What’s the most important skill that a technical support person can have? Technical knowledge? Knowing a product, whether software, hardware, or networking is important. But no one can know everything, anymore than any of us know all of the words in our language. What we do know is how to find the definitions in a dictionary. This is problem-solving, and beyond the essential technical knowledge, it is the one thing I have come to look for when I have spent time trying to solve a problem with computer technology. And I have spent a lot of time trying to solve problems with hardware and software over the last few months. In multiple attempts to establish a home wireless network, I have run into reps good and bad. It got to the point, that if the rep was not following the same process I had been through before, there was a good chance the advice I received was wrong. There were the people from LinkSys, which makes modem routers needed to broadcast a wireless signal, who finally admitted that the company was having problems synchronizing the model I had with the DSL signal. There was the DLink rep who confidently assured me that the steps she had recommended would work. They didn’t. The biggest problem came with Verizon, whose reps seemed very conversant with getting DSL up and running when it went offline, but had widely ranging skills in addressing the Wi-Fi System. The ones who most often went wrong were the ones who started making recommendations before they asked enough questions. The most difficult were those who simply refused to admit that the course they had recommended didn’t work, no matter how many times they insisted I try it. That went beyond Verizon. There was the lady on the Symantec help line, who refused to back up her recommendation that I enter a code to get my Norton Anti-Virus up and running—even though that clearly wasn’t working. She must have trained at the same school as one Verizon rep, who was helping with the problem that the Wi-Fi system could be detected by the receiving computer in our house, but the unit still couldn’t access the Web. After we went through a series of diagnostic steps, the following conversation ensued: “You need a PC card.” “Why?” “To receive the signal.” “No, I don’t. I have an adapter.’ ”You need a PC card.” ”No, I don’t.” “You need a PC card.” “No. I bought a kit from Verizon. There is a modem router to send the signal and there is a USB adapter to receive it on the other computer.” “You need a PC Card.” ”The adpter is 802.11(g). That’s what Wi-Fi is.” ”You need a PC card.” At that point, I hung up. In fact, what I learned to do with a varied other reps I dealt with was to hang up the moment I detected they lacked a problem-solving mentality. But I must say, sometimes they fool you. That’s why it’s such a tough job—the job of being a customer.

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