tech support tips

How to Get the Most Out of Your Tech Support Calls, Part Two: Gathering Information Before You Call

This article is the second article in a series entitled “How to Get the Most out of Your Tech Support Calls,” and aims to provide information to help you have the best conversation you can with your technicians, so that you can get your problem solved right the first time. Click here to read the first article in the series, How to Get the Most out of Your Tech Support Calls: Part One, Basic Self-Troubleshooting.


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Imagine this. It’s still Monday afternoon, and you still can’t open that important report you need to finish. You’ve already tried your self-troubleshooting steps, which didn’t really help, so you’ve determined that you really do need to call tech support.

However, it’s still not time to pick up the phone. Before you even think about talking to anyone, you should spend a few moments gathering your thoughts, and other important information, so that you don’t have to go digging for it later when you actually have the tech on the line.

Here are some items you should gather (depending on your particular problem) before you call support.

Model and Serial Numbers

Gather any model numbers, serial numbers, service tags, or any other special codes that you may have to give to tech support or type into the phone system before you’re connected.

Determine System Version

Whether you’re talking about your operating system, browser, or another piece of software, know which version you’re using. Problems are often version specific, and having this information can help guide your tech to locating the right solution.

Know Your Error Messages

Is your problem producing a particular error message? If yes, take a screen shot (pressing print screen and pasting the image into Word or an email often works well), or write down the message, so that you can tell the tech the exact wording of the error.

Having the exact message on hand isn’t simply a nicety, it’s a requirement. Many times error messages contain codes or other pieces of information which identify the exact problem, and having this information on hand can not only help your tech know which way to proceed, but it will also save you a lot of time on the phone.

What Surrounds the Problem?

Before you call, it helps to think about and formulate your issue, so that you know how to communicate the problem to the technician.

When did your problem start? Did it just start happening today, or has it been happening for a week, and you’re just now getting around to calling?

Did anything else happen around the same time your problem occurred? Sometimes issues are interrelated, even if you don’t realize it, so try to think about all the things that happen at the same time as the issue – like not being

able to print when your email program is not responding. It is these little pieces of information that help ensure entire problem is fixed, not just one small portion.

What Troubleshooting Have You Already Done?

Aside from explaining the problem to the technician, you should also tell them what troubleshooting you have already done. This serves two purposes. First, it saves you time by not having you repeat steps you’ve already taken to resolve the problem. Secondly, it can also help the tech further understand the problem.

Create a Plan

While you’re gathering your information, make a brief list of the points you want to discuss with the tech, including the items listed above. Remember to also write down any other issues or questions you would like to discuss. Having a plan like this will allow you to get the most out of your tech support call, and will save you from having to call again because you forgot to bring up an important point the first time around.

Once you have performed these information gathering steps, it is finally time to call tech support and have your problem resolved. Looking for tips for actually talking to tech support? Stay tuned for How to Get the Most Out of Your Tech Support Calls, Part Three: Clear Communication.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who likes to help you get the most out of your tech support calls. Email:

The Dirty Secret About Tech Support

A Wild Question

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There’s a secret about tech support that is rarely talked about, but which could help you greatly – that is, you only get out of it what you put in.

A technician’s job is to help you resolve your computer problems. They want to help. That’s what they are there for. But, they can only go by the information that you give them. When you are vague, are aggravated, or don’t report problems, it makes it very difficult for the tech to do their job and help you.

With tech support, communication is key. What you say and how you say it affects how the tech diagnoses your problem.

Below are a few things to help you better communicate your needs, allowing you to have more productive conversations with tech support.

Remain Calm

It’s understandable that you are frustrated. Your computer isn’t doing what it’s supposed to, and is impacting your ability to work. However, your energy affects others, and your frazzled nature could frazzle your technician as well.

That’s why it’s important to calm down and relax before you call tech support. When you are more relaxed, you are better equipped to communicate your needs, and more likely to remember more about the situation.

Before you pick up the phone and call, take three long, deep breaths. Calm and center yourself. Visualize a pleasant experience; visualize your computer working and your issue resolved.

Call once you are calm and able to clearly communicate your needs. Use the suggestions recommended below before you call to help gather the information needed for tech support.

Recall Small Details

When talking to tech support, it’s important to tell them exactly what happened. This includes everything you were doing at the time, down to the smallest detail. It may seem insignificant to you, but it could be a vital clue for your technician.

What happened? What programs were open when it happened? Did you download something before that point? Did you do something else immediately before that point? What did you do after it happened?

The more details you reveal surrounding the event, the better equipped your technician is to fix your problem. So go ahead, bother them with all the gory details.

Recap the Facts

When the problem occurred, did you get a specific message? If yes, write it down word for word when possible. Most error messages will remain on the screen until you click okay, so before you just hastily click the button, jot down the entire error message.

If the message flashes on and off the screen, try to determine what it looked like. For example, details like “the screen was blue with white writing, and then my computer rebooted” helps your tech diagnose the problem.

These are just a few ways to help your conversations with tech support be more productive. Remember, technicians want to help! That’s why they’re technicians. By remaining calm and telling them exactly what happened, you can help reduce your downtime and frustration. You may even find that calling tech support is a pleasurable experience. (We think it should be.)

Got a tip for talking to tech support? Leave us a comment!

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who wants to help you get the most out of your conversations with tech support. Email: