When you look at support generally, it seems to me that the bell curve is in operation quite a lot. A few support questions account for the almost all of the bell curve in terms of the frequency with which they occur, and then a multitude of obscure and uncommon queries occupy the outer reaches.

Companies in the support business (all companies, really) try and whip through the major bell curve with content and answers to FAQs designed to pre-empt the vast numbers of people contacting them. What happens then is that their metrics and their productivity get sucked away by the time and effort spent on the unusual, hard-to-categorise, hard-to-legislate-for stuff. Or they ignore them and focus on the 90%.

I have my broadband and my mobile contracts with the same provider. I also have an interesting issue, namely that my outbound email works fine from the country where I live, whereas when I’m overseas, the outgoing SMTP server fails to send my mail. It works fine inbound, and fine for webmail in either direction, obviously.

I have spent the last couple months trying to find a solution, which is either to change the outgoing SMTP server on my laptop, or else connect via my mobile phone and change the outgoing server on that. Except it’s not that easy, and as you can imagine I’ve been pushed from pillar to post by people who are tasked with getting support queries off their stack and onto someone else’s rather than solve the customers’ problems and see their metrics killed.

The last communication by email was from the broadband side of the house advising me to send a mail to care@ the mobile provider, which I did. One week later I got an auto-respond email back – one week later! – saying that the care@ email address has not been supported since 2004 – 2004! I then contacted the mobile provider via live chat – for there is no way of emailing a support query, which you knew if you were keeping up – who told me that I needed to call the tech support call centre which charges by the minute.

This has left me ticked off and my provider no further forward because it has invested significant aggregated time failing to fix my issue – which is important to me because I travel often.

If you’ve got an unusual support query, you’ll find yourself at the ugly end of the support bell curve, the end where nobody wins, unless you’re prepared to pay additional cash.