Flash forward a day and now I’m in a meeting with my staff. The VP of marketing pops in to ask us about what are pain points are with the marketing department. which, when you think about it, is incredibly cool since most VPs of marketing aren’t exactly known for their consideration and concern for what’s going on in technical support, and we take him up on his request.
One of the things which annoys the heck out of me is long, unspeakable URLs. You know, the ones you can’t tell someone over the phone and expect to type them in to the Address: field of their web browser because they are all filled with "slashes" and "dot pea aitch peas" and "slash question mark eye dee equals doubleyou ee bees." It might be easy to type those things, but over the phone, especially with someone who is non-technical, a slow typist or both, it can be pretty painful to get those URLs typed in.
So, the VP gives me a thoughtful look and asks my staff how big of an issue this is with them.
Not very much, it turns out. They just have the customers go to the home page and then tell them what to click on from there.
My whole concept of technical support revolves around giving people the information and tools they need to solve a problem and a little education about the underlying technology, why something happened, what they can do to avoid it in the future and so forth. All pretty good, and all pretty basic. But I’m also used to working with people who are, well, they may not be PC-savvy, but can be given a set of instructions and will be able to follow them successfully. I guess what I’m thinking of is that they are more confident in how to use a computer. They may not understand how it works, but they feel comfortable using a computer and following a technical support engineer’s instructions.
Part of that is me, I suppose: I first entered the anti-virus industry in 1989 and stayed in it for five-and-a-half years until early 1995, when I left just before Microsoft Windows 95 and NT 4.0 would appear and make their mark on the world. During this DOS and Windows 3.1 era, computers were a lot simpler to operate and it was relatively easy to remove viruses from them, uninstall and re-install anti-virus software and troubleshoot various issues. I was used to working in a higher call volume environment in which I currently find myself, but with much shorter calls on average. Most just lasted a few minutes, long enough to tell the person what they needed to type in to solve the problem, an alternate step or two if they came across a common stopping point, and how to get back in touch with me if what I told them didn’t work.
Things are a lot different now. There are a lot fewer calls, for one thing—which, for one thing means that anti-virus software has gotten a lot better in the intervening decade—but the calls you get can be a lot longer. And the people whom you speak to know a lot less about computers—which, by the way, has nothing to do with them and is through no fault of their own: computers are just so much more complex these days—and they have to go through many more steps. And the steps they have to go through aren’t simple "type in" ones. They are complex ones involving navigating a GUI and finding programs and shortcuts and clicking on them with this and that mouse button followed by selecting this or that to accomplish whatever goal it is they are trying to reach.
Computers have gotten so much more complex and complicated these days (and powerful, inexpensive and easy to use when it comes to day-to-day tasks) that most people know less about how their computers operate then they did when they were simpler, more expensive and had less functionality a decade ago.
There are times when I feel old.
Whatever you wish to do in the future needs to be operator friendly. Network operators will control the content and the ecosystem–first they will merge with media companies, and then with banking companies. And if you don’t play by their rules then you’re out.