Do You Trust the Tech Support Folks?

What is it about tech support?

We want to trust that they will solve our problem. But wanting isn’t getting.

I had lots of time-on-hold to think about this recently – that is – what bolsters trust and what detracts from it? Here are my recent experiences.

1. My computer died in my sleep. It was under warranty. I called the tech support line. When I tested the computer with the agent on the line, the video card ignited in flames!

The agent stayed calm and made sure I was safe, genuinely caring about me and my home. Then he cared about my hard drive – assuring me that it was likely to be safe as well.

Then he addressed the issue – and decided to replace my computer, rather than just the parts. He described the exchange process, and said it could take one to three weeks, but might come even sooner. It arrived in 3 business days.

2. My PDA Calendar was deleting my entries. I called my cellular carrier. I slogged through one automated system and two phone agents–repeating my identification and other security data, in addition to my issue each time. Most of the conversation was scripted apologies about my woes, repetition of what I just said, and thanks for using their service and calling them. Having exhausted the service available, the last agent rightly granted me access to the manufacturer.

At that point, my experience changed. The first person asked about my problem and for my phone number in case we disconnected. Then I was transferred to a person that already had that information on the screen and who didn’t ask me to repeat either my identification information or my issue. He assured me he would stay with me until we resolved the problem – which is what I really wanted – instead of a disingenuous apology. We agreed to break at one point, at my request. He kept his word and called me back right on time, using the number that was logged earlier. And we resolved my problem.

Net net: for my computer problem, I trusted my phone agent, and through him, his company, and will buy from them again. I trust my PDA manufacturer, and will buy another when I’m ready. I’m not so sure about trusting my cellphone service carrier, and may change next time around.

What engendered trust:

• Skipping the unnecessary script and focusing on the problem
• Genuinely caring about me, wanting to help and reassuring me every step of the way
• Being transparent about process
• Keeping promises, showing reliability
• An agent recognizing that he can’t help, and referring me to one who can, as quickly as possible.

What detracted from trust:

• Canned apologies, fake empathy, and useless thank-yous designed to meet some behaviorally observable criteria judged by “management” to serve as a proxy for genuine trustworthiness;
• Asking me for the same information over and over and over…making me doubt either their intent or their competence, or both;
• Multiple transfers without results.

That’s just me. What makes you trust tech or customer service — and what makes you cringe and wonder whether anyone really cares?

6 replies
  1. Barbara garabedian
    Barbara garabedian says:

    I’ve also been fortunate to obtain excellent CSRs. As a result, I tend to frequent those merchants more than others. The companies care about the customers reaction enough to hire, train and comp the CSRs appropriately. That said, several things make me cringe and think about "going postal" w/ most customer dis-service departments:

    1.Try finding a customer service phone number – if you can (which is doubtful), it’s probably hidden in the small print and not w/ the "we appreciate your feedback" statement.

    2. Having to repeat your info to each & every dept their direct you to. Let’s face it, we know that they have the technology and the software; they’re able to bring our info up on a screen w/ the 1st round of info. After all, they manage to find my info on the database fast enough to send me bills and spam!

    3. I resent the online help questionnaire drop down menus w/ varying  stages of, " did we solve your problem". If you really cared, i wouldn’t have to go through that agony of trying 15 versions of the appropriate KEY words in the help search menu.

    4. While we’re at it, when did customer service become so-o specialized??? Why can’t a CSR deal w/ more than one problem???? How did Bill Gates convince the marketplace that directories and sub directories w/ sub directories are user friendly and cost effective???Have you tried to reach someone at a banking institution of late??? The main number sends you to the automated menu (after you punch in all your info); then the next menu; then the next, and then the next; and, should you want to speak to a person, one waits while you keep  getting the annoying message that indicates one should be patient because your business is important to them or one hears the constant infomercials . That wouldn’t be so-o bad if when you actually do connect through (and after repeating all your info again,) you explain the issue & then that person says, " oh that’s not my dept, I’ll connect you". Translation -NOT MY JOB. That means you start all over again.


  2. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Charlie, this is my favourite kind of blog post: drawing universal (helpful!) lessons from specific experiences.  Thank you for sharing this.

    I have to share my absolute worst customer service call experience with you, because it was remarkable.  When we lived in Dallas, we got a call from our phone provider about our bill, by way of a local call center.  I must have a high intimacy score on the trust equation because strangers have a tendancy to pour out their life stories to me unprompted (and, for that matter, hug me): the (very) young man from the phone company went well off script and proceeded to tell me all about his studies at a Dallas evangelical seminary, including how his congregation was busy praying for people with cancer to find salvation, because good Christians don’t get sick, and only really bad people get stricken by god with diseases like that.  (I’m not kidding.) 

    Given that I was off work because of serious health problems when I took the call (not cancer, thankfully), I somehow failed to fully appreciate the dose of  unsolicited theology provided at no extra charge by my phone company to inform me that I was a worthless sinner, unloved by god, otherwise I wouldn’t be so sick.  I considered calling back to speak to a supervisor, but I was upset enough by the call (keep in mind that I really was sick at the time, and easily upset–offended might be a better term) that I didn’t have the oomph to do it. 

    Ultimately, we found a much more effective solution: we moved out of Texas.  And we changed phone companies.

    I don’t remember which company it was now, and I can laugh about it years later (I could probably laugh about it by dinner time the same day, once I got over the shock).

    I don’t need to know who your cell carrier is either, but would you care to let us know who the computer and PDA companies were, given how positive your experiences were? 

  3. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Oops!  I only just noticed that this post is by Stewart.

    It is a PLEASURE to read your writing, Stewart, and I look forward to seeing your byline more often around here.

  4. Stewart Hirsch
    Stewart Hirsch says:

    Shaula and Barbara,

    Thanks for your comments and stories. I’m seeing trust being formed or lost in so many customer service experiences.  I’ll probably be sharing more here as I contribute to the Trust Matters Blog.  
    Shaula, I’ll share with you that my PDA is a Blackberry, and RIMS gets an A+ from me.  I could have written much longer about my positive experience – it wasn’t limited to what I noted. I’ve had to connect with them a few times, and have always been satisfied.  So much so, that I look forward to filling out their post-service surveys. 



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