Boilerplate responses


Support for computers and software is notorious for being frustrating and ultimately not helpful.  Unfortunately, this isn’t just a stereotype, it’s a truism.  The two big problem areas I see in this realm are:

  1. Outsourcing – many companies outsource their support to cheap labor abroad.  Customers have to wade through knee-deep accents to try to get the person to understand the problem.  Typically, these people do not understand very much at all, but are reading from a knowledge-base “script” as they ask the pre-canned questions and have the user do things to try to solve the problem.
  2. Boilerplates – even domestic tech support suffers a similar problem.  There are stock boilerplate responses to incoming queries which are dispatched as quickly as possible in order to move on to the next problem.  Typically, support techs are rewarded for the number of cases they can resolve.  So, if they can get the customer to just give up and go away, the case is resolved, and this looks good for them.  Very little thought is put into the process, and frequently only one part of a trouble ticket will be addressed by the boilerplate response, and everything else is ignored.

The industry clearly needs to fix this as long-term, this could be very destructive.  It’s somewhat like loaning money to people who can’t afford to pay it back… does that ring a bell?

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2 comments on “Boilerplate responses

  1. How would you solve it? Certainly you would want a way to screen the 80% of the people that are very happy to be helped with the “basic” q&a templates. You happen to ask very technical questions, so what is the best way to filter the masses and still let you get through? Should you pay for that privilege, or just get it because you’re a techie? Sounds like “premium” support and “certifications” (which I detest), doesn’t it?

    In light of your comments I’ll post a rare work story. I work for the software company in Redmond and had cause to open a helpdesk ticket that they couldn’t help me with. When they literally asked me if I would allow them to close the ticket, I said “No, it’s not fixed.” They were required to keep it open until it was resolved to my satisfaction, or I closed it, or six months elapsed. They sincerely continued to try even when I lost interest and I let them close it. It felt really great to not feel like they could just give up and close it on me.

  2. Good points. As a former tech-support phone geek, I had to juggle this myself. There were people who called in who were clueless, and to whom you had to explain the process of breathing. Once they got that down, we were able to move onto more advanced things like checking to see if the computer is plugged in.

    However, whenever I figured out that I was talking to a fellow geek on the phone, I would switch modes and ask technical questions which usually got the problem solved quicker. On the occasion that I was fooled, and the party on the other end really didn’t know all that much, I’d have to back-pedal a bit, but there is little you can do about that.

    Putting aside the screening bit, and the difficulty of filtering…

    It would seem reasonable to expect that if you ask 3 questions, that you’ll get 3 answers. Not so, in many cases. Most of the time, you get 1 answer, and a brush-off for the remainder of your query. Useful? I think not.

    BTW, I love that you, as the user, are in control of whether a ticket gets closed or not. That’s a geat way to do things.

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