Help Me Help You-When You Call Tech Support

Glenn Hultz by Glenn Hultz | 04.18.2013

Who would have thought that we could turn to Tom Cruise for technical support advice?  However, what his character says to Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s character in the film “Jerry Maguire” may be the best advice I can offer to someone calling in for technical support. 

I’m sure most of you are aware of the scene I’m referring to, but for those who aren’t, it’s basically a matter of meeting someone halfway.  “Help me help you” means that in order for me to provide the best technical support that I can, the technician in the field, like myself, has to be an active participant.  Think of us as a team.  The tech in the field is my eyes, ears and hands on site and must have some basic tools available for us to tackle the problem – together.

Now those capital letters and exclamation point are from the Programming Guides – they aren’t mine.  However, it is the single best thing a tech can do to avoid fruitless calls to tech support.  I recommend having a copy of the printed Installation Instructions for products you’re most likely to encounter.  For example, a copy of the Installation Instructions for a high-demand product is going to come in handy a lot more often than those for a product that hasn’t been manufactured in years.

Check All Wiring Connections and Voltages
This means you’re going to need a multimeter and we’ll further discuss the essential tools that every field tech should have on their truck.  Remember, we’ve also been around the block thousands of times and we’ll know if you’re giving us an actual reading or just quoting from the Installation Instructions as to what the voltages should be – tricks of the trade… but I’ll be sharing those with you in a future blog so stay tuned…

Note the Proper Model Number and Version Level
One of the first things we ask when starting a call is, “What product are you calling about?”  A lot of times the response is, “I’ve got a general question and it doesn’t matter.”  Depending on the question, this may be accurate, but more often than not this information is absolutely vital.  Ask the tech who was trying to add a master code on a VISTA-20P only to discover that it was actually a VISTA- 20SE and I’m sure they’ll confirm how important these seemingly minor details can be.

I’m willing to bet there’s not a person out there who has tried to do a job without the proper tools that can testify as to how frustrating it can be.  Here’s the five “don’t leave home without it” tools:

1. Alpha Numeric Keypad
Any kind of menu programming will require this keypad and I can’t tell you how upset a tech will get when they learn of our policy not to enter menu programming without the proper keypad.  Trust me – it really does bother us as well because we want to resolve the issue just as badly as you.  Having to tell someone to make a long trip just to get an alpha numeric keypad is something we dread.

2. Multimeter
I won’t beat a dead horse here – if voltage is involved, so should your meter.

3. Installation Instructions
Sound familiar?  Many techs may not consider these to be a tool but again, all your other tools are rendered useless without them.  Think of the saying “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Those Installation Instructions are the best fishing guide you’ll ever have.

4. Butt Set
With more and more systems relying on GSM or Internet communicators, the butt set may be losing its once esteemed status in the ol’ toolbox.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though – it’s still an invaluable tool and may be the difference between a proper diagnosis and an all-day affair when dealing with a communication issue.

5.  7720P
If you’re going to be working on AlarmNet devices then the 7720P falls into the must-have tool category.  Since the introduction of pass-through programming in the VISTA series of panels, the 7720P may also have lost a bit of its luster.  However, how many times have you arrived at a job site only to find out that the panel or version is something entirely different than what you were told?  To make things worse, there’s no alpha numeric keypad on site either (see tool #1!).

Again, those of us in tech support aren’t immune to the “help me help you” idea.  We are also a part of the team and we must hold ourselves as accountable as anyone else.  Look… we’ll each have good days and bad days but the bottom line is that each of us needs to try our best to put ourselves in the shoes of the person on the other end of the phone.  If we can both go into solving the problem with the same level of commitment then the ultimate winner is the customer.  Help me help you – and we’ll both have a customer for life.


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  1. Nick Markowitz jr. 04.18.2013/11:40 am

    I only bother tech support when I have a real problem I can not solve on the advanced panels like designing a scene of operation and I have my lap top with compass set up and ready to go so tech support can walk me right thru it. But too many dealers and installers use your service as a help line which is pathetic . Dealers and Installers take advantage of the online and in person classes Honeywell offers at ADI branches equip your techs with proper lap tops, multi meters and make sure they know how to use them so they can see what there doing when they program and stop tieing up this valuable service so when i call with an important issue I am not waiting 45 minutes to an hour. Because your installers cant figure out how to address a key pad when they have the instructions right in front of them and get installers who know how to read and comprehend while your at it as well.

    • Glenn Hultz 04.18.2013/12:05 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Nick – you make an excellent point. The longer we spend training, the less time we have to spend troubleshooting and those dealing with a particularly sticky situation end up having to wait longer than they should.

  2. Sterling Donnelly 04.18.2013/1:55 pm

    Nice post Glenn. Hopefully all dealers will read this and start to educate their installers with this information so the calls on the simple stuff can be eliminated. Just like Nick said, I only use technical support when a panel is acting in a strange way or if I’m having a weird issue with AlarmNet.

    I’m sure it must be difficult as a tech to continuously answer the same questions that are clearly spelled out in the installation and programming guides. If more techs had a copy of all the manuals for each panel they work on, I’m sure the on hold times would go way down.

    – Sterling Donnelly

    • Glenn Hultz 04.18.2013/2:25 pm

      Thanks, Sterling. Our goal is to give the best technical support experience possible and low hold times are a big part of that. I’ve spoken with both you and Nick and you’re both a credit to the industry. Keep up the great work!

  3. Catherine Blanton 04.18.2013/2:56 pm

    Very Good Post!
    I consider training an invaluable tool also.
    The better equipped we all are the better service everyone gets.

    • Glenn Hultz 04.19.2013/11:36 am

      Thanks, Catherine – better training makes for happier customers!

  4. Michael Remini 04.19.2013/8:53 am

    Great points made. I am sure many of us will be speaking to our installers today.

    • Glenn Hultz 04.19.2013/11:44 am

      Thank you, Michael! I think everyone will be surprised at how much time – and money – they’ll save with just a few proactive steps. We’re a little busy right now, which isn’t unusual for a Friday morning but I literally just got off the phone with a tech who waited 20 minutes to ask me where to enter basic fields like the account number and phone numbers since he didn’t have the installation instructions. Proper preparation equals peak productivity! Try saying that one 3 times real fast.

  5. Gene Rosenberg 05.22.2013/11:57 am

    The tech support I receive from Louisville, is always top notch and professional.
    Product knowledge is evident and certainly not reading from cards.

    Thanks everyone!

    • Glenn Hultz 05.22.2013/1:49 pm

      Thanks, Gene – we always appreciate the compliments.

  6. Jake Voll 05.22.2013/5:13 pm

    Thanks for posting this blog. Your five “don’t leave home without it” tools are spot on. I recently spoke with a technician who was frustrated he was unable to troubleshoot an issue because he left his alpha keypad and multimeter at home. To top it off, his phone was dying. You might add that if you’re calling tech support, make sure your cell phone is charged! In the end, he had to call it a day and return with the proper tools.

    Thanks for all the wonderful support you guys provide!

    Jake Voll

    • Glenn Hultz 05.23.2013/8:54 am

      Hi Jake – thanks for the comment and the compliment. You’re absolutely correct – going to a job site without an alpha keypad or a meter is no different than leaving your screwdriver behind. Proper preparation will not only save you more time than you can imagine but also increases the level of confidence your customers have in your ability to get the job done. For better or worse, and it’s a little of both, cell phones are now a tool of the trade and also need to be maintained – thanks for bringing it up.

  7. Troy Barnes 05.28.2013/12:38 pm

    Glenn, well said. We are absolutely a team and each team member that has the proper tools will be successful. The rewards of technical support are numerous, and nothing enforces that more than thinking back on your day or week and knowing that you have helped others to be successful. Thank you for your post, and for a Job Well Done!

    • Glenn Hultz 05.28.2013/2:03 pm

      Thanks, Troy – I learned from the best.

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