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Why is technical support (purposefully) unbearable?

Apr 21st 2015 / Programming

You are not the only ones.

If you are stuck on your phone waiting for the automated system to connect you to someone and when, at last, it does all you get is instructions for restarting the router, the computer, etc. and then to call back later, according to the psychologists this specific effect over your mental health could make even the calmest of people full of rage. 

And it gets worse: it's exactly how you thought of it - the companies know very well the amount of suffering they put their clients under.

According to a quiz held by the International Customer Management Institute, ICMI, 92% of the tech support managers consider that their employees could perform better, and 74% of the managers hold the opinion that the rules and procedures in their companies prevent the phone operators to do their job the best way possible.

The main reason for this is that in many companies a system for calculating the call cost has been implemented (cost-per-contact). It restricts the time a phone operator could give to the client. From here comes the waiting agony and the constant redirection from a specialist to a specialist and from a line to line, also known as 'please hold, all operators are busy'.  

Justin Robbins, who has worked as tech support, is now a manager in ICMI.

He states: 'Don't be fooled that companies have made a research regarding the time they could be holding a client on the line. Some organizations calculate the cost of each call. There are companies that offer immediate tech support, but only if you pay additionally.'

The most to blame in this matter are the cable providers, the mobile providers, and the internet providers - in these fields of services, clients have signed contracts and would face some serious discomfort if they want to terminate those contracts. There's no surprise that cable and mobile providers have some of the worst technical support out there. 

According to psychologists, when events start to make no sense there is an idea of losing control over the situation and one naturally feels threatened.

And when feeling threatened, your instincts lead you to firmer actions, yet there is nothing you can do since you're stuck on the phone. And this leads to enraging. 

Of course, there are companies with pristine technical support, but usually, they sell their products and services at a higher price or ask for additional payments for technical support. In this case, the price of the assistance is included in the product price as it goes for AppleCare and Amazon Prime. Low prices are offered by the newbie companies on the market while trying to make a name for themselves. 


Justin Robins shares some moments from his work as a technical support operator. Various tricks are being used in order for the client to stick around on the phone longer - music is being played, and when finally the client is connected to the operator, the signal suddenly drops abruptly. When reaching back, the support explains that a temporary problem has been faced and it's already been fixed.  

It's of no use to ask for upper management since you'll be redirected to an operator who specializes in dealing with upset customers. 

After those kinds of bad encounters, people are usually too harsh and get in a fight over the phone while waiting for technical support. It is known that these calls are being recorded - the ugliest of words are often printed out and displayed on the walls as posters. In some companies 'the most interesting' client comments are being printed on T-shirts and being used as stimuli.

People with experience in the field give advice on how to handle these kinds of situations. Fewer emotions are needed. You better use social media for contacting technical support instead of reaching for the phone. In situations like this situations rarely go out of control since the upset customer could easily and fast distribute the matter over social media reaching a huge number of people or to praise the operator. If there is no such contact option provided, additional mobile apps could be used such as Lucy Phone and Fast Customer - their job is to do the waiting for you and to send you a signal when an operator is available. There's no need to enrage ourselves while listening to annoying music waiting for your turn on the line.