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 them.
- 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.