Why is dealing with tech support so crazy-making? In The New York Times, Kate Murphy has some theories, and some tips for how to get better support.

It’s an interesting article, and it brings to mind one of the great reasons for Amazon’s success: the company has really really good tech support. It doesn’t always succeed, but it usually gives it a good try, at least. (Whereas with Barnes & Noble, I basically had to write a blog post complaining about my terrible tech support experience to get decent customer service from a supervisor.)

It also put me in mind of the job I used to hold back in the day, spending three years providing tech support first for the Geek Squad, then for Best Buy store-brand TV and home video equipment. As I noted in that article, there were certain things we couldn’t do for customers, because of the rules we had to operate under. So this in particular from the NYT story hits home:

According to a survey conducted last year by the industry group International Customer Management Institute, or ICMI, 92 percent of customer service managers said their agents could be more effective and 74 percent said their company procedures prevented agents from providing satisfactory experiences.

Moreover, 73 percent said the complexity of tech support calls is increasing as customers have become more technologically sophisticated and can resolve simpler issues on their own.

Some things about the article don’t really apply to my own experience—when we had a supervisor request, we actually did have real supervisors who would take the call. We certainly didn’t play any games with sticking people on hold or “accidentally” disconnecting them. If you called Best Buy store brand tech support, you had a fifty-fifty chance of getting someone from my call center in southwest Missouri. (The other half the time, you got someone from the call center our company also operated in the Philippines.) And we actually did try our darnedest to solve the customers’ problems—even when their real problem was that they bought a cheap store-brand TV made by whatever Chinese factory put in the lowest bid, and didn’t bother to get an extended warranty.

In any event, one of the differences between print and ebooks is that ebooks are read through devices that sooner or later will need tech support—whereas printed books haven’t needed tech support since the Middle Ages. So, if you read ebooks, the odds are pretty good that sooner or later you’ll need to call tech support—if you haven’t already. While the tips presented here may not work in every situation, they seem like a good place to start.

One of the things I am glad about is that the information age has brought in alternate avenues of tech support. While I’m dubious about the efficacy of using social media for tech support, I’m nonetheless quite happy about all the email and text-chat support avenues that have opened up. After spending years on the phone providing tech support guidance to customers, I’m less interested in being on the other end of a phone conversation, but I like text chat just fine.