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I have found that there are a lot of questions out there that could be answered by contacting the tech support of the company that makes the product you are having issues with. I am very guilty of not calling tech support and rather asking on a forum or Q&A site. I know my reasons, but I'd like to see what others think.

Why don't you call tech support?


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+1 my boss REFUSES to contact tech support no matter what. Once we troubleshooted a connectivity issue for over an hour and then realized that the business manager had not paid out bill. Two mins on the phone cleared it up. – cop1152 Jun 30 '09 at 12:48
I got quite a telling off at $job-1 for not contacting Technical Support, and instead posting to Serverfault, and some newsgroup. I always thought this was unfair. (I ended up with a better answer from Serverfault... Naturally) – Tom O'Connor Nov 12 '10 at 9:29

29 Answers 29

up vote 40 down vote accepted

Google logo

The irony of this is good luck if you ever need to actually contact Google themselves for support (Apps, etc)! They make it almost impossible :-) – Richard West Jun 30 '09 at 13:53
I'm really trying to remember what company it was where the tech on the other side (at one point) was googling my question. – l0c0b0x Jun 30 '09 at 15:25
Why not? I mean, seriously. Do you really think every question has an immediate answer and that answer is, you know, written in burning letters on the inside of tech support guys' skulls? – shylent Jun 30 '09 at 17:46
I once called in a problem, that was to be fair, very obscure, and the tech admitted that in his searching internal/external, most of the articles on the topic were written by me. His comment was, I just realized who you are. That was priceless. – geoffc Jun 30 '09 at 17:57

My experiences with responses from company's tech support is that they have a wide range in quality. There were technicians who were very compentent, very commited, tremendously helpful. On the other end of support conversations there were frustrating attempts to describe a problem to incompetent call center employees.

In effect it's often more productive to raise a question in community sites like this one.

And they rotate staff so fast, that it is almost impossible to get the same competent person a second time! – geoffc Jun 30 '09 at 12:27

I use only Open Source software (well 99% of the time). There is no tech support phone number to ring. In fact, sites like this are my tech support.


With the outsourcing of most first level support to India, Costa Rica, and other countries where virtual slave labour is legal, calling tech support means fighting with script monkeys who cannot think, nor deviate from a script.

If it is a company you deal with regularly, you can learn the magic words to get escalated to second level, where you actually stand a chance of success.

The ability to communicate well in English (since I am an English speaker. I imagine the same is true for other languages) is often lacking, the staff often have little to no training outside of a script to follow, and it becomes immensely frustrating.

Additionally my experience is that the first level people not only are not well trained, poor communicators, they are also often inept at taking notes. Thus the time wasted explaining the issue to them, needs to be repeated if you succeed in getting escalated, since they did not take any notes, as you were explaining the issue.

I find that even when I write a comprehensive explanation with versions, logs, examples, (much like you would hope to see on sites like this) they either do not read it, or do not understand it.

Even though all the details needed are in the report submitted, I get re-asked each question. Maddening!

Why would I want to submit myself to that, if I do not have too?

This is true. However, being friends with someone who came over to the US from the Ukraine (note that this is with a call center in the US), many of these people enjoy doing English phone support. Reason? It improves their English much faster than any other on-the-job work. And their bosses see it that way too, and understand how it helps the employee. Remembering that helps me keep the call in perspective, and reminds me that the support analyst is a person too. – J. Polfer Jun 30 '09 at 13:01
Plus they get to learn many more of the colorful phrases we Americans spatter about our daily verbage. – RascalKing Jun 30 '09 at 21:14

Oh, the reasons are legion:

  • I know more than the 1st tier support does by enough of a margin it is annoying For products I have to spend 15 minutes educating the 1st tier person about how their product works, I don't like to call in to support because of the sheer boulder-lifting needed. Yes, I may get my answer slower by googling it m'self but I'm less annoyed at the end of the process.
  • Some products have really good knowledge-bases, and I'm better at searching it than 1st tier is. Every so often I'm surprised when a 1st tier person finds an article I hadn't, but that's rare. For these products I typically get forwarded on to 2nd tier because my problem doesn't fit the search results.
  • Some vendors make accessing support a nightmare EMC has been mentioned in this thread, and I have had trouble with HP. Proving you can access support is often more aggravating than dealing with 1st tier.
  • Some vendors make a point of forwarding you to the free support options before they'll let you call in on a contract This is getting more common of late. More vendors are running peer support-forums in the hopes that volunteer gurus will camp the forums to show off how much they know of the product, which in turn allows them to take resources away from their support desk. The 'open source support model,' is gaining popularity. Because 'community' is free, and tier 1 support (even off-shore) cost money.
  • Because I always assume I'll be on hold at least 20 minutes before getting to someone If my problem can't be subjugated with 20 minutes of googling, then that hold time is justified. Most problems at least give me partial results within 20 minutes of hitting the big G.
I have had MAJOR trouble with HP. They like to close my support tickets without a reason even if I can reproduce the problem on command. – Joseph Jun 30 '09 at 22:13

Old habit I guess

Being a long time Linux user I got used to the fact that you only got support if you where using Windows. And after hearing

-"Sorry we only support XXX"

to many times I learned that it was faster to search the net and try to solve the problem my self...


A lot of the time I can just predict the response. (These are exaggerated for dramatic effect...) Dell will tell you to run diagnostics and upgrade firmware; even if black smoke is pumping out of the server chassis you are getting nowhere until you've run diagnostics and upgraded the firmware. Symantec will just ignore you for weeks or months on end. Microsoft do their best to make you feel small and stupid ("what do you mean you followed the documentation, you idiot! Everybody knows that's wrong!").

+1 for the swing at MS docs. Worthless. – NotMe Jun 30 '09 at 22:08
Now, I'm not a huge MS fan... but I recently had to call Microsoft for help with a major exchange 2007 problem. I paid for the support ($270 per incident)... but I have to say.. that's some of the best support I've recieved. Not to mention, I got four separate calls back from different people to make sure my problem was completely resolved. – Brett G Sep 10 '09 at 18:37

We're all here because we get paid to do level 2 or 3 support. We all started at level 1 which is 1 step above the people that you're getting ready to call.

That being said, I have had a couple good experiences with tech support and hurt as it did, I was always the guy who would cut through the BS for you and get you the answer if I picked up the phone.

+1 insightful; -1 assumptive. (is that a word?) – Kyle Hodgson Jun 30 '09 at 13:59
How many times have you dealt with this: Them: Okay, is the computer on. Good. Okay, do you see the button on the bottom left of the screen that says Start? Me: Transfer me to level 2 support please. Them: Okay well lets just check this.... Me: I'm sorry, maybe I'm being clear. Transfer me to level 2 support now. Them: more argument – MathewC Jun 30 '09 at 14:22
Speak for yourself; I was too smart for Level 1. – Scott Jun 30 '09 at 21:09

A large reason is because of this:

"Your call is important to us. Please hold for the next 35 minutes."

There seems to be a disconnect here. It is always such a pleasant surprise when a firm really does want to help you and answers the phone right away.


It is a very high chance, that you'll hear low qualified employee which would be trying to understand you problem for over 15 minutes.

And then not pass on anything useful to the next level, if you succeed in bullying them into escalating you to someone useful! – geoffc Jun 30 '09 at 12:25

Because they won't let me, in some cases.

Today I had a question with an EMC product. Their support portal requires registration which they then take their sweet time to approve. Meanwhile, I've moved on to solving the problem without their help.

Contrast EMC's support with VMware's for example. Or Citrix, or Microsoft, all of these have openly accessible support documentation.

EMC is a bad example. They are insane! You pay through the nose, and they make you suffer. – geoffc Jun 30 '09 at 17:59
HP makes me crazy in a similar way. Once I GET TO THE SUPPORT it is very nice. But it is the maze filled with rabid tigers between who I want to talk to and myself that really gets old. – sysadmin1138 Jun 30 '09 at 21:42
Wow, I spent a whole day sitting in with EMC support. The idea was that this would make developers appreciate the gravity of any errors. We were supposed to follow this up with a public what-i-learned email. If I recall, my email wasn't exactly glowing. – dlamblin Jul 1 '09 at 18:07

If charges for calling support are not an issue, our rule of thumb around here is that if we beat our heads against a wall for more than about hour, we open a call.

"Beating our heads against a wall" means no progress at all: our troubleshooting is yielding nothing and we have nothing further to follow up on our end. This doesn't happen that often.

Over the past 2 years, I can think of maybe 3 or 4 times we've called support for assistance in a case like that and 2 of those cases involved specific issues with a proprietary app that we have little insight into or control over.

Now, we do make use of support to open calls on bugs and other issues we discover when we run into them but generally that's after we pinpoint an issue and do our due diligence figuring out that it's not expected or documented behavior.

And we pretty much call immediately for hardware replacement if a piece of equipment is broken.


Because of the problems mentioned here by others, I try very hard not to contact vendor support by phone. After I've exhausted myself searching their knowledge base and Google, I'll take the time to document the problem, steps to reproduce, the environment associated with it, my troubleshooting steps, and all the other things that I would find helpful if I were the one to receive the information.

Then I email that to their tech support. This also allows me to spend that time listening to my music instead of theirs.

Then, inevitably, I receive a response with steps to solve a problem that I don't have based on parts of my supporting documentation which are not the problem. It appears that email support also follows scripts and may have the added (dis)advantage of being cued by keywords in the text. They have totally ignored:

  1. The statement of the problem in the email subject
  2. The brief description of the problem in the opening paragraph
  3. The brief re-statement of the problem and request for action in the closing paragraph

This is in a three to five paragraph email (not counting quoting inputs and outputs).

I think this question needs to be on Stack Overflow so the developers there will see it and forward it and the answers on to their tech support department. Yeah, sometimes silly idealism seeps past the cynicism. But I can dream, can't I.

This drives me insane! After spending all that time upfront, documenting the problem in as much detail as possible, and then they do not even read it! Or if they do, they did not comprehend anything in it. – geoffc Jun 30 '09 at 18:00
Along these lines I found that if you can't state the problem in exactly 1 short sentence then they already have issues understanding your problem. – NotMe Jun 30 '09 at 22:09

Because if the question is answered on a public forum, the rest of the world can benefit from it. This is the core reason why Google is fantastic for troubleshooting. The majority of questions have an answer sitting on a forum somewhere.


It varies a lot but "tech support" for many companies is nothing more than an untrained call centre operator. They can answer any question - provided it's on their list. Of course there's also the assumption that whatever went wrong, it's your fault, not theirs.

My old boss went to work at a major zoo. In our good bye message, we noted that at his new job, the Helpdesk will be manned by Script Monkeys, literally. Had a whole list of funny technology and animal alliterations, mocking projects over his 14 year tenure that were stalled for political reasons. – geoffc Jun 30 '09 at 12:29

Too many tech support lines have now started charging per minute now. Paying for useless "support" makes me angry, so I avoid it. :-)


Because support contracts that renew yearly can tend to fall off the budget and not get renewed, opening tickets can be pricey. And the fact that you find technical docs on their support site, try the things listed there, still have problems, and then spend 2 -3 days convincing whoever is handling the ticket that, yes, I saw that KB note, and, yes, I tried it, and, NO, it didn't work can be aggravating.

I've had a couple dealings where support folk were helpful (mostly is smaller companies where my purchases mean something to their bottom line), but most of the time I usually solve the problem without the help of the support folks I opened the tickets with.


For me it depends on

  • what the problem is
  • who's product I'm having a problem with
  • the severity and scope of the problem
  • the existence of support contracts
  • my past experiences with that particular company's support techs

I have a bit of luxury in the resources of a large company. Other small companies might rather try and fix the problem themselves rather than spend the money required for support contracts or instance cases.

One of my largest frustrations is with tech support departments whose level 1 techs are trained to follow a script that anyone working in IT for 6+ months could write on a napkin during lunch while checking Twitter on their iPhone. These companies are summarily added to my personal do-not-call list. If I have to wait a long time and end up in one of these situations then there is often added consideration of removing them from my list of business acquaintences.


See, I do call tech support and I think it's a great tool for you to use. You have to know how to use it though. The first 15 minutes (if you don't count waiting time) are complete crap if you don't control the situation. For me, the trick is telling them what you're already tried first (After Googling/researching your problem first - of course), overwhelm 1st tier support to the point where they quickly send you to a more capable technician. Here you can get better answers about your problem, so no need to confuse or upset him/her.

This often works. Make it REALLY clear that you know more than they do, and intimidate them into kicking you onto to someone higher up. – geoffc Jun 30 '09 at 18:00

Because they dig around my PC and remove unapproved software (like Firefox, Google Talk, Google calendar sync, etc.)


I really hate calling support simply because I don't want to pay to train their support people.

Pretty much every problem I've had with a vendor's product has revolved around advanced usage of a complex portion of the app. I am typically working at the Edge Case they didn't really test before releasing their product; and, for business level products, most of the calls I have made resulted in a patch.

To date, the ONLY good experience I've had with regular support was on Team Foundation Server from Microsoft. Over the past 3 years, I've made 3 calls. In each case I was put in touch with people that actually knew what they were doing up front. 2 calls were solved within the hour. The third took 4 days of talking to them for over an hour per day. I was happy they didn't let go, solved it, and followed up to make sure it was really solved.

I've never had decent consumer grade product support. Verizon's Fios is one example. I used to have to call them about once every 45 days in order to get my DHCP address reset. Their box would just flake out, then I'd have to do a hard reset followed by a phone call to them to reset something on their side. Unfortunately, that phone call ALWAYS took 2 hours. 1.5 waiting on hold, and 30 minutes to go through the script with the tech until they would finally give in and push their own reset button.

Eventually, I replaced their router with one I purchased and no problems since.


Contacting support tends to be a crap shoot. You get a good person 20% of the time, and he's recently dealt with the same problem, or first thinks of exactly what the problem actually is. 70% of the time you get this person who's earnestly barking up the wrong tree, he'll hand off the problem, but not before working on it for the maximum amount of time he's allowed to, which might be a week of call-backs. 10% of the time you get someone convinced that YOU are the problem, that person is only right 1% of the time.

Oh... and money. You tend to need approval to spend money, unless you have an in-place service contract. In that case, it's only the above, and perhaps embarrassment if you didn't even do the simple ground work to term your problem correctly first.


Depends on the company. Large companies tend to use large call centers in which the Tier 1 support techs are just reading scripts. Often those scripts just repeat the same troubleshooting steps that I've already taken, but the tech won't stray from the script. If the problem ends up going away, I feel like the steps they took me through simply bandaged the issue rather than solve the root cause.

On the other hard, I have some sympathy for them. Were I in their shoes and trying to talk a customer through some troubleshooting, I'd probably be annoyed if the caller kept saying "yeah, tried that and it didn't work." I'd forever doubt whether he really DID try it -- or tried something similar-but-not-exactly-what-I-asked. I bite my lip and go through the steps anyway.


It really varies on the field you're talking about. In general, it's hit or miss anywhere you go.

My overall impression is that tech support is a time waster. Whether it's a customer hotline or paid premium vendor support, they will keep you on the phone far too long and in the end you'll be pleasantly surprised if they actually helped you instead of make things more difficult.


Varies by who is the vendor, some vendors are not even worth calling. They either have incompetent staff or some one who uses a set of pre-written answers.

And the last reason is I have something called Google. I am a dynamic person and can usually move around from place to place in order to get the best answer.

People RTFM!

RTFM works less and less these days as a lot of things don't come with a manual. – Joseph Jun 30 '09 at 22:16

Because I AM tech support!

Seriously, though, I tend to try to narrow down my query as much as possible so that I can request something very specific of them that has as few answers as possible (preferably one). That generally tends to work quite well for me.


It's funny -- a lot of times that I do end up in a tech support hold queue, I end up focusing more clearly on the problem at hand. Maybe it's the hold music, maybe it's just focused boredom. But a lot of times I end up with a fix, or possible fix that I end up just confirming with the person at the other end of the line.

I agree with other posters though that if you've done a thorough job researching the issue on Google beforehand and sound knowledgable, you have a better chance of getting your call escalated (oh yeah, use the word "escalate" when the first-tier support folks can't help you) to more senior support peeps.


I don't call tech support because I have developed an allergy to music that you would only hear in a circa 1970's porno. I start twitching when the seductive sax starts up... it's really disconcerting.

I actually have few problems with tech support, though, as said above, I am usually educating the initial person on the phone. I tell them everything I have already done, and then they kick me up to the next level where (after more porn music) I can get them to send me the %$#%&)( part I need. And no, I don't need your tech guy to come and put it in. Yes, I am fully capable of doing it myself. No, I don't need your guide... /foaming at the mouth.


Because not enough of them know the codeword 'shibboleet'

Seriously? Some companies are better than others and you soon learn which ones to go to, and which ones you're better off ignoring until you've exhausted community wisdom.

Which is what one should base future purchases on... – Oskar Duveborn Nov 12 '10 at 11:39

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