Here Are a Few Smart Communication Tips.
Talking to vendor tech support doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here are the top things to keep in mind.
Organizations’ relationships with their vendors and service providers aren’t always perfect. Whether it’s a bug in the software, a slowdown with no apparent cause, or a difficult financial issue, you’ll probably have a day when you’ll need to pick up the phone and call (or email, etc.) vendor customer support. When this happens, it’s important to communicate correctly the first time. All the usual customer support rules about keeping your temper and understanding their point of view apply, but when talking to vendor support, here are several additional tips to consider.
Gather Documentation and Details.
A vague explanation doesn’t do support much good, and a single instance of something going wrong isn’t exactly convincing. If you really want tech support to look into a problem your service is having, you need to document it thoroughly. Have a list of the bug instances and when they have happened. Provide server logs if necessary. Your goal is to have a full view of the issue with evidence that it’s not: 1.) your imagination or 2.) an entirely different problem than you believe. Vendor support deals with those two cases so often they tend to expect them. Save everyone time by providing documentation to back up your concerns. (If the problem is less technical, do the same but with records of conversations, bills, etc.)
If You Are Worried About Costs, Have a Plan.
What’s your end goal for this conversation with support? Do you want a discount, or refund, or new fee arrangement? Do you want to somehow be compensated for downtime? Then you’ll need to know exactly what you want. Have a specific monetary goal for remuneration and a clear idea of how you want that to happen. You don’t always have to state this goal, especially when first discussing a problem, but it should be noted and clear in your mind during the discussion.
Note: Some organizations can get obsessed over such a bottom-line figure. Remember, dealing with the problem should have the highest priority; try not to treat it like a negotiation or sales call, and everyone will be happier.
Repeat Detailed Instructions for Accuracy.
For more technical issues connected with services, conversations quickly turn to careful steps that tech support wants you to take. This can take some time, but devote part of that time to an “echo” of everything support is saying. If support tells you, “Log in to the administrator profile, and go to settings and security,” then you should always repeat back, “Okay, I’ve logged into the administrator profile, and now I am in settings and security.”
Some vendors prefer to use screen sharing and other techniques that make echoing less necessary, but it’s still an important thing to remember when trying out a detailed solution.
Make Changes and Benchmark.
Let’s say your problem is more complex—like an ongoing issue with web hosting. In these cases, it’s hard to immediately tell if a fix is effective. So, make changes or note the vendor’s explanation, then benchmark the process again (a couple or even a single week’s worth of data is good to have at this point). This allows you to go back to the vendor and say, “Here’s our recent data, this is where we are seeing the problem, and these are the effects your changes have had.” Then, if necessary, you can talk about continuing solutions.
This isn’t intended to be a “gotcha” move, but rather a way to hold your vendor accountable while also supplying them with as much information as you can about the problem. Complex, ongoing issues often take a lot of back and forth to finally figure out what’s going on, and that works best when you are politely providing the vendor with the data you have on the problem.
Keep it Private—For Now.
Even if your experience has been an unpleasant one or a problem has made you angry, your first move should be to call support and have a civil conversation. Do not make the mistake of going online and complaining in forums or posting on social media, until you figure out what’s going on. First, poor reviews can have a lasting effect on the vendor’s business and should be considered very carefully. Second, you probably won’t find your answers by complaining online: Solutions come from first talking through the problem with support and figuring out what’s happening.
If the time does come for you to end a contract and move to a different service because of a problem, then you can consider leaving a review for the service. And always remember, tech support is only human (unless you’re talking to an advanced A.I.). They may not always understand your perspective, and they don’t deserve rude talk, especially in a professional environment.
Try Opening Additional Lines of Communication.
If you have a serious problem to tackle, consider talking to more than just the support your vendor offers. Drop a line to your account manager (if you have one) or sales contact to let them know what’s going on as well. Sometimes where one avenue of communication won’t work for whatever reason, another route will be more successful. Contacts you have known in the past may also be more likely to understand your particular problem. Consult the SLA for specifics on what vendor contacts can or can’t do if you aren’t sure.
When talking with support, make sure you understand the root causes of a problem, asking for more information if you don’t. This way you will be better positioned to respond if something similar happens in the future. Additionally, keeping focused on the “why” gives your communication purpose and may help reach a solution more quickly than staying too passive.
Send a Final Update.
After your support experience, send a note or email about the issue (a ticket or order number was probably opened for your issue and makes a good contact point for this message). Summarize the problem, your communication, and the end result. This is great for vendors tracking the efficacy of their support efforts and allows your organization to have a record of the experience for future use.
Do you have questions about specific vendor services or responsibilities? Nachman Networks can help out! We provide data services for Washington DC, Northern Virginia & Maryland businesses and have extensive experience finding solutions that work. Contact us at (703) 600-3301 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.