July 27, 2017

“Hello, Tech Support?”

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

Terrible computer manuals are how I started my career. I knew I could do a better job, and I did. And today, while computer books are barely hanging on, the manual is a thing of the past. No one even considers “the manual” when they refer to technology. Is tech support next?

Developers had multiple justifications for ditching the manual. The first was the cost; “a penny a page,” they said at Microsoft. So they converted the manual into the online help, where it would be less obvious and fewer people would use it.

Another justification might have been that the developer offered phone support. In fact, I heard tales in the 1990s that a lot of people would phone WordPerfect tech support before they installed the software. (WordPerfect For Dummies sold millions of copies.)

Tech support was a necessary thing, not only from the 1990s, but into the early 2000s when it was offered for the plethora of cheap “Internet PCs” dumped on the market. (The computer’s price was supplemented by an online service.) This time period was the pinnacle of tech support — from a perspective of how horrible it was.

I remember getting emails from various tech support people. They told me of the 12 Minute Rule, which eventually became the 7 Minute Rule: If you can’t fix the problem after seven minutes, tell them to re-install Windows. That solution worked, but so would replacing a car’s engine when it just needed a new air filter.

Then there were the tales of tech support outsourced to Wamboolistan where English was the third language. Social media still swirls with tales of terrible support.

So where have those tech support people gone?

They’re still out there, somewhere offering support. Yet, the last few times I’ve phoned tech support, I’ve spoken with a native speaker who actually solved my problem.

Apple tech support worked with me over the span of a few weeks to resolve an issue. The same person addressed it every time. I was floored. (Of course, I paid for the extended warranty, so this service wasn’t free.)

Time Warner/Spectrum/Charter support is also from native speakers, local to my country, who genuinely try to resolve the issue.

So is tech support better than it once was? Or is it that fewer people are using it, so the costs are done and they can spend more money on better support? Regardless, the tech support horror stories seem to be less frequent. I’m okay with that.


  1. Hmmm, in the UK British Telecom my parents Phone/Broadband supplier use a variety of Tech support offices mostly in the North of the UK (something about the Gerodie accent that the UK is supposed to find comforting!) and also they get a load of calls from India trying to get them to download a tool to cure the ‘hack’ they were exposed too. Scammers trying to download a tool to take control of the PC. My Mum who takes these calls tells them in a commanding tone (one which only Mothers can use they don’t own a computer!)

    Comment by glennp — July 27, 2017 @ 2:18 am

  2. That’s why in all of my books I recommend disabling remote desktop assistance. It was a clever idea, but one that’s abused way too often.

    Comment by admin — July 27, 2017 @ 7:00 am

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