Computer Professionals Make Me Feel Stupid
Article by Rick Leinecker, March 12, 2007

Have you ever encountered a "Computer Professional" and felt like your IQ may be somewhere in the basement? Has an Information Technology (IT) staff member made you feel about 3 inches tall? Join the club, that's most of the world.

As an IT professional, the first thing I want to do is apologize. Those arrogant and conceited individuals who feel good by making you feel bad are a small fraction of the IT professionals. And if you want to get right down to it, they only treat you like that because they are so unsure of themselves.

Every time that I call my Internet Service Provider (ISP), I have to answer a list of questions so that the technical support person on the other end of the phone conversation can find the resolution in their database of answers. But I want to just scream and say "I know what is wrong, just listen to me." And it always turns out that I do know what's wrong without going through the litany of questions they pose.

The last time I called my ISP, I hit a true road block. I politely told the person that I am a Certified Systems Engineer and that I could offer the path to a solution. The response wasn't pretty. A very irritated (if not angry) support technician transferred me to the local support staff. Once transferred, I was greeted with respect, and the problem was solved within about five minutes. So much for the qualified person who lost their temper because I offered suggestions that deviated from the standard list of questions. Let this be a lesson: don't ever even hint that you know more than a support technician.

I remember once when I was reviewing 10 hardware devices for a national magazine. My results were to be part of a feature article that I was writing. One of the devices was especially hard to configure, so I called technical support. The person on the other end was a graduate of the "technical jargon, leave them in the dust" school. He started talking about time slices and resource allocation. After I hung up, I realized that what he told me had absolutely nothing to do with the situation. It was pure fiction. The review of that company's product was not stellar - largely due to their technical support training.

Here's the best scenario, though. Have you ever called technical support and they told you to try something that made no sense? They then tell you to call back if it doesn't work. Invariably, it doesn't work and you call back. But you get a different technician then you got before, and that was the objective. Many technicians will tell you anything to get you off the phone because they have no idea of how to solve your problem. They just start spouting off computer jargon and if you don't understand, they make you feel like an idiot. I caught onto this trick early on.

Just recently, though, I had an encounter that almost blew my cork. The night before the experience, I signed a contract to write several tutorials for Microsoft. (I would think this qualifies me as a leading IT professional.) The night before, I also learned that one of my partners is a Cisco 2007 vendor of the year, meaning our Cisco plug-in product was deemed a success. The next morning, I encountered someone who thinks of themselves as an advanced computer expert. Within ten minutes, they hurled at least a dozen arrogant and almost abusive comments in my direction as if I didn't know how to turn a computer on. At this time I realized that if I am going through this as a well-qualified IT professional, what must everyone else be going through? It couldn't be pretty. And I realized that those of us who don't resort to these tactics should apologize. I'm sorry. It's not that we're guilty, but a few bad apples have really soured the experience of many.

I have some suggestions for survival in dealing with technical support engineers. First and foremost is to keep a log of all conversations and emails. This will give you the ammunition you need when things escalate and you've been through a myriad of useless steps. Make sure that you have the names, emails, phone numbers, and extensions of the people you talked to. Don't let a support technician shuffle you off the phone - make sure you get the answers you need. Don't hesitate to ask for a supervisor, but make sure you have an accurate log.

Some companies give top level support that I would rate as A+. Some companies, though, give minimal support. It's not the support technicians who bear the responsibility; it's the company who trained them. Make sure that when technical support is good that you write a letter of commendation. And if the support is poor, alert the company to the problem.

Dealing with IT professionals and technical support can be difficult, but you can prevail.