Calling for real phone tech support

We don’t need new technology; we need to use the technology we have better.

I just got off the phone with a technology support operation. As most of you know, the automated telephone systems are built by specialists who go to college to learn how to design “menu choices” that don’t relate to the real-world problems you are trying to solve (press “1” if your telephone handset is no longer operational).

This is supposedly state-of-the-art technology to route your call most efficiently. While many calls can be handled automatically (account balance, due date, appointment status, nearest office and so on), most of my calls don’t fit those descriptions (I use the automated Web services for those). I’ve got two gripes having to do with a technology that isn’t in the least bit “state of the art”: caller ID. Most businesses use a telephone number as an index into the accounts database.

My first gripe is that I have to sit in the phone queue listening to some automated voice tell me how long I have to wait (“wait time is currently 10 minutes or more”). You’ve got my phone number, just call me back when the wait time is up! The inexpensive handset on my desk can auto-dial the last caller (or any of the phone numbers I’ve captured with caller ID), and so can your business phone system. You’ve automated the phone to save you time; now think about my time.

Somewhere during the maze of menu choices the automated voice will say “In order to serve you better, please enter your 77-digit account number.”

So you do, but you have to do it four times because you always mis-key a number or two. Then, 20 minutes later, when a human picks up the phone the first thing they ask you for is the account number.

Ten years ago I was writing applications that captured the phone number, looked up the account, forwarded the call (via the phone switch) to a technician while routing the account information to the tech’s desktop PC. Pick up the phone, and the account details appear on screen. That was 10 years ago. Yet no one seems capable of doing that today.

When I’m frustrated enough to call tech support, don’t add to my frustration. Use the technology for my good, which actually could improve your bottom line.

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Silicon Valley. He can be reached a

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