else fails, read the instructions.

  23. Dennbert says:

    I disagree with the point of not telling the tech of your computer experience. I happen to be a very knowledgeable computer person, therefore, when I call tech support about about something that I need help with, I let them know that. So then, we dont have to be wasting time with such stupid stuff as…”Do you know how to open MY COMPUTER?” YES I DO!!!!

  24. Ted Cherry says:

    The biggest farce of tech support is not having a single point of contact. More than once I have explained and gone through all the hoop jumping with my tech rep. only to learn that if a follow-up call is required, I cannot converse with the same person, and in more cases than not, have to go through the whole process again from step one. In addition to that, the instructions vary from one contact to another? If you are able to cure your problem with the first call and with the same rep., consider yourself extremely lucky! In some cases your first contact hasn’t a clue as to the fix for your problem and puts you on hold while re-directing the call. And usually again, you must start all over from step one.

  25. Dan DeLeon says:

    Gary. I kinda agree with Dennbert, but I kinda don’t. In twelve years of seeking occasional tech support I have never connected with a tech support person who spoke un-accented English, (Read “American”). I am four years retired, never been to a computer class, never bought a “PC’s for Dummies” book. Kind of a learn as you go type of person. At work I was surrounded by HP products and dealt with HP Techies, who were, (are), based in India. Dealing with these people has been a study in patience, which, I percieve, on the face of it, is not a bad thing. However, there can come a point in any techie/client relationship, depending on how it is going at the time, and just how insulted my intelligence is feeling, that I give myself permission to tell the techie to skip the baby talk and “tell it like it is” instead of asking me if I know where the ENTER key is, etc, etc. For the most part, my experiences with tech support have been long and grueling. To solve that problem I have gone to local help, finding that I can engage a Geek Squad member in conversation and get my problem resolved over the phone, most of the time at no cost. What a concept. Gotta love those guys. (And guyettes) I think it all comes down to what you are willing to put up with. One thing I heartily recomend is that when engaged in “Techie Talk”, TAKE NOTES, It could happen again.

  26. Diane Meyers says:

    Another NO-NO.
    don’t yell at Tech Support. They didn’t break it. They’re there to help you.

  27. Connie says:

    Hey I think that this Blog was great. Keep ,up the good work.

  28. ribers says:

    Attempting to replace Vista with W7. Backed up everything. Still have Windows Mail utile. Have placed all files in folders that are crossing over to Windows Live Mail. As I place the files in their new folders I delete hundreds of ones I don’t want anymore. I have been sending email to perhaps only 2 individuals. They receive my mail. When I receive their responses that time frame may be in 1 or more hours. I have checked my “sent” folder and there are NO files in there. I checked my “deleted” folder and not one file out of literally hundreds, was in there. I imported (or so I thought) my contacts from Windows Mail to Windows 7 mail but when I click on “new” to start a new message I have to type out the entire address to whom I am sending the message. I obviously have not done all things correctly but I cannot find out what the error was that I have made. I still have hopes of wiping out everything from Vista and Windows Mail and installing Windows 7 and using Windows Live Mail. Any assistance y’all can assist me with with just be so graciously received. I have been receiving your email on a daily basis but can no longer receive my comics from ArcaMax, or ANY of the dozens of my daily newsletters. I have friends I was sending email to daily but now I don’t get their mail for 3 or 4 days. I cannot comprehend this problem. If anybody can help me it would be YOU.

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