A grey haired man talking on the phone wearing a smile surrounded by other people who are angry

I started working in IT support right after Windows 95 was released. I’ve worked in manufacturing health care, banking and insurance, but primarily in K-12 and higher education. In some way or another, I’ve always been involved in end-user support. Currently I have a relatively low stress job at a well-run private university where the relationship between the IT department and the faculty, staff and students is pretty good.

Almost every adult in 2024 has experienced technical difficulties that required them to call tech support, whether it’s the help desk at your job, your Internet service provider or the manufacturer of your cell phone. I’m not immune to this. I switched ISPs last year and my new setup didn’t work when I followed the directions. It was frustrating, but I wanted to solve the problem, so I called.

I promise you that if you follow the steps below, your technology problems will get solved faster and with better results than if you don’t. And, trust me, I’m sure you’ve dealt with some incompetent or mean or unfriendly tech support folks in the past. I get it. That’s out of your control. What is in your control is how you react. Don’t act aggrieved or victimized. Be solution oriented and things will work out better.

  1. Restart your computer. Seriously. This solves many, many problems. Do this even if you don’t think it will help.
  2. Answer all the questions you are asked truthfully. Don’t say you restarted you computer if you actually didn’t.
  3. Remember that the person on the other end of the phone almost always wants to solve your problem too. They are not the cause of your problem. Technology is complicated and finnicky and sometimes things don’t work. That’s the price we pay to live in the 21st century.
  4. Obey the Golden Rule. Talk to the person on the other end of the phone like you would want to be spoken to.
  5. If you are calling because you got an error message, know what the error message said and be able to relay that information to tech support. Don’t just say “I got an error
  6. Be prepared to tell tech support what you were doing when the problem occurred. (e.g., What program were you using? What other programs were open? Did the computer make any sounds?)
  7. If this is a reoccurring problem, how long has it been happening and what was your reason for not reporting it sooner? (Did you have a solution to the problem that no longer works?)
  8. Can you reproduce the issue or is it intermittent? If you can reproduce the issue, know what exact steps you took before the problem surfaced. (Keep in mind that intermittent problems are among the most difficult to resolve because of the difficulty in determining if the issue is fixed)
  9. What have you tried on you own to solve the problem? (Not that you have to solve your own issue, but it doesn’t hurt to Google it. It might be something simple that can save you a call.)
  10. Be familiar enough with the tools you use to know what operating system your computer uses and (especially if you are on a corporate network) what the name of your computer is.
  11. Do your best within your abilities to describe the issue. It’s not cute to use language like ‘thingy” or “doohickey”. If you don’t have the IT vocabulary to explain an issue, there’s nothing you can do about that. Just use plain language and you’ll be moving towards a solution.
  12. If you are having a problem with something online, try to know if your computer is wireless (bonus points if you know the name of the Wi-Fi network) or if it is connected to a network through a cable.

Look, I understand technology is frustrating. Trust me. I do. My whole professional life has been spent fixing things that aren’t working as expected. But don’t be angry at the person who is there to help you. There’s no need to tell them how many years you’ve been using a computer or what high-speed tech job your kid has. Just work together, get the problem solved and then you can get back to work.