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  1. #1
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    Question Why Do Technical People Not Like Telephone Calls?

    I understand the idea of not wanting to spend all of your time on the phone with clients, but whether you do chat, email, or telephone, you are spending time doing the work. I find that many technical people simply do not want to talk on the phone. Even if they are running a hosting company, they prefer to do sales via email or chat/IM.

    Any thoughts on this? BTW, I am on the business side, not technical.

  2. #2
    i'd prefer AIM or email... sometimes its hard to understand a customer on the phone. i've had 4 telephone calls today for support all with customers that sound like english is their second language. It's tough to troubleshoot someone you cant understand (bad english, talks too fast, etc).

    Granted telephoen is the simplest and most direct business-wise, but sometimes not the best solution for conveying a problem and offering a solution.
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  3. #3
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    i can understand the need to document the problem also. But its not always problems or support I am talking about. I think its in every aspect of the business.

  4. #4
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    I will make a guess.
    It stops them from fixing problems. An e mail allows them to do more in less time. Some people on the phone take 10 minutes to talk before they get to the problem.
    Example: Watch Judge Judy.
    Really from having to deal with people some people just go on and on then you have to be rude and ask them just what it is they are calling about.
    I mself for example never pick up the phone at home. My wife does, I hate telephones.
    But, that is me.
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  5. #5
    Phone support is a great tool to have, however it is limited in its capacity at the same time. Most cases of technical support yield some type of error, and it's most likely easier to have those errors on live chat support / ticket support so that we can better duplicate and copy the issue.

    Example: Email Errors. We all know they spit out 4 lines of error code, imagine trying to understand the problem on the phone rather than having all of the information in front of you. I find that phone support is better utilized for emergency tech support which demand a voice be notified immediately of an issue (Server down, Site not displaying, etc)

    Regardless of my thoughts on it however, anyone with phone support has it for a reason. It's another means of support for clients who choose to utilize it. So more power to there personal preference
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  6. #6
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    ICQ/Email/IRC do not require my full attention, while I'm waiting on the other end to formulate their thoughts and tell me what's going on I can do something else, but when you're on the phone that's pretty much it, you're on the phone and it's nigh impossible to do anything else or you lose track of the conversation.

    Oh (edit) and giving a url out over the phone is just about the most aggravation you can have
    Gary Harris - the artist formerly known as Dixiesys
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  7. #7
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    I honestly would rather take care of my sales via phone. Sometime email. Coming from managing a lot of technical people though, I think in most cases, the average "techie" believes the average joe schmoe is not up to par and hard to talk with when it comes to technically related issues.
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  8. #8
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    good points Tswaibel. I would be interested to hear reasons not related to support. I see many hosting companies with the only way to contact them is through email or a contact form. I know as a potential customer, there is no way I would sign up unless they had some sort of phone and/or chat mechanism to know there is a real human behind this.

  9. #9
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    Re: Why Do Technical People Not Like Telephone Calls?

    Originally posted by iblive
    I understand the idea of not wanting to spend all of your time on the phone with clients, but whether you do chat, email, or telephone, you are spending time doing the work. I find that many technical people simply do not want to talk on the phone. Even if they are running a hosting company, they prefer to do sales via email or chat/IM. Any thoughts on this? BTW, I am on the business side, not technical.
    Excellent point and very interestin gone. I think the answer is from the point of view that the internet and email gives people a barrier, people feel protected by the barrier of email.

    You can click and email and forget about it, or you can take your time and read it and pick and choose what and how you answer it..you can think also about what answer you wnat to give.

    The telephone is much more demanding. By giving your phone number you are saying you have confidence in your business and you can deal with any situation .

    The other side of the coin is as some have said: Phone can waste time, that is why it is not suitable to businesses on low margins. There is not the time to deal with people on the phone. I thin ithere are two main reasons.

    1. Not having a phone gives people feeling of anonymity and feeling of protection from angry clients

    2. There is not the profit in it for some businesses.

    Regarding general business I would not do any kind of business with anybody unless we exchanged concrete contact details including

    1. Land line phone
    2. Proper physical address *not a po box or forwarding office*

    Because if someone is not going to exchange those then what is the reason for it? They can't be serious in my opinion if they wish to remain anonymous.

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by proberts
    I honestly would rather take care of my sales via phone. Sometime email. Coming from managing a lot of technical people though, I think in most cases, the average "techie" believes the average joe schmoe is not up to par and hard to talk with when it comes to technically related issues.
    I wouldn't normally equate "Technical People" to handling sales Letting a techie handle sales is often not a good idea, most of the good techs I know are terrible salesmen. Though it IS good for a salesman to know what he's talking about, you don't need a sysadmin trying to push web hosting.
    Gary Harris - the artist formerly known as Dixiesys
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  11. #11
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    Originally posted by Dixiesys
    ICQ/Email/IRC do not require my full attention, while I'm waiting on the other end to formulate their thoughts and tell me what's going on I can do something else, but when you're on the phone that's pretty much it, you're on the phone and it's nigh impossible to do anything else or you lose track of the conversation.

    Oh (edit) and giving a url out over the phone is just about the most aggravation you can have
    Bingo....

    Gotta love tryin to give out an URL over the phone. Bleh
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  12. #12
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    What drives me nuts about the phone as a business tool is that there is no priority. For instance, yesterday, the IMAP service crashed on one of our servers. While I was online with one of our techs trying to get it back online, the phone rang. It was a customer saying he couldn't access his email. Yes, we know. IMAP isn't responding. But then the customer goes on for the next 10 minutes asking why this happened, that he's remote so he needs his webmail, why he picked HORDE over Squirrelmail, why he isn't using a laptop, and that he's "very concerned" about this outage because he paid a year in advance. All of the 10 minutes I spent talking to him were 10 minutes I couldn't work with our techs to get it resolved and keep abreast of the situation. And I'm not meaning to single out a specific customer, either -- it seems like every time there's a problem, there's someone who wants to chat about it, and chatting about it detracts from our ability to solve the problem.

    Support tickets are much easier for us to handle. A customer says there's a problem. If there's an outage and we're fixing it, I copy-and-paste a generic "We're aware of the problem and are fixing it right now" with an ETA of when the service will be back up. That takes 10 seconds, as opposed to 10 minutes to say the same thing over the phone and reassure the customer that we're taking care of the problem, and yes, we understand that it's important to you to have your email, Tomcat, or whatever service up and running at all times.

    That is one big reason why I don't like the phone as a support tool.
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  13. #13
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    Most technical people I know tend to not like to associate with people in general

  14. #14
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    Originally posted by Dixiesys
    I wouldn't normally equate "Technical People" to handling sales Letting a techie handle sales is often not a good idea, most of the good techs I know are terrible salesmen. Though it IS good for a salesman to know what he's talking about, you don't need a sysadmin trying to push web hosting.
    Oh I definately agree with this. Our sales people are not necessarily IT people, but are knowledgable in the industry and we basically put all of them through ongoing specialized training in order to sell our development service (we don't use sales reps much for sales of hosting). They are SALESPEOPLE not Technical people though.

    They also are instructed NEVER to promise something to a potential that they don't know the answer too. They are always supposed to contact someone in our Admin or Dev team to get the CORRECT information.

    Our technical people are trained in sales/customer skills though as well.
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  15. #15
    For me, it's the same as many have posted above.
    1) Customers are sometimes hard to understand or go on forever and ever about something that is unrelated to the issue (although they think it is related)

    2) It gives me time to think out what I am saying... make sure I'm not rude or being too technical.

    3) It lets me read what they are saying and have a look at things before giving an answer. Some problems could have 5 or 10 different potential causes... with e-mail I can I look right away and give them an answer with solution rather than "I'll look into it right away, I'll let you know when it's fixed".

    Also, myself and most of the techie geeks I know are socially retarded. Send us an e-mail and we'll send e-mails back that are well thought out, well worded, interesting, etc. Try to talk to us in person (or on the phone) and we don't know what to say or how to say it, and just kind of look like fools.
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  16. #16
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    It's an interesting problem. As a generalization, the business types (those paying for the service) prefer to talk and discuss the problem or situation, while the technical types (those providing the service) want nothing to do with phone and vice versa.

  17. #17
    Greetings:

    We have toll free technical support; and often times we have two cases of support calls:

    1. Those type where the issues are extremely clear cut, and can be fixed while on the phone.

    2. Those that take recreating the problem to isolate a cause; and then fix.

    The latter part generally requires enough details that make it very hard to handle over the phone (user id's, passwords, URL's, etc.).

    Add in typo’s, hearing dyslexia, et all, and what might be a five minute task from an email where you can click on URL’s, copy and paste passwords, etc. ends up taking thirty to sixty minutes on the phone.

    Lastly, there are those cases where the customer either has an extremely heavy accent or do not speak the language (English or otherwise) of the technician. And in those cases, an email might work better.

    Thank you.
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  18. #18
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    Clients like the phone so we have one. It's a great sales tool, but I agree with some of the limitations mentioned about its usefulness as a support tool. For some reason (maybe along the lines of the anonymity mentioned here) a lot of hosting companies seem to shun the phone altogether, but I'm not too sure that's a wise business move. Still, if it works for a particular company then so be it; there are many ways to skin a cat (although rarely are any of them approved by the cat).

  19. #19
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    Originally posted by disoft
    (although rarely are any of them approved by the cat).
    That made me giggle. I just had to say.


    As for technical support phone calls, they can be useful in some ways:

    - the client is reassured more when they can immediately reach a live person and talk to them. It's more obvious to them that someone is working on their issue.
    - the customer support staff can form a more personal relationship with the client.

    IMO, email support is better in some ways:

    - the email support ticket system can easily document each issue, both client and technician can review and follow up on the same ticket with ease. It's difficult to do this with phone. Even those companies that "record conversations" would have to track down the right phone log to go back and follow up on the situation. We make notes on the account database sometimes, but these aren't ever going to be as extensive as a thread of emails.

    - logins/passwords, urls, examples, email headers, error messages, and other such info can be cut and pasted into an email with little effort and usually without any typos (admitedly, people sometimes will still make typos). Then, the technical support person can easily cut and paste, click, and duplicate issues without negotiation.

    - when people have a moment to think and write something down, they usually get to the point quickly in just a few sentences, rather than attempting to explain it for 20 minutes on the phone.

    - Sometimes, even though the conversation may be friendly, the client goes off on a bunch of tangents when they talk to you on the phone. After you resolve their issue they start telling you about how they grew tomatoes in their back yard or how they used to live in the same town as your office. It's really nice to know your customers love you like a neighbor, but unless it's a slow day, long phone calls can take away precious time from the work tasks.

    These are probably common reasons why some hosting firms don't offer any type of phone communication (generalization):

    - The company is small (1-2 people perhaps), and phone support would be difficult to provide with that few of human resources.

    - The company is small and would rather create anonymity/mystery so they can hopefully compete more easily with large firms.

    - The company prefers to save money by eliminating need for extra personnel to provide telephone assistance/phone support.

    These are general points. Some of our customers are actually very witty and concise when they call, get right to the point and it only takes 5 minutes. So not all calls are these awful long drawn out things.
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  20. #20
    Vocal communication is "on-the-fly" -- whereas, when typing, one can consider and state their answer thoughtfully.

  21. #21
    We do offer telephone support but it's a terrible timewaster - I could probably answer 5 support mails in the time it takes to do one phone support call.

    Interesting that everyone else seems to have the same experiences - without fail the people that call are those that have such a heavy accent you can't understand them or are so non-technical that it's a job to get them to even talk them through something as simple as setting up an e-mail account over the phone. Something you could much more easily explain step by step in written form.

    My other pet hate (this happened to me twice today) is someone calling on a mobile while they're driving or an a train and they're 100 miles away from their computer system. Firstly they keep disappearing into reams of static then they ask a question and you want them to try something and they're nowhere near a computer

    It's interesting that the more technical / competent users always contact us via e-mail (presumably because they also find it easier to discuss technical matter in the written form).

    Then there's the reading a URL over the telephone - ugh !

    "h . . . t . . . t . . . p . . . colon . . . forward slash . . . forward slash . . . w . . . w . . . . . . . . ." - hell on earth
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  22. #22
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    invectis, I just laughed out loud...thank you. Luckily I was not drinking anything or else it could have been a disaster.

  23. #23
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    We offer phone support because the clients like it, but personally I'd prefer to use the phone just for sales. Things are so much easier via electronic methods.

    However, nothing drives me crazier than when I have a support ticket with a company and the tech skims through my ticket and missed my whole meaning and replies with an answer that doesn't help me at all, and just wastes everyone's time.

  24. #24
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    Originally posted by -alb-
    Most technical people I know tend to not like to associate with people in general

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  25. #25
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    Our office has phone support in Florida, but I dont do it. I went off on them the last time they trasfered a call to me here in Texas. I can hold a conversation via email, messenger, and forum all day long, but I just cant talk on the phone.

    First, I am soft spoken and often hard to hear. Top a southern Texas accent on top of that, then top that off with people I can barely understand on the phone and you have the perfect recipe for trouble.

    It's just so much easier for me to NOT use the phone. Can you understand my Texas accent in this post? LOL

  26. #26
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    I think clients probably prefer it although I think email or ICQ is probably faster from a support person's perspective
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  27. #27
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    I think much of it has to deal with how people communicate.

    Most of the people who want phone support are nontechnical. Because they don't completely understand what they're looking for or dealing with, their thought processes go all over the place trying to figure out what may be wrong. They may "think aloud" more than technical people. Consequently, their support calls can tend to be more non-linear in terms of discussion.

    The people who are most likely to be fielding the tech support calls are technical, or technically inclined. Their patterns of thought and communication are fairly linear. They have an idea of what's going on, they know how to troubleshoot technical issues, they're familiar with a computer environment.

    To the non-technical customer, dealing with techies can feel like being conversationally railroaded.

    To the linear-thought technician, dealing with a nontechnical person asking for technical support can be as organized as herding cats.

    Technical people can feel more comfortable with "written" communications (including forums, chat, IM, and email) because these methods give them time to "translate" the thoughts of the customer and then organize their thoughts for the response. Pauses for thought aren't interpreted as conversational dead zones, or "ignoring the customer's issues".

    All of the above is based on what I've observed, on jobs and in my own family (two hyper-organizational folks, two definite right-brainers). Everyone else's mileage may vary.
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  28. #28
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    Originally posted by Webdude
    First, I am soft spoken and often hard to hear. Top a southern Texas accent on top of that, then top that off with people I can barely understand on the phone and you have the perfect recipe for trouble.
    Crikey, I hope we never talk on the phone as I'm partially deaf!

    I could just picture the support call now:

    Webdude <softly>: "I'm having problems with my files, y'all (or whatever Texan's put at the end of sentences)".

    disoft <deafly>: "Sorry to hear that, try sitting on a cushion and get some cream from the chemist".

    The call could last all day!

  29. #29
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    gotta say, today has been some of the funniest posts I have seen in a while. Nice to see a little break from "anyone know xyz_hosting? "xyz_hosting screwed me"

  30. #30
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    Why Do Technical People Not Like Telephone Calls?
    I never thought about it that way... It's a really interesting idea... It also turned out to be a good start to a very interesting (and funny) thread...

  31. #31
    I would think that it would be much easier to scan through someones email and find out what the problem is and then be able to go into the account take care of what you need to then reply with the answer.

    Instead of someone on the phone going through their life story of how they already did this, or did that, and I tried this then I saw this pop up.. Sir did you rename this? no i didn't.. wait, yes i did.. i think...

  32. #32
    I hate to say it... (before I get flamed, I'm a technical person, not a businessperson), but technical people don't always have the same social skills that businesspeople do.

    Selling things, making business deals, and managing people requires very strong social skills. On the other hand, programming and fixing computers don't always require those skills. While there are some very social engineers and technical people out there, most of us aren't quite as social.

    You'd be suprised how much work it takes to talk over the phone in a business setting- it's very natural for a businessman, but engineers and tech support people aren't always trained to do that. Often, an email or even online chat is much easier, since it doesn't carry the subtle social cues that a voice does.
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  33. #33
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    HostMidwest, that is often true. My point in starting this thread was to get some discussion going about how to work through these issues from both sides and see that there clearly a great divide in how people communicate. The interesting part is hearing the complaints from both sides. Very entertaining

  34. #34
    I am a big advocate of using the telephone as a support tool. Strap on the headphone and use it along with email and you can handle more requests in the same amount of time as you could on a ticket system IMO.

    If you need a URL or an error message it can be emailed in seconds, then you can continue on and resolve the issue quickly. Those people that call with a problem that cannot be resolved quickly over the phone get a call back (or possibly an email) when the issue is resolved.

    What I find is that those clients with less experience tend to use the phone more than those that are more technically proficient. This suits us just fine as the less technically capable clients can explain issues to us in a fraction of the time. Normally these types need to go back and forth with a Ticket a few times until we can obtain some relevant information concerning their issue.

  35. #35
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    Originally posted by living_media
    I think much of it has to deal with how people communicate.

    Most of the people who want phone support are nontechnical. Because they don't completely understand what they're looking for or dealing with, their thought processes go all over the place trying to figure out what may be wrong. They may "think aloud" more than technical people. Consequently, their support calls can tend to be more non-linear in terms of discussion.

    The people who are most likely to be fielding the tech support calls are technical, or technically inclined. Their patterns of thought and communication are fairly linear. They have an idea of what's going on, they know how to troubleshoot technical issues, they're familiar with a computer environment.

    To the non-technical customer, dealing with techies can feel like being conversationally railroaded.

    To the linear-thought technician, dealing with a nontechnical person asking for technical support can be as organized as herding cats.

    Technical people can feel more comfortable with "written" communications (including forums, chat, IM, and email) because these methods give them time to "translate" the thoughts of the customer and then organize their thoughts for the response. Pauses for thought aren't interpreted as conversational dead zones, or "ignoring the customer's issues".

    All of the above is based on what I've observed, on jobs and in my own family (two hyper-organizational folks, two definite right-brainers). Everyone else's mileage may vary.
    This is a wonderfully perceptive post... thank you!


    To add my own small bit, I wasn't sure how else to say, "the phone interrupts getting work done," and obliterates any sense of priority that I had already established for projects, tasks and issues at hand. People seem to think that being "interrupted" is just an inconvenience. In hosting, it is far beyond inconvenience; in hosting, interruption is actually harmful to service. Every minute I take to talk with a customer on the phone, is another minute that resolution of the issue is being delayed for everyone. I've already been in a position of having a major issue delayed by nearly a half-hour because of "concerned" customers "needing" explanations and hand-holding. I can 100% promise that the rest of the customers didn't appreciate it.

    So, no more phone support. If this makes some people uncomfortable when considering us for hosting service (and some have already shared this concern with us), that's really fine. Parties who need phone support aren't our target audience anyway. I don't wish to sound rude, not at all; target markets and assessing how a company believes their target market is best served, are all a part of Business 101. It's all good.

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  36. #36
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    I think a lot of "techies" became techies because they dont like interacting with people as much as they do with their monitor.
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  37. #37
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    Originally posted by HiVelocity
    I think a lot of "techies" became techies because they dont like interacting with people as much as they do with their monitor.
    In one of the threads several host did one of those online personality tests. http://www.webhostingtalk.com/showth...ight=introvert
    In the poll about 60% said introvert, but after they did the test I would say at least 75% were introverts. So there you go.
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  38. #38
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    I prefer everything in writing. I tend to forget things easily over the phone. Also people can't dispute what you said/they said if it's in writing.
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  39. #39
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    Originally posted by bithost(NET)
    So, no more phone support. If this makes some people uncomfortable when considering us for hosting service (and some have already shared this concern with us), that's really fine. Parties who need phone support aren't our target audience anyway. I don't wish to sound rude, not at all; target markets and assessing how a company believes their target market is best served, are all a part of Business 101. It's all good.

    Bailey
    I'm wondering if the people who don't offer phone support, never offered phone support, or were effected by customers as you were and decided to drop it?

  40. #40
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    A lot of technical people are interested in the most efficient solution to a problem. That's in their blood. 99% of the time, the phone is just the opposite, which is why they resist phones.

    IMHO, people rely on phone support because they've never found a company that can be trusted to actually answer email or tickets in a timely fashion. I think, in the end, most of the customers would really rather not talk to the techs either. They'd like to send in the problem and get it solved.

    Think about it though. Hosting is about the only industry (at least amongst many of the hosts here...I wouldn't venture a guess on the average response time industry wide.) where you can email in a problem and get it answered almost immediately.

    When was the last time you had a problem with your internet access? Ever tried to email RoadRunner support? We all know how that turns out. So you call them instead of even bothering with the email.

    Ever thought of emailing your phone company with a support issue? I never have. I wouldn't trust them to actually send back an answer.

    This kind of thing sticks in people's minds and makes them think they actually need phone support.

    In actuality, what really needs to change is the behavior and management of these larger companies, who would rather have outsourced call centers in other countries with incompetent people handling customer service than to actually use the vast resources right there at their fingertips for maximum efficiency.

    Imagine if they did that...then when we ask these companies for 'support', we might actually get an answer from someone who can find their cheeks with both hands.

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