Calling tech support? Be prepared!

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. Whenever I need to call for tech support, I never seem to have the information they need or I get nervous and wind up wasting my time and money. Can you offer any suggestions, Mr. M?

A. At some point, most computer users have a close encounter of the “Bangalore Bob” kind. Though rarely the highlight of one's day, there are a few things you can do to facilitate the success of your call, before actually reaching for the phone:

1. First and foremost, don't call if you've got an attitude. You know what I'm talking about. Telephone tech support can, and often is, a frustrating experience. If you’re not in a good mental place to make the call, wait until you’re feeling more relaxed and can spend whatever time is required.

2. If language difficulties prevent you from understanding the person with whom you are speaking, don’t get angry or snippy. That person is doing the best he or she can. When I run into this situation, as my blood pressure spikes and the room begins to spin, I politely hiss, “I’m sorry, we’ve got a bad connection. I’ll call back.” I then redial and usually on the second or third attempt I’ll connect with somebody I can communicate with easily.

3. Know the model number, serial number of hardware, or the precise wording of any error messages you’re encountering.

4. Be sitting in front of the computer when you call, and have the computer freshly rebooted.

5. If your problem involves connecting to the Internet and you have dial-up access, call Tech Support from your cell phone or any phone other than the one your computer uses to connect.

6. Describe precisely what problem you are experiencing. Write out a script in advance, if it will help you present the information in a succinct, coherent manner. The person with whom you’re speaking is totally dependent on your verbal description, so speak slowly and distinctly.

7. Jot down the name of the person with whom you speak, the date and time of the call, what was suggested, and the ticket number assigned to your call. If you have to call back, the next support person can then review the history of the problem rather than require you explain it again.

Q. I don't want Outlook Express checking for new email every 30 minutes as it is doing. How can I prevent that?

A. Outlook Express (and Windows Mail) as originally configured, check for incoming mail every 30 minutes. If you prefer that either of these programs only check for messages when you click Send/Receive, click Tools > Options > General and remove the check mark beside “Check for new messages every XX minutes,” followed by Apply > OK.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week:

College Directory
If you know a high-school student who is considering college, or if you're an adult looking into the possibility of endowing your alma mater (aren't we all?), this directory provides contact information for every college in the United States, searchable by city and state. I wasn't exactly a stellar student in college, but I thought it might be fun to connect with my school through this site after all these years. They asked me not to contact them again. I thought that was a bit harsh.

One-Stop Instant Messaging
Meebo is one of the Web's fastest growing social media sites, with more than 100 million people sharing 6 billion messages and 75 million links each month. Yikes! Using Meebo, which is free, you can IM (Instant Message) from anywhere, using any computer. People use this service to keep in touch with friends across dozens of IM platforms, including AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, Google alk, MySpace IM, Facebook Chat, and more. Meebo is entirely Web based, so there is nothing to download or install.

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