The Dog Days of Support

Let me say here and now, I HATE TECHNICAL SUPPORT GROUPS! Sad considering I worked in one and helped, in part, to supervise a help desk. I say I "HATE TECHNICAL SUPPORT GROUPS" because every time I have a problem with my "technical" equipment (computers and the like) and I have to call the associated help desk, it seems to turn into a nightmare more often than not.

I know that I tend to live on the virtual edge of technology and I also fully understand that one of the few gifts I have is the ability to digest, understand and cope with new technologies with the ease that infants seem to take to crawling; it just happens. I guess you could say I am lucky in that regard because it means I don't have to call support desks as often as others might have to do. I'm unlucky in that when I do I almost always know more about the issue at hand than the level 1 technician I get and many times more than the level 2. That is especially true of software, and similarly true for hardware.

My latest adventure through the prickly thorns of customer support (if I my friends supported me as such, I would be dead) was in relation to a set of on-line services I use that are provided by Microsoft, called MSN preeminent (formally MSN 8). Specifically with the Money Plus service that comes with the service. This isn't a dial-up service, although they offer that as well, but a bring your own service broadband type of thing. The Money Plus is where I basically keep my checkbook and pay all my bills. Currently I can pay my bills, but the service isn't properly talking to my bank or isn't properly sending the bank information down stream to me so I can reconcile my spending and figure out where I lay financially. Not a good thing and it has been a problem since December 29th.

I am a patient man and waited to bother Verizon, my DSL provider as well as the provider of the MSN software (branded version), until I was sure that it wasn't me or a temporary problem. That was on January 3rd. Here is January 23rd, and the problem still exists. Greatly in part because of the incredibly backward way that tech support is handled. The "lowest common denominator" takes on new meaning. They assume, without any evidence to the contrary, that everyone that calls in is a complete moron and didn't try any solutions. Instead of asking, did you try this, this, this and this they make you go through those steps. This problem was made worse because the Verizon MSN tech support reps aren't verse in most of the application and therefore have to converse with MSN tech support to get answers. Talk about 3rd party support! For the first week of my problem this was done via e-mail. Then finally someone tried contacting MSN directly by phone and some progress was made. Then it fell apart again.

You see I upgraded to the latest and greatest version of MSN, MSN Premium. Verizon was still on 8.5. So they gave me headaches, but helped me. Then one of them, or someone, decided that they wouldn't. My guess is that the problem I was having was so complicated they would fall back on; "you aren't using the version we support." Then they told me this afternoon that they couldn't help me because I wasn't at home; even though we started this process when I was at home. Ah, but I was using MSN Premium, not 8.5 so it was like it never happened. Never mind that between the two versions no changes were made to the service (MSN Money Plus) I was using; at least not in the client.

Tonight I called, after downgrading to 8.5 and calling in from home. Not that it would have mattered, they didn't "check" to see if I was actually telling the truth. The latest tech seemingly could understand that a problem nearly 30 days combated by multiple techs from MSN and Verizon was probably not client related. He had me check a few obvious things, but only to make sure it wasn't something silly. I humored him, he was being polite and not playing 20 questions with me.

So, after waiting on hold for nearly 30 minutes tonight (something like 3 hours of hold all together so far) I was told that the Redmond team would have to look at this problem and unfortunately I would have to call back on Sunday.

Oh, to add insult to injury... Verizon is now supporting MSN Premium. So if my problem had just waited 3 weeks, I would have had one less hoop to jump through. Nah, they would have come up with some other reason to slap me down into the dregs of the Dog Days of Support.