Blow out the dust

(Ping! Zine Issue 31) – Have you ever called technical support and been instructed to unplug the cable from the back of your modem, television, or other miscellaneous, yet incredibly sensitive, electronic device, blow out the dust, and then plug it back in? If you have been instructed to do so and have actually done it, then you’ve fallen for one of the oldest technical support tricks in the book.
But don’t be upset. Blowing out the dust is a classic customer service trick and it is a classic because it’s effective.
The effectiveness of the blowing out the dust fix stems from the basic that it appeals to basic human psychology and the ever-powerful ego. As competent, technically savvy, human beings, the idea of a problem originating from something as simple wires being loose is especially difficult to grasp. If a representative asks, “are the wires plugged in securely?” you will snap back “yes” with the utmost confidence. “That couldn’t be the problem. It has to be more complicated than that!” is what would go through my mind the mind if a representative asked me to check if the wires were plugged in securely. And apparently, my reaction isn’t unique, or the blow out the dust “fix” wouldn’t exist.
However, if the representative changes the situation ever so slightly and asks you to just “blow out the dust,” then everything is different. Suddenly, a legitimate technical solution has been suggested. Dust is the enemy of everything involving circuitry (right?) and blowing out the dust can fix most any problem (maybe?).
The level of legitimacy of the dust fix doesn’t really matter as much as what the fix represents on a broader level. What does matter is that it is a way to get customers to do something they think is so simple that they wouldn’t otherwise bother to check or, at the very least, would be insulted if asked to check.
An example of this same logic in the web hosting industry is the classic “delete the X and try doing it again.” The idea is to get customers to go through the creation of X (i. e. an email account) again, and ideally, not make the same mistake they did the first time around. Chances are, the problem will magically “resolve itself” the second time around and the call will end without the customer feeling embarrassed.
Creative customer service departments come up with their own little tricks to convince customers that the problem does not exist between the keyboard and the chair. Blowing out the dust, deleting the email account, setting all the values back to default, and the like are all common customer service escape routes. The technology itself is the perfect scapegoat (modems don’t fight back) and will work wonders in increasing customer satisfaction.
No one wants to believe that they can be affected by human error or personal oversight and these simple customer service tricks can help avoid the awkward situation of implying, assuming, or even making a hint at the remote possibility of a customer making the slightest mistake. If the customer is always right, then we as customer service providers need to let them know just that.