Setting boundaries for tech support


Suppose I just bought a new microwave. In fact, it’s the first microwave I’ve ever owned. I’ve baked a few things in the oven before, and seen microwaves at other people’s houses. I really want to cook a full meal with my new gadget, but I don’t know where to start. I look for a tech support number on the baking supplies and vegetables, but there’s nothing to be found. So, I decide to call the microwave company, since the number is right on the user’s guide.

Once I get them on the line, I explain my predicament. They kindly state that they don’t provide tech support for basic operations like this. Perhaps I could ask a friend or family member, or look online for help. But I don’t like this answer: they sold me this crazy thing, and they ought to walk me through the whole process, including preparing the food, finding suitable containers, cooking it, and storing the leftovers. I feel lost and abandoned.

Does this sound ridiculous to you? Of course it does. But the funny thing is, people do this every single day with technology products. I’ve been on both sides of this equation, playing the role of the struggling customer and of the tech support agent on the other end of the line. I don’t pretend to have an instant solution, either. Vendors and customers both need to understand the boundaries of what they’re responsible for when somebody is learning a new product. Training options for novice users help a lot, too. But the next time you call tech support, or answer a customer’s query, think about the scenario above. Hopefully it will help you figure out where to draw the line.