Troubleshooting Tips

How the 6 Elements of Persuasion can Help You Get Better Internet Tech Support

   

We’ve all been there. Trying to use our internet to do something and we’re stuck waiting forever for a page to load, movie to buffer, or email to send.

The majority of the time there’s something you can do to fix it yourself. However, now and again the issue with the network “isn’t on your side of the equation”. Which means you either wait for it to fix itself or you call your provider. At this point you should be beaming with excitement.*

Barf. 

There is good news though. Reaching out to your ISP doesn’t always have to be vomit inducing, and this article aims to help with that.

By Using the 6 Elements of Persuasion

Codified by Robert Cialdini, the persuasion principles have been in practice for a very long time. They’ve made their way into part of the foundation of influencing, marketing, sales and much more. Including networking.

Troubleshooting anything can be quite the process. Especially if it’s a computer network, and even more so if you have to call support. So the times when you do have to call someone, you can use the power of persuasion to re-connect to the world. Here’s how.

#1 Reciprocity

The voice inside my head
The voice inside my head

This suggests that if someone asks you to do something and gives you something, you’re more likely to do it. Because you did something for them first, there is the innate desire to do something back.

Since contacting our provider’s tech support is one of the most joyous experiences anyone can have, it begs the question: “What can I offer them to get them to be more helpful, faster, nicer..?”.

Read the recommended troubleshooting steps. Either from their website, manual, forum, blog, etc. I know this is a revolutionary idea, so I’ll elaborate to avoid losing you.

By reading these steps first, a couple of things happen. You get a second chance to sweep through everything on your own. If you do find the problem, congratulations, problem solved. It’s also a safety against accidentally overlooking something small. So when you call tech support in a heated rage (because honestly who calls tech support in a good mood?) you don’t say something that makes you look bad and lose any ground you might have already gained.

Whether this is what solves your problem or not, it’ll save you and the technician time. That’s something always worth offering. And, makes the conversation go much faster and smoother.

“I’m having issues where my internet is doing X, Y, Z. So far, I’ve tried doing A, B, C, like your website recommended and I’m stuck on D. Am I in the right direction?” A statement like this is tremendously helpful for anyone working support. They have a clear list of things you’ve already tried and what you haven’t. Sometimes there are variations of the same step, and this clearly tells them what you may need to try again or move on to something else.

The icing on the cake is you can ask to speak with a manager and applaud their excellent job. Flies are more easily caught with honey than vinegar. By offering to give them kudos to their manager, a lot of times this directly affects their metrics. Which almost always affects their paychecks and bonuses. It’s one of the only ways you can directly “give them money” for their good job, and they’ll perk right up when you offer it.

#2 Scarcity

Supply and command - basic economics.

It is the principle of supply and demand. When working with any company, you always have the option to take your business elsewhere. There is a much bigger demand to have a connection than there is to create more companies that offer connections. This may be the only element that seems to cut both ways for us and against us. It can still be used to our advantage though. Politely telling someone that “this service isn’t worth the money I’m paying and it’s time to think about going to [insert competitor here]…” is very effective. If someone has been sticking to the script a little too hard this is a nice way of saying they’ve got one more chance to try something else. It might be the trigger to get them to double check their work. Or at least get another person involved with the issue to insure every solution was checked.

Pingman Tools’s “Network Nirvana” — Beginners Guide to Troubleshooting article walks you through (in succession from annoyed to “going nuclear”) the steps to reach out to your ISP in more detail.

If you’ve already gone nuclear and detonated, don’t give up. Just work smarter.. and maybe a little harder. Here’s how to start your own ISP. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t read how to do that a few times. Usually after getting a bill.

#3 Authority

Dr. Melfi has authority over Tony Soprano and has the certificate on the wall to prove it

People listen more carefully when they know (or even just think) they’re talking to the authority on the subject. For the same reasons that doctors and therapists put up so many diplomas, certificates or books up in their offices. It subconsciously tells everyone in the room that the doctor knows what they’re talking about.

In network troubleshooting, it’s difficult to do this over the phone, email or chat. So there’s a few ways to make this happen. One is using strong and authoritative language. Not to be confused with arrogant or rude. Using authority in this case would be sticking to the facts. Avoiding vague language like, “My internet slows down a lot sometimes.” This statement just initiates more questions. Saying, “My network slows down every week day between 5 and 8pm” is more concrete and is a starting place to fixing it. This gives someone hard facts and clues to look for. Using weak statements only says that you’re annoyed but have no data to support it. Being annoyed is valid, not having the facts to back it up isn’t.

The second way to make all of this more cohesive is using a tool to compile the data for you. There are several types of network diagnostic tools available, but my favorite is PingPlotter. There is a free and paid version, and many of the engineers at your ISP likely use it themselves. Working for the company that makes it, does make me a little biased, but ultimately there are a couple of key things to look for.

Collecting data over time and graphing it out. Having options for multiple targets and sending or receiving network data that’s already been collected. This all goes a long way in interpreting the network activity and finding a solution.

No matter how you do it, it’s a good idea to collect all of this data and organize it before contacting your ISP. It’ll be easier to communicate and share with them if they need to take a look too.

#4 Consistency

Penrose tiling, exhibits reflective and five-fold rotational symmetry but is non-periodic

Consistency is sought after by most companies. The more consistent you can be when offering a product or service, the more likely someone is to recommend or buy it. So when a provider is falling short on delivering good service, calling attention to their lack of consistency is good at lighting a fire under a person. Or business for that matter. Checking their website or social media page for corporate values and ethics gives you the language to use. It’s likely they talk about these values in meetings and in emails to instill them company wide. So when you say they aren’t living up to the company values and call out how so specifically, you quickly shift your perceived title of “customer” directly to “boss”. If there are customer stories or reviews that the company brags about, you can point out how similar your current situation is to that, and how they aren’t treating you the same way. Again, politely saying this is key.

“I saw on the company Facebook page a time that your team went above and beyond for a customer. My situation is a lot like that in many ways, I was hoping you’d see my point and be willing to take care of me?”

#5 Liking

Getting a stranger to like you and then help you, all over the phone, isn’t easy. It’s not impossible either.

Lloyd Christmas desperately presents himself to Mary Swanson

Secret tip: Tech support agents like it when you present data, not theories. Providing clear facts points them into the right direction quicker. This will make them like you a lot! It saves them time, which in a lot of cases means money/bonuses for them, so it’s a valuable incentive. When presenting data, putting some thought behind it can help it go the distance. By framing the info in a suggestive and collaborative way keeps you from sounding like a know-it-all.

“Hey, here’s what I found, what do you think? Can you help me?” is a more inviting way to present the facts you find. Being asked for your thoughts on something because you know your stuff tickles the ego inside of all of us. Both with sharing facts and framing the findings, you’ll want to keep it brief. Nobody wants your life story. Giving specific bullet points with a little context of the situation helps. Using words that humanize will subconsciously remind the person you’re talking to that you are also a human, like them. Humans typically don’t mind helping humans. However, humans will destroy machines if annoyed enough. Ever see the movie Office Space?

#6 Consensus

Entire auditorium voicing their torment from Regina George

Consensus among a majority works extremely well in persuading. Trial by jury. Nine out of ten dentists agree that toothpaste is sold. An auditorium coming clean about being victimized by Regina George. You get the idea.

So when asking for help from your ISP, having a consensus of information is great. It shows you did your homework, tried to be self sufficient, and that your work was double checked by others.

One of the fastest ways to get that started is joining a forum. Something like RedditDSLreportsTomsHardware, or SuperUser. All of these have a lot of activity with some really bright people that have probably been through anything you can think of. Usually they’re more than happy to help, and typically give you a run down of what to expect and how you can save time/steps.

Incorporating All of the Elements

Of course, you can use these same elements of persuasion in a number of situations. Which, according to our friend Cialdini, that’s the idea. So when you’re ready to use “Jedi mind tricks,” you can use these tips to help insure the empire doesn’t find the droids they’re looking for. Or, at least use them to help your provider find the network issues you are looking for.

There are a handful of tidbits to remember before moving forward with persuading your internet service provider.

Network troubleshooting sucks. Like, a lot. So try to be as patient as possible. It can sometimes take days or even weeks. But if you stay organized and remember some of these points it should keep things timely.

Most network issues are actually fixable right away. It just means that you’re the one in control. You’ve got to troubleshoot, diagnose, and fix it. Not your ISP.

This article is for the other times.

Good luck!