What to do when the vendor don't know nothing

By Jeffrey Fritz, ITworld.com |  Software

I recently called a vendor's technical support line to report a strange routing
problem I had encountered with the company's equipment. After I explained the problem
to the technical support specialist on the other end of the line, he blurted
out, "Solving routing issues is a customer's problem. The best I can do is to email you
a typical routing configuration. Otherwise you are on your own."

I hope you never receive such a woeful response when you call your vendor's
technical support. But as we all know, support can be a mixed bag. You may encounter
situations where the support technician is not offering all the help you need. If you
do, here are some tips:

  • First and foremost, all is not lost -- don't give up. You are not
    helpless or hopeless. Appeal your case to the next tier of technical support. They may
    be more knowledgeable or cooperative than the first-tier specialist you happened to
    reach. In any good networking company, the customer, not the technical support
    specialist, is the one who determines when to escalate support problems.

  • Call in your systems engineer. Although the term "SE"
    practically stands for sales engineer (and is sometimes sarcastically referred to
    as "silly engineer"), the SE does have a purpose in life other than selling you new
    products. A good SE can help sort out the thornier issues in your network gear or
    configurations and can access technical resources typically unavailable to ordinary
    customers. These resources include specialists in your problem area, as well as
    corporate engineering support.
  • Build your own support network with colleagues who use the same
    vendor's equipment. You can meet these people at conferences, shows, or technical
    meetings. Those located near you -- within a day's drive -- can be an especially big
    help. Don't be afraid to ask for their aid, and be prepared to offer the same to
  • Keep your own support notes. Much of technical support's
    knowledge comes from speaking to clients with situations similar to yours. If you find
    a solution to a thorny or uncommon problem, write it down. Catalogue your solutions for
    quick referencing so you won't utter the all-too-familiar refrain, "I knew how to deal
    with this once, but I forgot what I did to fix the problem!"
  • So how did I solve my problem? A quick email to the appropriate management folks at
    this particular vendor caused a flurry of activity and resulted in a solution. There's
    no reason why you can't do the same.

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