Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Art of Questioning: Lessons from my modem troubles (part 3)

[From: The Art of Questioning: Observations from my modem troubles (Part 2)]

Final Instalment of my "Modem Troubles" saga:

Decided to visit Sim Lim Square (one of the place to be in Singapore for IT stuff) to buy a modem. This time I decided there was absolute no way I could go wrong with the modem purchase. My wife had done her homework and even identified which particular shop sold the correct modem. I've also resolved to ask some questions before making the purchase.

I went into the shop, stepped up to the shop owner and asked questions like, "What's the difference between a 'router' and a 'modem/ router'" and "So this isn't a pre-router right?".

The guy was friendly enough to explain all the differences. He didn't turn out to be some of those shop owner who were reluctant to explain such lay-person details ('cos their typical customers were those who know their Routers from their Modems).

The shop owner showed me a model after I told him I wanted a wireless modem for my ADSL connection. He showed me the same model as the one that went kaput. I told him I didn't want the same model and asked if there was another brand. He fished out another which was slightly more expensive.

More expensive, so must be better, I thought. So I paid up, went home and tried to fix up the modem. Shouldn't be too difficult now, right? I plugged in the cable, called up the modem configuration page and while the configuration page looked different, I'm sure I'll be able to remember the settings after a full solid hour's worth of 1-to-1 IT lesson from Tech Support for the earlier modem.


The modem setup page for this new modem was different from the previous model. And following the manual, I came to a page where the manual says, "Please check the settings with your ISP".

Duh... but nevermind. I called my ISP for tech support to get the settings. Waited 20 mins. Got through. Tech support staff asked, "What brand is your new modem". I gave him the brand name. "Oh, sorry but we don't support that particular brand. We only provide support for XXX brand."

WTF. You've gotta be kidding me, right?!

How come you didn't specify what modems you supported in your website and manuals? (I didn't voice this out. No point trying to make life difficult for the Tech Support guy).

Apparently, they couldn't guide me through the modem configuration process because it wasn't a model they were familiar with. I didn't lose my temper, in case you were wondering. Frustrated, yes. But no point getting upset. Like I said, not the Tech Support guy's fault anyway. Was more angry that the ISP website didn't say anything about not supporting other modems. Before I hung up, the Tech Support guy gave me for a Helpdesk number for the maker of my apparently now brand-new but unsupported modem.

I called the company that made the modem. They had a 800 number. This time I didn't wait 20mins. Got through pretty fast. Was a lady ("Hi, this is Sarah, Badge Number 23977, how may I help you?") with a Filipino accent. Ah, one of the outsourced IT operations. How interesting. The phone conversation had voice lags.

So maybe now this tech support can help me configure my modem. My woes are over.


Seems the modem manufacturer don't know the specific settings (the settings depended on my ISP. This manufacturer makes a product that's used in many countries so they couldn't tell what settings my ISP required.

At that point, I wanted to give up all hope. The modem manual asked me to check with my ISP. My ISP asked me to check with the modem manufacturer. The modem manufacturer asked me to check with my ISP!

I was ready to kiss my money goodbye for the brand-new but apparently useless modem.

However, Sarah (Badge Number 23977) didn't give up. She was really really helpful. She asked me what my ISP Tech Support said exactly. Then she offered suggestions on what questions I could ask my ISP Tech Support.

She advised me that instead of asking for step-by-step guidance on how to configure the modem setup page (the modem I bought had a different setup page, which my ISP "didn't support"), I should ask them specific questions like what was the "Encapsulation" setting, whether it's "LCC" or "VC" etc. In other words, she advised me on how to deal with my ISP Tech Support.

Sarah, tech support staff, was teaching me, the librarian, on the Art of Questioning!

I called back my ISP Tech Support. I did what Sarah (Badge Number 23977) advised me to do. My ISP Tech Support staff patiently gave me the answers. I thanked him and hung up.

Took a deep breath. Went through the configuration process with the settings. The modem indicator light blinked a few times (meaning it was trying to get access). It flickered, blinked a few more times, and remained stable.

Contact! I had Internet Connectivity again! Woot!

So thank you Sarah (Badge Number 23977), for not giving up when I did. I might have thought I knew the Art of Questioning but in a state of panic, I wasn't in the right mind to ask the right ones. You may not have given me the answers but you've given me something more (alot more than what my "We-don't-support-this-model" ISP tech support gave me). You went the extra mile. You taught me on the Art of Questioning. You advised me how to Ask the Right Questions.

I'm not going to sum up the observations that relate to Librarians and the Reference Interview/ Reference Service. I feel they are pretty self-evident. If not, maybe you'd like to refer to Part 1 and Part 2 again.

I doubt if Sarah would ever read this post. In any case, I wrote her a compliment via her company website.



  1. Anonymous11:18 am

    Congrats with your adventure. :) That's the issue with Singapore service industry, many still don't go the extra miles.

    But lucky you to get a good support form the other side, once I got an outsourced support, that pause 1 minute for every few words spoken, fed up, I googled and did myself.

  2. It was the first time I used tech support that was not based in Singapore. The time lag wasn't too bad in my case. There was a little bit, but the Tech Support staff was trained cos when she heard me speak, she'd pause at the right time. But I think if the time lag was any longer, it would've turned out to be a more frustrating experience.

  3. so she has a filipino accent but you're not sure if she's filipino? well, whatever nationality she is, i'll happily accept that she's filipino =)

    hope to see you soon!


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