Sending out an SOS(1)GP and self-confessed technophile Dr Harry Brown explores the lesser-known avenues that can be followed when things go wrong:

We all naturally want to make the most of those high tech devices that help us both at work and at home. The range of technology we use is enormous – PCs, software, printers, network, the Internet, mobiles, smartphones, tablets – and we have become so highly dependent on these devices that if anything goes wrong it can cause considerable disruption to our lives, not to mention frustration and stress. If your smartphone or tablet belongs to you personally, your IT department may not be in a position to help you, so where can you turn?

The journey  
When your IT fails you, it’s important to think clearly and not to panic or get frustrated and angry. You’ll need to word your problem concisely (now we understand how patients feel sometimes!) as you will be entering this wording into a general search engine such as Google and see what pops up. Bear in mind, in this modern hyper-connected world, that others have most likely come up against similar problems before you and will hopefully have shared their solutions online. Vary the search terms until you have exhausted all the logical possibilities. 

If you have no joy with the normal search engines, try a more specialised website such as Protonic, a free technical support service which I have used myself and can recommend highly. According to their website, “We do our best to remedy your problem and put the smile back on your face!”

Another site to check out is Fixya which aims, as its name suggests, to help you fix problems. There are a wide variety of sections here, including a good technical support section. This website also has dedicated apps – assuming you have a functioning device with which to read them. 

The web is host to a large number of technical support sites and forums, and it is also worth checking out the phone manufacturer’s website where a forum or FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section may reveal the answer. If you have lost the product manual, you may be able to download it and search for a solution. Look for a “contact us” button (often a not very prominent link at the foot of the home page) listing a phone number or an email address you can use. 

The problem is that you may not always receive a timely reply – or indeed any reply – but there are ways around this.

Cut out the middle men  
You could always go straight to the top and contact the manufacturer’s chief executive officer (CEO). How can you obtain their contact details? Well, you may have guessed that there is a website that performs this exact function. The site,  may not be the prettiest website around but it certainly contains superb and relevant information and is free for non-commercial users users. I have personally used this site a number of times with great success (it has plenty of UK listings). 

I have had a significant response rate and, even better, often resolved the problem. This site is a definite one to bookmark, not only for technical problems but also for domestic or commercial issues. 

You may have decided to phone the company’s number, only to get lost in a complex, circuitous menu system where you cannot find a human to speak to. Well, it will come as no surprise that there is a website that gets around this. It is a bit more American in style, but worth checking out – and it also has associated apps. 

Sometimes all you can find is a premium rate number, which can be costly, especially when you are kept on hold. An excellent site can provide alternatives such as geographical numbers, which can be a lot cheaper or even free from landlines or mobiles, depending on your contract. There is a superb list of UK numbers here and I have had many a success from this site. Sometimes I have used it as a simple phone directory for cheap rate telephone numbers. 

Another way to attract the attention of a large company is to use social media such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Companies can be extremely concerned about their reputation on social media, and a simple public Tweet or Facebook message highlighting your problems can rapidly attract the response you are looking for. 

Summary of useful websites: