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Why technical support isn't working

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Do you agree with Jonathan Yarden that IT professionals need to make more of an effort to work together? Do think working together can help better secure systems? Share your comments about why technical support isn't working, as discussed in the Oct. 13 Internet Security Focus e-newsletter.

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Good Idea

by dkerta In reply to Why technical support isn ...

Please let me know when the core team establish.

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A lack of coordination is why technical support isn't working

by makhdoom.naeem In reply to Why technical support isn ...

I totally agree with Mr. Jonathan yerden.

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ISP Technical Support

by pbg_61 In reply to Why technical support isn ...

ISP support is bad and at times worse then bad and yes the attitude you receive is bad. I have also tried to pry information from them and received answers like "You don't need to know that." I also work for the IT deparment as support for 275 field personel in sales. I hear all the time different issues resulting from internet issues for their home systems and help them when ever I can. I have had the cable \ DSL providers tell my people the only way to resolve the issue is to remove the laptop from the domain and when it does not work they blame it on the laptop, which was working fine before hand!

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ISP Technical Support

by pbg_61 In reply to Why technical support isn ...

ISP support is bad and at times worse then bad and yes the attitude you receive is bad. I have also tried to pry information from them and received answers like "You don't need to know that." I also work for the IT deparment as support for 275 field personel in sales. I hear all the time different issues resulting from internet issues for their home systems and help them when ever I can. I have had the cable \ DSL providers tell my people the only way to resolve the issue is to remove the laptop from the domain and when it does not work they blame it on the laptop, which was working fine before hand!

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Outsourcing and Tech Support

by Dave Howe In reply to Why technical support isn ...

I know at least one ISP who prides itself that it *hasn't* outsourced its first-shift support (ie, business hours) - so that support staff in those hours can actually contact a real techie
note they specify first shift - evening and night shifts are from india, they know nothing about the network they are "supporting" and have no access to status reports (other than publicly posted ones) or the technical staff (other than by raising a ticket in software that often doesn't allow a sufficiently flexable entry to even describe the problem properly, assuming either of the parties (phone guy or customer) even understand what problem they have.

I had an interesting experience with an ISP support line not long ago - their mail server started rejecting mail to their own customer because it was addressed to a subdomain (ie department.companyname.com) and they had upgraded "security" on that mailserver.
Their only comment was "we are aware of the problem, but aren't doing anything about it until the customer contacts us directly; we suggest you fax or phone the customer and ask them to contact us"
Of course, our contracting department didn't bother - they simply awarded the ?500,000+ contract to the second place bidder they *could* contact. I never did find out what the "winner" did about that..... but Email is now as vital a business tool as fax or phone.

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Probably an unpopular response, but here it goes

by Rans Am In reply to Why technical support isn ...

I agree with the content of your discussion and would like to add more.

I have been in the data communications business for 25 years and being the receipent of several customer service awards for technical support related activities I feel I am qualitifed to make the following statements. In an attempt to further qualify myself I started as an entry level technician and over the years worked until I acquired a Director level position.

Technical support people are the key to success and yes having the appropriate tools are important, but I have witnessed technical expertise gap-fill equipment and tools deficiences for years. I have also witnessed a steady decline, long before the downturn in the data and telecommunications industry, in the investment and resources allocated to provide technical support. Not only at the ISP level as you have suggested, but also at the broadband backbone level provided by small, medium and large communications providers. With predictable consistency experienced and talented technical support personnel are being early retired or simply laid off and replaced with entry level personnel that cannot fulfill the QOS agreements that the sales forces of the organizations are using as a sales aid to produce revenue. Of course entry level personnel are needed to handle level 1 technical support and everyone in the technical support business was once a entry level employee, but the experienced, talented and skilled personnel have become the road-kill of short term business minded companies as they concentrate on a nickel investment today that costs them thousands of dollars in business loses in the future. I know, until recently I was the Director of a technical support organization and there is wide spread concensus that a the risk of losing business related to poor technical support performance is the only way to remain competitive. The business I worked for and all that I dealt with (hundreds of businesses) will not officially admit this to their customer base, but every action they take is evidence to their commitment of providing the least amount of technical support as possible. This method of conducting business, which includes RIF that targets the experts contributes to poor technical support in many ways.

One is applying huge performance expectations to level 1 personnel that simply cannot deliver. It is not their fault because they have yet to acquire the knowledge and skills to meet the high standard companies are promoting to current and prospective customers. This directly contributes to a very high stress level and when combined with long hours and typically multiple job responsibilities, which prohibit them from performing the quality job they would like to do, these negative contributors accumlate until they adopt the attitude you discussed.

Further degrading the situation is the retention of a small, under staffed and over worked upper level technical support staff that have to spend their valuable time performing lower level tasks because of the inexperience of the level 1 technical support staff. This also contributes to a lot more incidents becoming escalated incidents because issues are not properly addressed with appropriate staffing and experience at the lower levels. Now the upper level staff is addresses non-upper level issues, yet still expected to provide upper level support without the time to dedicate to the responsibility. Thus, eventually this group of people adopt the attitude.

Every aspect of customer service / technical support has been in a steady decline. You mentioned that you do not have a method of communication with ISP because automated email servers decline your emails. This is another indication of lack of staff. As staff is continually reduced and replaced with automated, impersonal and frankly typically inadequate automated systems it is highly unlikely this particular issue will improve. If you conduct an investigation on also any ISP or communications company web site it is more difficult than ever to find a mechanism of communication. Especially for issues that require expeditous attention.

Now, one might say that when this sort of indequate CS / TS is witnessed you simply decline to do business with the company and move on to another more fitting company. Problem is as I stated earlier this problem is wide spread and you are more than likely to have the same sort of problems with your new company. In the last six months I have cancelled service with two different ISPs and am currently semi-satisatisfed with a third. The service is more or less the same at each company. I just pray that the equipment operates as well as possible and the technical support personnel do not have to intervene to resolve any problems. Harsh comment, maybe, but until I witness a major change in the level of technical support provided on a business and personal ISP level I grudgingly retain my opinion.

In summary, I have conducted investigations and carried out dozens and dozens of analysis over the years and although not popular with today's way of conducting business, the companies that survive are the ones with a rock solid customer base commitment. Yes it will slightly decline, but it will slightly increase as business goes through ebbs and flow. I sincerely and strongly feel that if budgets were dedicated to providing solid and responsible CS / TS instead of financing far to many other things that are short term gain related, history will repeat itself. Until the need for highly technical, skilled and experience personnel is recognized and properl financed I fear your concerns and expressions regarding the level of support you receive will further decline.

Sorry for being so wordy, but 25 years of personal experience and proven CS / TS techniques and policies that resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue bring out the vigor that I dedicated to the industry and miss so much. Yes, I too am road kill.

Sincerely,
Randy McKee

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First Level Support

by Dave Howe In reply to Probably an unpopular res ...

The criteria for measuring success for first level support are also highly suspect.

Assuming you have two support call "experts" - we will call alice and bob

Alice resolves every customer call first time - with an average call length of 8 minutes per call

bob resolves almost every customer call by telling them to reboot then call back; 10% of his calls are actually resolved by this procedure; as only 10% of the return calls are routed to him, this means he "clears" all but 9% of his calls in under a minute, and he has a similar "next step" procedure for those 9% (he has only three procedures to try; he rarely gets to the third as he insists they hang up and phone back after they try it)

bob gets performance related bonuses; alice (who deals with 10% of bob's previous calls) does not, despite actually resolving the problems that bob is not only not solving, but not even trying to solve.

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may i add one more ....

by wayne_ashcraft In reply to Probably an unpopular res ...

I wholeheartly agree, having been in the business for 30 years. However, may i add one to the list ?
I have seen time and time again support personnel and computer technicians that carry an attitude of
"I know everything and I'm better than you" on their shoulders. ISP support, your local pc repair
technician and even higher up I.T. management people that hinder the progress of a project, or resolution of problems, because they won't admit they don't know what they are doing and their ego
is more important. I see this most often from ISP support and corporate support people, usually the
young kids just hired who have no formal training except playing video games and "breaking" their pc's. Attitude is a real block in the I.T. world and if we could overcome it the idea of creating a
central organization or group to bring together the I.T. support world just might work. The chances of that happening ? It could, but not very likely. But then they used to tell us that
LINUX would never make it into the real world either.....

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For Mr. McKee

by ronbat1 In reply to Probably an unpopular res ...

Wow...I would like to learn from you and gain some of the knowledge you have stored up. I think your reply was on target, I am level 1, still learning while trying to help others and it is more than overwhelming to say the least.

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Not only is this unpopular but worse still it is CORRECT

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Probably an unpopular res ...

But there is one big problem that you have overlooked and that is once a company becomes aware that they actualy need support staff with higher skill levels they are either just gone over the edge and are rapidly going broke and expect the NEW Techinical staff to be a cure all for their self inflicted problems or they have waited so long that the trained staff are no longer available as they have found work elsewhere and generally outside the IT industry and they don't want back in either.

Really it is just simple logic involved here as if you continually are getting kicked in the head in one industry and not in another which would you be happier working in?

This is a typical example of Coledge kids running business they think they know it all and mess up a perfectly good business in the name of short term profits for which they get a hudge bonus. They then leave the company as they have sold off all its assets and there is nothing left to sell so they will not get their bonus next year so it is better to leave now particuarly when you are going to get a massive performance bonus as well as a good report for the next business that they are going to screw over.

The real problem arises once someone else comes in and attempts to get the business back on track which in most cases isn't easy or fast as it takes years to do the good work but only months to undo it again.

This while not only applies to the IT side of business but all business and as any senior manager now needs some form of formal education to get a job they have all been brainwashed into similar beliefs and so we see the same thing happening across the board in every industry.

Worse still there is no easy answer for this as any public company is only looking at the next 6 months profit and doesn't concernitself with the long term good of the company.

Personally I've seen numerious companies once sucessful fall by the wayside once their original owner/CEO or whatever sold out or died the new person bought in to run the company makes massive profits in the first 6 -12 months by selling off all the assets and reducing the highly skilled staff to either nothing or the bare minunum whjo then leave because they no longer can do the job they are employed to do and are constantly cleaning up others messes so they leave in discust or have severe health problems that cause then to cease work and they are not replaced by someone with their level of expertiese but by someone within the company who is promoted and only kept on because that aren't as well trained and therefore don't require the same salery as their predesessor.

I am constantly amused when I see a CEO or whoever constantly complaining about staff costs being too high but they never mention that without these very same over priced staff they would also be unemployed and certianly wouldn't get their Golden Handshake when they chose to leave the company. Or also without these very same staff the company would not exost as there would be noone to do the work and produce whatever the company makes.

Then there is Microsoft's new advertising "DO More With Less" sound fimilar to anyone? This not only applies to the outlay on hardware but also in support staff to keep this hardware running.

Until there is either no business left or there is some connon sence brought back into the work enviroment this will continue qand we will constantly see our jobs and manfacturing capacity going offshore to the detrement of our countries actual needs. Just think on this if a war started tomorrow could we still produce the necessary weapons to defend ourselves from parts made onshore?

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