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.