Tech Chatting

There is an old Urban Legend that some people have particularly odd personal magnetic fields around them that cause breakdowns in mechanical wristwatches. When electronic watches became more popular in the 80s, I didn’t hear it as often, and even less so in the 90s as the technology to produce small, cheap watches got better and better.

My wife is one of those people, who, in a similar vein, manages to wreak havoc on any nearby personal computer. I can use the same PC for weeks or even months without rebooting, never see a Blue Screen of Death, and never need to stretch my fingers for the dreaded Three-finger salute. My wife sits down at the same PC for twenty minutes, and passers-by will be treated to an interesting display of raw emotion mixed with near-incessant profanity.

For years, I built my own PCs for home and work, but for the last few years I’ve just been buying them complete. Now that my wife has become a part-time telecommuter, and now that my daughter is becoming a young net geek, our up-time needs have become more critical, so yesterday I finally broke down and bought a Dell through their on-line store. I did this mainly because I no longer have the time to be the house tech-support guy. So by next week we should have a dual-core 64 AMD 4 GHz speedster running Vista installed in the family room. I overbought because I’m hoping that this much power will serve the family computing needs for the next few years. The old machine will be moved up to my new office, and we’ll network the house so we won’t have to arm-wrestle over who gets PC time.

Yes, I do win the arm-wrestling itself. Experience, however, has shown me that one rarely “wins” any such contest with one’s wife.

Anyway, I’m not posting this to brag; rather, I’m writing because I just discovered a fantastic tech support feature.

I placed the order just before leaving work. On the way home, however, I realized that I should have had the PC shipped to my work instead of my house, so I could be assured of getting the boxes without worrying about going to the UPS center to pick them up, or needing somebody to sign for them. A perusal of the Dell site didn’t have any easy method for this, and I resigned myself to 45 minutes on hold with Customer Service. Digging through the Dell menus, however, I saw a feature that I’d never heard of in the past: instead of calling Tech Support, I could sign in for a Chat, i.e., an IM session to resolve the issue.

My few experiences with customer service calls have not been idyllic, and anyone who has hit an accent barrier knows the potential for frustration on both sides of the telephone, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to communicate my desire for a change of shipping address with minimal fuss.
I logged into the chat server, which promptly crashed my FireFox 2.0 browser session.

You know, I love FireFox; it’s the default browser on my work machine, and until recently, it was the default browser at home. Unfortunately, there are still some websites that my wife and daughter frequent which, tweak though I might, just won’t cooperate. Reluctantly, I recently downloaded and installed IE7 for them. So I recalled FireFox and copied the web address from the browser history, pasted it into the IE7 address bar and went right into the queue. The Dell site even had an updater that showed where I was in the queue (third) and approximately how long I needed to wait (three minutes). Amazingly, I waited less than five minutes to be connected with a service rep, and after a few minutes to recall my account information, we were getting the issue resolved.

The time from being connected with the rep to completion was about 20 minutes, including some lag time while he did things on his end. I suspect that he had several chats going at once, but my wait was mitigated by being able to surf other websites (yes, with FireFox), check my email, etc., so it’s not like I had non-productive time while I was waiting. And, after completing the session, I stayed on to fill out a survey, in which I gave very positive remarks.

I love technology! I only hope that my wife loves the computer… do you think that I could call it her birthday present and get away with it?