4 Lessons From A 4-Hour Help Call

Four hours on the phone with our internet service provider is not how I planned to spend a staycation with my family this week. Our neighborhood had had an internet outage earlier in the week, and after the rest of the area was back up, our house still had not recovered. About three hours into the call, after countless loops being transferred back to the beginning of the same “Press one, press two” menus to re-explain my situation to a new member of the basic support team, I asked Lana, “What am I supposed to learn from this painful experience?” God often makes us repeat a lesson when we fail to learn the first time, and this was a test I did not want to take again.

Looking back on it all, here are four lessons I now have an opportunity to learn:

  1. You’re different. Be patient when others don’t understand you right away.
    Unlike most of our provider’s other customers’ homes, the internet service at our house does not connect directly to a wireless router. Instead, the Internet goes through a customized content filter before reaching the rest of the house. This extra step helps protect every computer, phone, and tablet from unwanted internet content, but it also means that the Level 1 technical support team doesn’t have a script that fits my scenario.The same should be true in many other areas of my life. As a Christian, I should be different. My life should not fit the script that the rest of the world uses. In the technical support call, this difference created a great deal of frustration that, unfortunately, I let show a few too many times.In life, what makes me different can present opportunities to share Christ. If I am impatient toward those that don’t understand, I’ll lose those opportunities.
  2. Yes, they’re wrong. That doesn’t mean you’re right.
    I may be correct in realizing that other people have overlooked facts and reached a wrong conclusion. Being right about that doesn’t mean that my understanding of the matter is correct.The script for the Level 1 support team helped them rule out basic connectivity issues from their equipment to my modem. Because they couldn’t see any obvious errors, some support people told me my modem was broken. Others told me it was clearly a problem with my computer.Their scripts didn’t recognize that their own area-wide outage is what broke things in the first place. They also didn’t take into account other observations that I tried to report. (One computer in the house – but not the content filter – was able to connect when hooked directly to the modem. Another computer was able to connect when we had it “pretend” to be the other one that worked. Sadly, the content filter did not have an option to pretend to be another computer.)

    Those observations, which were beyond the technical background of the Level 1 support team, led me to conclude that the problem was with the service provider locking to a specific device. I became rather emphatic that I needed to talk to someone in their technical department who could update the settings for my account on their DHCP server, which was obviously filtering by Mac address. (If those terms don’t mean anything to you, don’t worry. Being geeky like that is what got me into trouble in the first place.)

    I learned later that I didn’t need anyone from the internet support team to do anything after all.

I may have understood more facts than the support team did, but I still didn’t have them all.

  1. Each new fact can change a conclusion.
    Part-way through our troubleshooting process, my son made yet another observation that changed my opinion on where the problem lay. Suddenly, the computer that used to connect would no longer connect, and only a different one would work. I had been unsuccessful in reaching anyone at our provider’s offices to attempt to make any changes, so I knew that something within the walls of our house had changed. My expectation that I deserved advanced technical support at no extra charge? Yeah, that dissolved and evaporated, and I deflated. I may have understood more facts than the support team did, but I still didn’t have them all.I was back to being clueless about the source of the problem and its solution.
  2. Don’t let a need to be right prevent you from being effective.
    Back at square one again, I felt lost, uncertain how to restore internet connectivity. As I wracked my brain trying to figure out what was causing the issue and how to fix it, my son offered a creative workaround. It didn’t help us find all the facts. It didn’t let me demonstrate superior technical knowledge. What was important was that it worked!To me, the workaround felt awkward, incomplete, and just plain wrong. While I selfishly wanted the satisfaction of being right about the problem, he looked past ego and chose to be effective instead.We now had internet connectivity restored to our house.

The next day, we were able to identify the real problem and resolve it without any intervention from the support team. The fix was pretty close to something the Level 1 support team had recommended, but I couldn’t see it. I was focused on how they were wrong, instead of looking for how they could be close to right.

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