Just have to have my say on this
I don't normally post comments on the Reg, but I have to give my tuppence on this. And apologies for the length of it but there are two examples I want to give.
And so you know I am not takling out of my ass, I worked as 1st and 2nd level tech support for a well known electronics company (no names) supporting laptops and desktops for 5 years. 5 loooong years. Thankfully, I have moved on from that particular helldesk.
First up - on the side of the customer - I think that the biggest mistake tech support makes, is making the script sound like a script. you have to make it sound like it's just come into your head that it might be a good idea to check the firewall, or the cables, or whatever.
Then you have (and its true) lack of training - people not actually following the script. the scripts are designed by clever people who know how to design a process that can cover all the possible contigencies of a particular problem domain. I have never yet come across a script that did not include "if...then..goto" logic. So a lot of what you take as a stupid script is actually a poorly trained person who doesn't know how to REALLY follow the script.
That's why when you call up and complain that you can't connect to your new wireless router, they ask you to turn off your firewall. The tech support did not follow the script. No script would make you do this...I guarantee it's because they lacked experience, and chose to follow the "Troubleshooting Internet Connectivity" instead of "Troubleshooting Wireless Connectivity"
So actually the customer can do themselves a lot of favours by stating the problem clearly.
Not "I can't get online with my new router" but "My wireless card is broken".
On the flip side, I can honestly say, that when someone called business support, that in most cases one could assume a certain level of knowledge (i.e they were probably in IT already) and be flexible with one's script.
For Joe Public callers, the opposite was often, but thankfully not always, true.
Every day I woud get several of the usual "now look, I'm an IT consultant" or "listen, I have 3 MCSE's" and so on. Invariably, these folks would not know what they were talking about and in most cases, following "the script" solved their problem.
I think its because the people who think they know, the ones with the dangerous "little knowledge" often spend so much time trying to fix the issue that they get all worked up about it and upset before they call tech support.
So naturally they object to having to spend another 5 minutes doing something that they think will not check anything they did not think of. So when they would be told for example to turn their wireless switch to "on" they would be terribly gobsmacked. That was a classic "I'm an IT Manager" type of call. Not that the person was stupid, not at all. But on this particular laptop, the wireless switch was not in an obvious place. You had to know where it was (or have RTFM in the first place but who does?)...so this person would have spent an hour tearing their hair out trying to fix an unfixable problem, then called tech support in a rage looking for a new laptop and for my company to pay off their mortgage, etc, be FORCED to follow the script and have their problem fixed in 30 seconds.
Now, of course sometimes the problem could not be solved because it was just coincidence that the switch was off; the wireless NIC really was broken. But that was an exception, not a rule. That's what the script is for. It's playing the odds that in 90% of cases the problem CAN be fixed by the script. And eveyone has to play by the rules.
The ONLY way around the script can be that when you really do KNOW that the problem is not your Norton (and fair enough if you do) then you just say "I HAVE NO FIREWALL INSTALLED".
But God help you if you are lying, when the person on the other end of the line finds out, you will follow the directors' cut extended edition of the script.
Now you may think that I am making a broad generalisation here. But in 5 years I spent maybe 1000 working days, talking on average 30 calls a day. And I can still remember most of the good ones, which goes to show how few there were!
It still happens today - my wife works part time for a cable tv operator here in Ireland and last night she had a guy screaming for 20 minutes because all he had on his TV was a blank screen with a picture flcking on and off every few seconds.
She asked a couple of questions and quickly decided his cables were loose. The guy laughed sarcastically and suggested that maybe she had no idea what she was talking about, wasn't it obvious that he had already checked them (well no actually, it wasn't)and that he wanted a technician in the next 20 minutes (at 21:30, yes, suuure) and a new decoder box, etc, etc. Meanwhile in the background his son had unplugged the SCART lead from the telly and plugged it back in. On came the telly. The bastard didn't even have the decency to say "thanks" before he hung up. See what I mean?