Over the past week I have noticed something about IT support that I believe is a pervasive problem throughout the industry in America as I have witnessed it. That problem is with contacting vendor support.
When you call for support to a hardware or software vendor, whether is a Microsoft or an HP, you are getting level one support. This should be what is assumed, that you’re talking to someone that is either reading off a script or who has notes about the product. You may even open a support case online or via email and should expect the same support, something canned. What is usually expected though is a SME (subject matter expert), someone who knows the product inside and out like the back of their hand.
This is the first part of the disconnect. You do not get an expert usually on your first contact attempt for support but most IT personnel, especially managers and less technical IT, assume that is what it is. It’s time to admit that along with the fact that even if you escalate the case you will get probably the next tier of support, which is basically level one support that is allowed to Google for answers.
Let me be clear, I’m not arguing against this practice. Companies that offer support not only have the right to use these tiers of support but, from a business perspective, it only makes sense. If a company can use the cheapest resource to keep customer support efficient and cheap, so the company can focus on growth and development, then it should.
This is not even something that I find as a flaw in the IT departments that are contacting for support, the fact that they are assuming a higher level of knowledge then they are getting.
What I am wanting to point out here as a flaw is the fact that if the person on the other end of the support call sounds like he or she has an Indian accent then there is grumbling. Grumbling and rolling of eyes. I have lost count of the comments on “off-shoring” IT phone support jobs and the perceived slight thereof to the person contacting support and I’m not really sure why this is other than American IT has been tainted from years of media perception.
Could it be the language barrier that causes it? I say no. Yes, it can be hard for Americans to understand a thick, central Asian accent but it’s just as hard to understand someone who is discussing your firewall problem who has a Eastern European accent. However it’s just as hard to understand ‘Vlad’ when he is reading off the same unhelpful tech script and still I’ve been on plenty of calls where that happens and the caller will assume the genius of said support person.
It might sound like I’m painting with a large brush in saying this but I can honestly say that, up until a few months ago, I was one of these people. Then I started getting testy with any support person with an accent, assuming the same off-shore support problem as with someone on the phone from India for anyone who didn’t sound like me. I’m not claiming I found ethnic enlightenment at some point though. What happened next to me after realizing that about anyone who sounded different than me was that I realized that even the support people that did sound like me were starting to infuriate me.
In short, I was the person I’m complaining about. I was not only expecting SME, genius level support on my first contact but for them to be sitting at a desk in Michigan somewhere with a midwestern accent and a calming personality. I see I have been a fool now and serve to post this as a warning to others.