Showing Your “Technical Brain” For Better Tech Support

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About three years ago, a friend of mine was frustrated that when trying to deal with a problem at the Apple Store, she felt like she was being treated like an idiot. My response was that she needed to better demonstrate she had some technical proficiency so as not to be put back to square one.

That advice is relevant to anyone, male or female, by the way. Everyone has a technical brain they can demonstrate that sometimes speeds up the process when dealing with technical support people, who often assume you have no technical knowledge at all.

To be fair to technical support folks, starting at the very basics makes sense. We’ve all heard the stories of the people who couldn’t get their computers to start because the power wasn’t switched on, the CD drive being used as a cupholder and so on. Yes, they deal with a lot of people with little technical knowledge.

Still, it can be frustrating for someone who had tried all types of things, only to have a technical support person want to start them back at the basics — “is the power on” — and sometimes coupled with that condescending tone that indicates you clearly must be an idiot.

Enter the technical brain. Basically, it was the best way to explain to my friend the process of getting the technical support people up to speed that you’re up to speed. Show them what you’ve got, because they often assume you have nothing — and sometimes, as a result, act like you’re not worthy of respect.

Anyway, in her case, her iPhone died. She’d tried everything to get it to work. And her husband and I also tried everything, including a hard reset, plugging into iTunes, you name it.

So at the Apple store, she was taken back through the basics — and it was frustrating to her. Eventually, they understood we’d tried all these things, none of them worked and agreed the phone needed to be replaced.

Showing your technical brain in such a situation would have been explaining it all before: “My iPhone won’t start. I’ve tried a soft reset, a hard reset, I’ve plugged into iTunes, etc.”

Showing your technical proficiency this way, I’ve found, often moves the tech support process along. I just went through it again with a bad Kinect controller for the Xbox One. Tech support — which I reached after an incredibly frustrating process — wanted me to go back to all the basics including restarting my Xbox.

Yes, I’d done that, I explained. I’d done every single thing on the troubleshooting document on the web site, three times. The Kinect was dead. There’s nothing more to troubleshoot. Could I just get it replaced? And it was.

So it’s been on my mind recently, and again today with another technical issues I had to deal with.

It is, by the way, important to understand showing your technical brain doesn’t mean being rude. Demonstrating what you’ve got can speed the process along. And it can, I think, help you deal with the technical support people to understand what you’ve already done. But, frustrating as they can be, they also have a tough job — so helping them is the goal.

NOTE: I originally posted this as “Swinging Your ‘Technical Dick’ For Better Tech Support,” as when I tweeted it, I stressed (as in the original post) that I hoped it wouldn’t offend people, that it wasn’t meant to be about men or women but rather a concept in general. I’ve heard both men and women use supposedly “male” concepts like “pissing match” or “dick measuring contests.”

But, within about ten minutes of my tweet, I’d gotten more feedback that some still thought it would be taken the wrong way and perhaps there were better ways to explain it. So, thank Anil Dash, Lora Kolodny, Elisa Camahort and Brandondud for the feedback — “technical brain” is a far better way of expressing this, which I’ve updated to (this is about 20 minutes after the original post went up). And for transparency purposes, my original post is below:

About three years ago, a friend of mine was frustrated that when trying to deal with a problem at the Apple Store, she felt like she was being treated like an idiot. My response was crass but perhaps effective: she needed to swing her “technical dick.”

If you’re easily offended, you probably don’t want to read on. But male or female, everyone has a technical dick they can get out that sometimes speeds up the process when dealing with technical support people, who often assume you have no technical knowledge at all.

To be fair to technical support folks, starting at the very basics makes sense. We’ve all heard the stories of the people who couldn’t get their computers to start because the power wasn’t switched on, the CD drive being used as a cupholder and so on. Yes, they deal with a lot of people with little technical knowledge.

Still, it can be frustrating for someone who had tried all types of things, only to have a technical support person want to start them back at the basics — “is the power on” — and sometimes coupled with that condescending tone that indicates you clearly must be an idiot.

Enter the technical dick. Basically, it was the best way to explain to my friend the process of getting the technical support people up to speed that you’re up to speed. Show them what you’ve got, because they often assume you have nothing — and sometimes, as a result, act like you’re not worthy of respect.

Did I mention the “if you’re easily offended, you shouldn’t be reading part?”

Anyway, in her case, her iPhone died. She’d tried everything to get it to work. And her husband and I also tried everything, including a hard reset, plugging into iTunes, you name it.

So at the Apple store, she was taken back through the basics — and it was frustrating to her. Eventually, they understood we’d tried all these things, none of them worked and agreed the phone needed to be replaced.

Getting your technical dick out in such a situation would have been explaining it all before: “My iPhone won’t start. I’ve tried a soft reset, a hard reset, I’ve plugged into iTunes, etc.”

Swinging your technical proficiency this way, I’ve found, often moves the tech support process along. I just went through it again with a bad Kinect controller for the Xbox One. Tech support — which I reached after an incredibly frustrating process — wanted me to go back to all the basics including restarting my Xbox.

Yes, I’d done that, I explained. I’d done every single thing on the troubleshooting document on the web site, three times. The Kinect was dead. There’s nothing more to troubleshoot. Could I just get it replaced? And it was.

So it’s been on my mind recently, and again today with another technical issues I had to deal with. I’d long debated finally writing up the technical dick concept — debate over.

It is, by the way, important to understand showing your technical dick doesn’t mean being a dick. Demonstrating what you’ve got can speed the process along. And it can, I think, help you deal with the technical support people to understand what you’ve already done. But, frustrating as they can be, they also have a tough job — so helping them is the goal.


Comments

  1. says

    You should write a companion article about swinging your “social media dick”, showing off your social media following to get better treatment from support people.

  2. says

    every single call i’ve ever made to tech support, before i even begin to explain the specific problem, begins with my saying, “hi. yes, i’m a woman. i’m also a leading tech journalist/analyst. i know how to troubleshoot issues with [product], and i have gone through all the conceivable steps. can we please now cut to the chase?”

    usually, they’ll verify a couple of the steps, but it generally works pretty quickly.

  3. lisa says

    Well this is kind of insinuating that a dick gets one more respect, which, while true, doesn’t make much sense in the grand scheme of things. The male package is sensitive and delicate. The female’s can spit people out. Which one do you think is tougher? ;)

  4. says

    Throwing your geek weight around… Wouldn’t do?

    This also works..

    Hi.. I’ve been working on this problem for an hour, let me explain what I have done very quickly which may give you more insight into my problem and save you time?

    :-)

  5. Danny Sullivan says

    I didn’t actually say one was tougher than the other. I was talking about a “show me yours” type of concept.

  6. ssllly says

    Rebecca,

    If i ever hear you say that i will intentionally make your life as hard as possible. Dont claim that women are not good at tech. By starting with your gender as the item which defines your skil you are causing problems for other women.

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