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The Internet

The "Glory" Of Tech Support 361

AFCArchvile writes: "Have you ever wondered just what goes on at your DSL ISP's Tech Support center? East Bay Express Online has an article written by Erika Donald, a staffer at the Pacific Bell Internet Call Center: 'Finally, the customer is transferred to me. "Are you a supervisor?" he demands instantly. Since the beginning of the month, everyone in the call center has been transformed into a supervisor. Brian sleeping at his desk is now a supervisor. Ian with purple hair gelled into points is a supervisor. Ron who begged not to be made a supervisor is a supervisor. I am hoping next month, whoever decided to make us all supervisors will make us CEOs.' This is an almost Orwellian tale that should send a wake-up call to all the DSL ISPs."
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The "Glory" Of Tech Support

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  • > I know that helpdesks are pretty stringent about trying to get the fastest times they can. [snip] > [snip] However, I would > think that they are not quite this strict with helpdesk people. I worked at Stream on the Netscape team from around May of 1995 to April of 1996. Conditions at the beginning were tolerable, & when I left were this bad -- although the training was slightly better than described in this article. And I was perpetually in trouble for long call times -- partly because I never got decent training on Windows 95, partly because I actually tried to solve caller's problems. Calling us ``soldiers" was too kind. Geoff
  • On the other hand, you gotta admit, on those occasions where you can solve the customer's problems, when they send your boss a letter of compliment, or gifts (I have a coffee-mug collection), that often makes it all worthwhile.

    And as for dealing with idiots - I'll admit, I've been fortunate to do support for a software company that writes primarily business software, you talk to a higher-grade of moron than home/desktop software support does: BUT - you do have to learn some skills about sizing up your customer BEFORE you start making assumptions that he knows what electricity is. The tough part is learning NOT to offend the ones that do know their stuff, but it's easily explained when you do screw that up. Most understand.

    The most difficult problems are the ones you are not allowed to solve; the ones that are caused by third-party products, the ones that are caused by your own product, which are obscured by crappy relations with R&D, and the worst ones are problems you KNOW the answer to - problems you told R&D about two years ago, and told them to fix, and they said they fixed it, but in reality, they screwed it up worse by using some lame workaround that was less labor intensive to code or test. Those are the most frustrating for me, and the real reason I hate doing support. Not the irate customers. As a support person, you gotta learn the fine art of making even the most irate customer your friend. It's you and him against the world. It's a psychological game, but it works, and it's really the most honest and satisfying approach.
  • either glue, egg whites, or Knox (unflavored gelatin). Just wanted to clear that up.

    It's man juice BABY! eeew.


    ---
  • I have always been amazed that any employee wouldn't tell their boss to shove it sideways up his ass, wide end first, and walk out the door.

    For many of us it's not that simple. And heaven knows, I've been tempted to do exactly that at my present job. (Twice, in fact--the two cases involved a not-quite-correct bug report, and a known bug that I'd been specifically ordered not to fix.) But the fact of the matter is that I have other people to worry about--like my wife and son. That means that walking out the door without having secured other employment is not an option.

  • I think this kind of stuff can be attributed to ANY inbound call center. If you yourself are at all talented, you quickly realize that you are getting customers who have called others in your call center only to have a terrible experience because your coworkers are by and large average, hence not very good at being excellent.
  • Reminds me of the following from the Hitchhikers Guide:

    'Share and Enjoy' is the company motto of the hugely successful Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Complaints division, which now covers the major land masses of three medium sized planets and is the only part of the Corporation to have shown a consistent profit in recent years.

    'Share and Enjoy' seems easily replaceable with 'How may I provide you with excellent service.'

    --

  • I worked for a company with a contract to provide support to Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) for DSL. I was one of the ones who "burned out". I suppose you could consider me one of the ones who "learned out" perhaps, because I simply quit and got a better job that used more of my skills. The situation at this company was ridiculous.

    We didn't have anything as ominous sounding as "The HotCube" watching over us, just the knowledge that we were being watched and timed for everything tht we did. Our calls were constantly monitered, and our sign-in times were constantly watched.

    At first the job was a good one. I got it to pay the bills over the summer between semesters at school. At the time, it was ideal. I would get about 3 to 4 calls an hour, with time to surf the Net in between. Many of the calls were obnoxious, but you could deal with it. The problem did not come about until Bell Atlantic switched over to Verizon.

    This caused two things to happen contemporaneously: Verizon put out a major marketing push for their DSL, and at the same time there was a strike. So the problem was that all these people were signing up for DSL all at the same time, and there was NO ONE to hook them up or fix any problems. Sure, there were us mooks in the tech support department, but we could only do so much over the phone. With DSL it is almost always either a line problem, a modem problem, a CO (central Office) problem, or an idiot problem. We could only take care of the idiot problems. There were a few calls where I actually got to troubleshoot something, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

    So the strike sucked, but that could be dealt with, and it wasn't too long. It turned out to be the increasing amount of customers that was the real source of the problem. Verizon's network just couldn't handle it, and their support structure was not even half as big as it needed to be. I don't know what sort of equipment they use at Verizon in terms of routers, CO modems, etc., but for whatever reason their stuff goes down more than any other provider. I don't know if I remember a time during that latter part of my stay there where one part of the country or another wasn't down.

    Also, support people should be given the authority to resolve problems - like the billing issues. That was the big problem. Forget the high call volume where there weren't less than 50 people queued up for support in a department of 30 or so (yes, that's fifty, five zero) as a result of constant problems. The real problem is that we couldn't *do* anything. We couldn't even dispatch a tech to the house! We had to submit a ticket to another department that may or may not decide to dispatch the tech. Could we *call* over to that department and talk to them about it? No! Of course not! They were union, and they had their own rules. We couldn't resolve billing problems, we couldn't do line tests, we couldn't do anything.

    I even moved up to the Tier 2 level of support, and we were still just as hogtied. We at least got to get rid of most of the idiot factor, but that led to getting a higher percentage of problems that were just out of scope. I eventually quit without even finding another job because I got so sick of it. Luckily for me, I live around 128 outside of Boston, so that wasn't a problem.

  • dit dit doot dit dit doot doot
    *brrt* *brrt* *brrt*

    Hello, EastBayExpress, how may I direct your call?
    Tech support, please!
    Thank you, let me transfer you.

    ...r call is important to us, please stay on the line... I need you today oooohhh Mandy, you kissed me and stopped me from crying, and I need you today, ooohhh

    EastBayExpress technical support, how may I provide you with excellent service?

    Yer site is down!

    Pardon? Our what site?

    Yer news article about tech support is down!

    Down in which way? Yer web server, news article, about how tech support is hell is down!

    Oh, what makes you so certain it's not functioning normally?

    It was featured on /.!

    /.? What is that?

    A public service for testing server fortitude, and some articles of interest, too.

    Well, we can send a technician out to your site, but probably not for 48 hours, and there will be a $70 fee for checking your line.

    Say, did I get transferred to PacBell?

    Yessss... How did you know?

    A hunch.

    --

  • by fluxrad ( 125130 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @02:01PM (#579822) Homepage
    as an ex AOL and ISP tech-support guru, i can tell you that the reason tech support is usually shitty is because tech support people are either A)treated like shit, or B)don't know their ass from a hole in the ground.

    Back at AOL (am i violating my NDA here?) we used to fuck around all the time to try to ease the boredom of monotonous "i can't sign on" calls. Sometimes i thought it would be amusing to be irish, maybe indian from time to time. (there's nothing like getting called in by a manager you didn't know was listening in, only to be told "nice accent asshole").

    However, most of these people doing tech support are 30 year olds who just can't get a better job. Some are immigrants, some are just slackers. But the only ones who actually know what they're doing (i.e. not reading directly from a big black binder) are the younger ones, and they don't give two shits because they know they should be earning better pay. It wasn't uncommon for those of us who knew our shit to fall asleep on calls or put people on hold to run over and see what our friend was up to. Half of the calls i took, i would forget the problem, come back from chatting 5 minutes later, and tell the customer one of several canned answers i had for that sort of thing. (usually: "you need to delete and reinstall AOL ma'am")

    BTW - when you hear the words "that's a good question, let me put you on hold while i check" - it means your tech is tired and he needs to go grab a smoke while you listen to John Denver's Rocky Mountain High as played by the Norman Smithson banjo Quartet..


    FluX
    After 16 years, MTV has finally completed its deevolution into the shiny things network
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Anyone that stresses the fact that they are "Dr." and not "Mr" has serious self confidence problem and are full of arrogance.
  • Wouldn't everyone in a department made a higher level, remove the people who usually do all the footwork in a department? I mean, the world wouldn't go far if everyone was boss'es and sat on their flat ass? :P
  • Everything you ever read in Dilbert is true, true, true.................

  • That is why I despise working for large corperations. I'm currently working for a local ISP that only offers statewide coverage. The ISP is actually one of the largest in the state and is the largest locally owned ISP. We aren't required to say any silly lines other than how may I help you. If the customer cusses us we are allowed to hang up on them (my favorite part :) ) The president of the company hangs out with us and buys us beer after work/pays for vacations to florida and gives us christmas bonuses... It's one of the best jobs I've had and I can attribute that fact to being simply a small successful company. If you don't like comcast quit, find a small successful company and work there. I worked at compusa for 2 years and had the same crap you had at comcast... a 50 cent pay cut isn't bad when the stress levels go from 100 points to -10 :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    One time when I was doing tech support I happened to hear the guy next to me tell some lady whose hard drive had was failing that she was losing data dur to sun spots. He went on with this story for about 2 minutes and told her that everyone was being affected at that time. It sounded like she was satisfied with the story too.
  • I couldn't disagree more.

    Those of use that are clued are very skilled at technical diagnosis. By the time we pick up that phone, we have already invested copious amounts of time in research. We know problem solving skills and by the time we're on the phone, we already have a good idea where the problem is. We don't need someone to walk us through cablage and TCP/IP; we need a like-minded clued individual who can confirm our logic and replace faulty hardware/fix telco issues/etc.

  • > How is work at Stream?

    Well, as I wrote above, I haven't worked there in over 4 years, but from what I hear over the grapevine is that it's a lot like the workplace described in the article -- although you get two 10 minute personal breaks, instead of two 5 minute ones.

    And I managed to earn major BOFH points once by admitting I encouraged the guy who stole my ex-girlfriend to apply for a job there. (A BOFH **never** settles for just getting even . . .)

    Then again, YMMV. I've heard from a couple of people who felt Stream was a good way to start one's tech career.

    Geoff
  • written by Erika Donald, a staffer at the Pacific Bell Internet Call Center:

    Well as of the publishing of that article, its now Erika Donald, former staffer at the Pac Bell Internet call center. You speak out against big brother and you dissapear.

  • A person who has worked for years to get that title probably has some right to having it used, although this guy did sound like an ass. There are two doctors and a masters in my family, and that little PhD is very important to them, such that it appears on all business correspondence for the simple reason that it generates respect. However, expecting that respect out of someone you are currently yelling at is idiotic.
  • I live in an area of the country where $7 an hour is still a good wage. I make slightly more than that, as does my wife, but, even between us, we barely gross 25K a year.

    We have two cars, but didn't spend $3,000 for BOTH of them. We pay $355 monthly for rent. We can afford a broadband connection because I work for an ISP.

    I have worked in the IT industry for nearly 20 years. I got married young -and I am still married to the same wonderful woman - and we produced two lovely daughters. I have no regrets.

    However, statements such as:

    In almost all of North America, staying with your employer is *optional.* With the exception of some of the more impoverished rural areas, you can get a job within *days* if you get off your ass and get serious about pounding pavement.

    make me angry. They are hurtful, uninformed, and completely wrong.

    I spent a decade in the U.S. Air Force, performing highly technical work, but the skills that I learned were worthless when I re-entered the civilian workforce. I am not stupid, uneducated, or lazy. However, I can't afford to live, or work, anyplace else.

    I'm not asking for pity: I like my job and where I live. There isn't any amount of money that would make living in L.A. worthwhile, and, yes, I spent many years there, so I know of what I write.

    I spent months securing my present job, and I pounded the pavement every day. I don't live in a particularly rural area. There are many jobs here, but very few of them pay well, if "well" translates into more than 25K a year.

    Don't be so arrogant and sure of yourself.
  • All--

    I've been a Speakeasy.Net customer for a few months now, and for everybody who wants an ISP with a "Press 2 If You Have A Clue Button"...all those techs appeared to have went there. It's such a disorientingly wonderful thing to be able to converse about firewall rulesets, buggy ARP tables, and routing infrastructure hiccups with your *front line support* ISP provider.

    They're not particularly expensive either. For $200/mo, they offer you flat rate 1.1/1.1 SDSL that actually works at full speed. They have, of course, plans with more standard pricing, but ya gotta spend your money on something, eh?

    You can always save $10/mo by running a game server. No, I'm not joking.

    Among other nice things, they'll actually talk to you when a spurious port scan spamgram appears to come from your host. I just went through what could have been a nightmare with any other provider--and worked with them to debug that nothing actually happened.

    So, yeah. If you're tired of burnt out powerless cluebies, go hit Speakeasy [speakeasy.net].

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com
  • by Cramer ( 69040 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @02:07PM (#579848) Homepage
    That's DOCTOR EVIL. I didn't spend three years in evil medical school to be called MISTER.

    (I couldn't resist.)
  • by po_boy ( 69692 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @01:21PM (#579849) Homepage
    another mirror.

    No images, just the text, but it works.

    http://dotslash.dynodns.net/00/12/05/165241/cover_ 120100.html [dynodns.net]

  • You forgot one:

    Blame AOL. AOL has been responsible for so many problems in the past that the customer will accept this excuse, even if they have no AOL software on their computer.

  • The last time I checked the rule of thumb was 1 week for every 10k you earn.

    Oh, horsepucky. That's completely untrue for a technical job, even one like tech support. I could quit my job as a software engineer tomorrow and have a new job within a week, not the 2+ months that your silly formula states.

    She quit one job and *chose* to find another. 2-3 interviews A DAY and nearly 3 weeks later she found a job with a 2 hour commute time. Was this in some backwater city? No. Los Angeles.

    And what did this person do for a living? If they chose a career in something "soft," finding a job could be tough. But they CHOSE it; somehow, my heart doesn't bleed.

    And I've driven in LA; a 2 hour commute could be 20-30 miles away.

    -jon

  • I would say that the length of time it takes is about 50% dependent on who you know, and 50% on how desperate companies are for your skills. A person on my Clinic [hmc.edu] project team at Harvey Mudd went for three days of interviews in San Jose after his job that he thought was certain fell through. On the morning of the second day, he was offered a position with a startup, on the spot. The salary negotiation consisted of them asking him to name a figure sufficient for him to cancel the remainder of his interviews and work for them once he left school. He named that figure, the recruiter added some stock options to the offer, and that was that. Now, this is person from a prestigious tech school with a degree in CS, so he's going to be in demand. In any case, by your formula this would have been an 8 week search...

    I chose to spend a lot longer on my search (and could afford to, being in school and all), and it ended up taking in the range of time that you're talking about. However, this was to do real research, fly up for a week of interviews, and do protracted salary negotiations (one of the parties was a government contractor).

    I'd say that this has a lot to do with the skill set of your average tech support callcenter person.

    Walt
  • Poor little techs... with the puppy dog eyes... we wouldn't want them to do their job now would we?!

    Keep in mind that with the amazing leap in the need for tech support people, they take people off the street and give them some basic training and let them loose. Kinda like fast food workers or migrant farm workers.. Except fast food workers don't think that knowing how to use a cash register makes them better than someone who doesn't.
  • I have been working front line tech support for 15 months straight now (worked it for summer jobs before this)..I can not wait to get out.
    At first it wasn't too bad..."yeah sure I get the occasional irrate caller, and get yelled at all the time...but I get to _help_ people" I thought to myself..
    After the past summer I no longer think that way. There were two of us supporting an entire university for four months (summer, but still) right after a major switch in our dial up facilities. We had to support everything under the sun, win 9x, win3.1, macs winNT, win2k,winME, some linux, any app that anyone can find...You'd think that people with PhD's would have at least half a clue...nope.
    I can't even express the pain. I'd have to go 4 hours non-stop on the phone...that is hang up the phone, then have it ring, and have to answer it. THen go for a 2o minute lunch and go at it again for another 4 hours.
    (people who are on hold for more than 20 minutes get quite irate)

    PLease make the pain stop.

  • Years ago, I (not techsupport but network ENGINEERING) got a call from some frantic woman. She was an AOL user... she called the NOC line at Interpath -- which requires a "magic number" to get my phone to ring.

    "This is not AOL, ma'am. There isn't a [censored] thing I can do for you."

    Ahh, the memories... I (and some of us other non-helpdesk peoples) used to sit in the back of the fishtank (helpdesk call center) and heckle helpdesk (and the callers.) [I miss those days.]
  • Ever spend 4 hours poring over your code to realize you typed bra instead of bar?

    Ever spend 4 hours poring over code and suddenly realize youre wearing a bra? I hate it when my roommates play tricks on me

  • It makes me wonder how many people are entering the "computer industry" because of the lure of supposed fortune.

    Amen to that. If I tell anyone that I'm studying computer science, the immediate response is "I hear you can make a lot of money doing that." It makes me batty, especially because the people I see excelling in the degree mostly do computer sceince because they like it, not because they know they'll get paid a lot. (Pay is a nice benefit, however.)

    To anyone who might be reading this: Please, please, please don't go into computer science unless you like it. You'll make yourself miserable and there's a good chance you won't be very good at it.

  • by Glowing Fish ( 155236 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @04:48PM (#579878) Homepage

    You do have a good point...tech support is not that hellaciously difficult of a job, especially when you think about third world children working jobs that ruin their health.

    But on the other hand, if tech support should be so easy for the technicians on the floor, and they shouldn't complain about having to do so much, why does the management and contracters and what not find it so hard to hold up their end of the bargain? I am sure that if most techs were asked, they would say that being lied to by management is worse then the treatment they recieve from customers.

    For example, when I worked tech support, this was the incident that caused me to quit my job: I was in the middle of a call, and my headset begin fading in and out...so I put the customer on hold and grabbed a headset off a desk next to mine. (I didn't have a regular cubicle...most of us didn't. We sat where there was an open seat.)And went back on the call. I finished it off, and then went on to the next call. Of course, the man who was sitting next to me came back and wasn't too happy about me taking his headset. After going through the process of requisitioing a new headset, I asked management what I should have done for a failed headset while on the phone...and I was told I should have put the customer on hold while I went and requistioned a new headset.

    If technical support is so easy, why is it so hard for the management to even give techs the tools they need to do their jobs?

  • That means that walking out the door without having secured other employment is not an option.

    Dude, two words: Long Lunch...

    (My last 3 job interviews were during longish lunch breaks ;)

    Your Working Boy,
  • by bungalow ( 61001 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @01:30PM (#579884)
    The ideal question would be:
    "what seems to be the problem"

    The clueful answer would be:
    "I can ping my IP, can ping DNS, and can ping any $isp server, but I can't ping Microsoft, yahoo, or Google."

    an optimal, but unclueful andswer would be: "th' internet is broke. You need to reboot it."

    Unfortunately, you run the risk of hearing:
    "I started connecting to the internet in December and everything was fine until My nephew Kevin used my computer. He's a Hacker. I could tell because he looked at www.hackers.com. Well, anyway, he changed everything on my computer. It used to be this really pretty blue color, but now it's just black and says lilo:. He gave me instructions, and I follow them. I type in "loosur" as my user name and "diebitchdie"
    as my password. He said its inportant to give out this password to whoever I talk to. Anyway, I used to like Windows 95 but now I don't anymore because now when I load it - he said I could load it by typing startx - it gives me this big, ugly picture of a foot and I really don't like feet that much will you help me get rid of the foot? And also, I hate typing startx every day when I start my computer and can you help me get rid of the user name and password too because well, I can live with looser, but diebitchdie has got to go because its really vulgar and I think he deserves a spanking for using such language and I'm embarassed that I have to say my password is diebitchdie when my computer used to be so friendly. And also, what is a kernel? Also, Why do I have to take cookies when I don't want them and what is a static route? And don't you think he deserves a spanking? and how can I lock hackers like my nephew out of my computer and WHY AM I BEING CHARGED $19.99 A MONTH WHEN I HAVEN"T BEEN CONNECTING FOR 6 WEEKS?"
  • For anyone interested in what the BOFH is, it's the Bastard Operator From Hell. They're stories about a tech support guy who burns his customers at every turn. Here's a site with an archive containing a good 90% of what's written:

    http://members.iinet.net.au/~bofh/

  • Finding a job is never that simple. *NEVER*. The last time I checked the rule of thumb was 1 week for every 10k you earn. So the person in question here would have looked for 2.5 weeks, over one pay period, looking for a job. Then they have to wait one more pay period before they get paid. When I was working for 25k I was living paycheck to paycheck. A 1 month interruption was not acceptable. I doubt it is for this person, either.

    In fact, I had to support my roommate for the month she didn't have a paycheck. She quit one job and *chose* to find another. 2-3 interviews A DAY and nearly 3 weeks later she found a job with a 2 hour commute time. Was this in some backwater city? No. Los Angeles.

    Days? Bull. Weeks? Yes. Even then that is the first available job, not a preferred job. Sure the person you're badmouthing could choose to go get another job and choose to take the first offered once his money runs out and be in the exact same position.

    Get some perspective.

  • wow - you are soo full of BS. I worked at the San Ramon facility (you know, people generally refer to a facility by it's city name, not street address). I had a cut-out of dilbert sitting on my computer monitor and a calendar on the wall. Everybody loved it.

    Now - SBC doesn't like Dilbert, but it's not like they do anything about it (or at least they weren't when i was still there).

    But come on now - what do you expect from a sexist texas based company? SBC has a ranch in texas - staffed entirely by large-breasted women. And they like to tell women executive of companies they've swallowed who wear $5000 chanel pant-suits "Here in Texas our women wear dresses"

    Of course - those women usually quit right then. Can you blame them.

    PS: So does saying this mean PacBell won't hire me back when i go back to CA?

    PPS: Call me crazy - but the death star reference is about AT&T. PacBell's headquarter are sweet. Nicest place I've ever worked. Hell, they got fined by the PUC for building a place too nice. A lot of high school drive 2 hours to use the facility for their senior prom.
  • by evilned ( 146392 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @08:22PM (#579897) Homepage
    I used to do tech support for a certain sound card manufacturer (hint: they liked to sue aureal alot). Now while they weren't anywhere near as draconian as pac bell sounds, there were certainly several situation that made me extremely angry about the company in general. I worked in email support, and as a result had some autonomy. We were expected to experiment with our hardware, to understand whats going on. Well, a new set of NT drivers are release. So we test it out on our NT machines. Install, watch BSOD appear. It wont even boot now. We try with several other machines, same thing. We run over to test lab to show them, and they have no idea whats causing it. In fact they never figured it out. Instead, they pull the drivers, and leave me to explain to all the NT customers that we cant help them unless they have their emergency repair disks. The company also had a tuition reimbursement program, however getting HR to get you on the program. After 2 years of working for $7.00 an hour on the hope that I could get them to pay for some of my computer science classes, I burned out. False benefits, and poorly tested products are no way to keep competent tech support.
  • I needed to hear that I'm not alone. I spent some 15 months at a large ISP. And you hit that feeling I used to get dead streight on.

    It's not just the idiot customers. After time the idiot customers are more of a comic relief then anything else. It's when the customers are screaming at you, your powerless to do anything about it, and they are having problems because somebody up the ladder makes it impossible for you to fix it.

    After I was there a few months, we were told flat out: Your job is not tech support; your job is customer service. Your job is the make the customer happy, not fix his problem. Then later, 'We get 2,000 resumes a week from people begging to do your job. If you don't think your replaceable, think again'.

    The way call centers are run is so old fashioned and innefficent, it's a wonder customers ultimatly put up with them. You have a tech, who can do nothing but try to help and talk nice. You have the supervisor, who is being yelled at by the floor manager to shorten his/her 'teams' call time, then you have that guys boss yelling at the floor manager... and so on up the line.

    And the insulting thing, which every employee sees through is how they deal with discontented workers. They tell us about all the ways they are making it really a great place to work.

    Examples:
    We have great health care--to a staff with an average age of 22.

    "The president's of the companys office is right over there. He keeps an open door policy, so if you ever want to talk to him, go ahead and do it. . .however, don't actually do that, talk to me first (actually said to me)".

    "We are offering free training for MCSEs and other items you can do during your work time, as long as it doesn't interfere with your calls"--meaning never.

    In the meantime, every second of every day is logged on the clock. The rows and rows of cubicals are patrolled with armed guards (for our own security... they tell us).

    So, why don't you just quit? Now that I'm no longer working there, I wonder about that. And I realize, it's because that call center, and presumably most of them out there foster such an envrionment that really, really dehumanizes their workers in such a way that they just can't. After a few months of taking abuse from callers and your employers, with no advocates, no place to vent except to your equally disinchanted co-workers, you just don't have enough self worth to go out there and get another job.

    (On a side note, shortly after leaving that ISP, joy returned to my life. To all of those still drudging away... quit now, you have so much to live for).
  • That's what I had four years ago when I took BASIC in high school. QBASIC, actually. The woman was a librarian and drama coach, not a bloody computer instructor. I ran around helping out people, hardly able to get my own work done, trying to get 15 incompetent 15-year-olds to figure out that

    REM this program sucks

    and

    REM ***This Program Sucks***
    are REALLY NOT DIFFERENT. The woman gave me a C in the class because I "didn't put forth enough effort".

    Geeze. I like my C++ prof now that I'm in college. The man knows his stuff. He used to work for DEC; he's programmed his way in and out of just about every program that's out there, and he lets people telnet/ssh to linux boxen and use gcc because he really detests the Microsoft Visual C++ that the college has put into standard usage. Dr. Kruse, if you're reading this, cheers! :)

    Anyway, back to reality.

  • No, not the time I was on hold. That's how long it took East Bay Online to get slashdotted. I wonder if the webmaster think's they're seeing a DoS attack?

    __________________

  • This is an almost Orwellian tale that should send a wake-up call to all the DSL
    ISPs.


    Yeah, and that wake-up call will say: All call center employees must sign strict NDAs that forbid them from discussing what goes on at work.

    If anyone in authority sees this, the thing they'll be most concerned about is revealing that everyone's a supervisor. They're just trying to cover their own asses; they can't save anyone else, even if they wanted to.

    -jon
  • It's easy to find a job if you have the magic resume: 3-5 years experience in exactly what's hot on the market (like Java Software Engineers).

    This is true of tech support too -- if you have some experience in tech support, you can easily find another job doing tech support. But what's the point of that? You haven't gained anything by changing jobs if you've changed into something similarly bad. If you want to get a better job than the job you had, you'll have a hard time, because you won't have experience and people won't pay attention to you or give you a chance.

    Finding a good job, a better job than the one you have, is still hard. If you have any ambition, you'll have to struggle to get the job that helps you in that ambition.

    And recruiters filling up your answering machine means nothing -- recruiters are full of shit. They try to bring lots of people into their pool of potential employees, then skim a few people with the right resumes that employers are having a hard time finding. Half the time I don't even think the jobs they advertise exist.

  • by zencode ( 234108 )
    I worked for RCN in the Springfield, Massachusetts callcenter less than a year ago and ...the article is *stunningly* accurate.

    When it was still Javanet, we would provision accounts with a wonderfully stripped down program (whose name escapes me), invested something like 100 mil in a new system which didn't work. This had us resorting to paper applications for both account creation and cancelation. They'd frequently get shuffled or lost, resulting in people cancelling but still getting billed. The customer would call back and ask why they were still getting charged, the tech would tell them a credit would be issued and send them on their way. The customer would call back three months later and ask why they're still getting billed. The reply we were instructed to give? "Sorry, we have no record of you calling, you're stuck with the $19.99 x n weeks bill, have a nice day."

    The founder of Javanet quit not too long after RCN made a screaming wreck out of his company's name.

    Yes, there were a few individuals who took some perverse pleasure in sticking it to the customers (think "Clerks"), but the vast majority didn't. one quit, simply telling a boss that he was sick of lying to people. We received an email saying "you shouldn't lie to customers." It was darkly comical.

    Then you have your assorted thugs, the only type of people who can truly rise to management in close proximity of this bullshit. We had one guy - John Boynton - who everyone alternately feared (because he truly loved screaming at people like a 4-year-old) and felt sorry for (because he so desparately needed to be sodomized). Still does from what I hear. Scream, not get sodomized, that is. What can you say about a guy who irons his underwear?

    Finally, we once recieved gift boxes - all of us - with some sort of appreciation gift inside. Turned out to be a styofoam oversized puzzle piece with the words "you're part of the solution" (or something) on a laminated side. One intrepid individual boxed them all up, sent them back to corporate with a letter asking for a working mailserver instead. Oh, and the pieces didn't fit. We thought that was foreboding.

    But I doubt there is a large contingent of Slashdot readers that often calls tech support. If you're one of them, realize that those in power are quite well insulated from you. The best thing you can do if you're getting fucked by one of these mindless corporations (don't you just love RCN's WWII advertising chic?) is to buy a single stock and then you have the right as a stockholder to include your experience in their offical meeting notes. Of course it's not entirely nessesary to go through that hassle, but finding out the name of the third or fifth person from the top (as opposed to the bottom) and letting them know your intent doe makes a big difference.

    My .02,

  • "...are a convenient solution for companies who don't want to talk with their customers anymore."

    Quote from an article in a German magazine about American service.

    The main argument of that article's author was that while Americans pride themselves for their corporate culture of total customer service, the reality is often worse than in Europe, the place that Americans love to joke about in reference to bad service. The author also joked about the sales-droids who are ordered to say "Hi, my name is Suzy, how may I help you", smiling, yet leave no doubt that they really think "please, go away, don't ask any questions".

    ------------------
  • I come from a long line of underacheivers. Most of the people in my family have worked their asses off at minimum wage jobs where they could be easily replaced, with management who didn't like them, doing jobs that were aging their bodies twice as fast as nature would. Think "meat plant" "roofing" "line manufacturing".
    That stuff sucks ass, I even did some of it when I was a teenager. I had a job in a bacon factory where I took big slabs of back from a rack and threw it into a machine. I then pressed 2 levers on the machine to make it compress the meat. It was 30 degrees in the factory and constantly wet. The bellies weighed between 30 to 50 lbs and I had to maintin a high rate of speed because I supplied 2 production lines. There were no unscheduled breaks, if I left my position then that means 2 lines of people (around 20 or so total) would be standing around waiting on me. Now -that- job sucked. Tech support isn't roses, but it is a far cry from "The worst job.". Yes, I do tech support now. I have a frame of reference.
    The people in my family are thrilled that I get paid to sit behind a computer screen and talk to people on the phone. Beats the shit out of packing meat.

  • The work environment described reminds me less of Orwell's world and more of Victorian England as described by Charles Dickens. Work conditions are extremely harsh, and everyone is treated as, and expected to work like, an automaton. The squeaky wheel doesn't get greased, it gets replaced. The only sense of loyalty breeds from fear.

    There's got to be a better way for out-sourced support firms to draw up their contracts; an economic formula to foster problem solving rather than call churn.

    Schwab

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:27PM (#579938)
    James, who sits down the hall and runs the whole East Bay Express website on his iPAQ.
  • I wish my high school had a decent computer programming class at all when I was there. The year I took it was the last year that it was taught in Pascal (the AP was just about to switch over) and it was horrible. I consider myself fairly "hardcore" when it comes to computers (i.e. I find most things about computers interesting, even though most other people consider it quite boring), but if I hadn't already learned how to program elsewhere, I think I would have learned to hate programming.

    The teacher was totally incompetent. She was a math teacher who had taken the equivalent course at the community college (failed it the first time) and the next course. Somewhere in there, the idea of compiling multiple source files into a single executable had totally passed her by, among other things.

    But, yes, I agree that people really need to take a course in programming early to find out if they want to go into CS.

  • Once there was $19.95 for unlimited access, everything else went into the crapper. All of the US (people outside the US, please comment) wants price, price, price. They never figure customer service or support into the equation.

    Want cheap health insurance? Fine, you get to deal with those friendly HMO's.

    Want a cheap airline ticket? Risk getting bumped (or better yet, some of the lovely routes produced by Priceline)

    Want cheap internet access? Don't count on having tech support.

    It doesn't even seem to be an option to get good tech support. At home, I'll be cheap, but I'd pay an extra 10% at work for tech support from someone who knows more than I do. (FWIW, fsck internetconnect. There NOC is staffed by the most clueless morons in the biz. Where else will you be told that log files cannot be changed or manipulated?)

  • Sturgeon's Law applies to people.

    Which is why those of us who are not completely without a clue have to spend such an interminable time wading through this crap to get to talk to someone who knows more than the windows menu sequence by rote.

    Please, Please, Please -- there has got to be some way to determine if the person calling you is not your avreage 'where is the "any" key' idiot and quickly get them talk to somebody who understands them -- I swear, when US West fubared our DSL I must have talked to a dozen different 'script followers' before getting to Mr. Clue who fixed the problem in a minute.

  • on the "authority front" - a common failing, where MY company fails, is when a customer is having a licensing issue, or when an upgrade fixes a problem, but it's not a free upgrade, the tech can't give the customer a license number. They invariably have to pass it on to sales, through a not very well established channel. So customers often get lost in the hand-off, and hassled about not paying for the upgrade, so it gets bounced back, and we have to get a support manager to sign off. Mucho suckage. In my opinion, people who hit bugs that are fixed in a paid upgrade should get the upgrade free. Period. That's the price the software company pays for bundling bug fixes with features. If it's a deal where it's a major upgrade, and the customer is several versions behind, THEN maybe pull teeth. but otherwise, techs should be allowed to do their jobs. Fix customer's problems. It's not like huge percentage of your install base is going to get free upgrades. If they do, then that bug fix should have been split-out as a separate free patch. What's worth more? The lost revenue from the upgrades, or the cost of assigning a developer to split out bugfixes?
  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:31PM (#579953) Journal

    Much of that is how I imagined it would be, although it is much different to the call centre I sit near (we mix IT with non-IT types).

    The "Hotcube" is made to sound very Big Brotheresque, and it may well be that way. I don't like that things are run that way, although I can understand the need to pro-actively manage call centre staff (don't tell the guys I work near that I said that though! :)

    More worrying is their "health break" - law in the UK (Health and Safety in the workplace) says that people using CRTs (probably extended to any monitor by now) must be allowed to take a ten minute break every hour - which is four times as much as given to the guys at PacBell. I mean, I've probably averaged 12 hours a day every day of my life for the last 9 years using a CPU, and I take a break more than 5 minutes every 2 hours to rest my eyes - and I'm used to it and I get a lot of flexibility about posture, etc.

    How did companies manage before call centres were commonplace? Did you have to write in and wait weeks for issues to be resolved?

    All in all, it's a shitty job - I'm glad I have a job that lets me be flexible in my approach to the working day, that I don't scurry towards the door to get away from after 8 hours, that doesn't fill me with dread each morning, and that I actually enjoy.

    ~Cederic
  • I did read the article, and I was specifically complaining about the stupid assertion that it takes 1 week for every $10,000 of salary. Clearly this is untrue.

    Furthermore, jobs for people in tech support in the 707 and 415 area codes (San Francisco and points North in California) are abundant. Try this URL from DICE:

    http://jobsearch.dice.com/jobsearch/jobresults.cgi ?sr=1&hp=10&cf=0a.3c117840&brief=0&banner=1

    195 hits. One search engine, a few seconds. Enjoy.

    -jon

  • Bah; bad web site; didn't like the URL. Go to:

    http://www.dice.com/jobsearch/metro/siliconvalley. html

    Type in "tech support" into the search box, and select 707 and 415 for area codes. You'll get over 190 hits.

    -jon

  • by Vladinator ( 29743 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:32PM (#579964) Homepage Journal
    No doubt! I worked at another SBC call center, at One Bell Center in St. Louis. We used to get calls from PacBell people ALL THE TIME. Some of them were terribly cluless. I remember one induhvidule who called me frantic, "My screen went all blue, and it says it's beginning a physical memory dump!"
    "Okay ma'am, could you look behind the system and tell me if it physically ejected any chips?"
    "Okay, hold on - let me check!"

    No joke. This actually happened. For real.

    The other issue is NEVER and I mean NEVER mention Scott Adam's name to anyone at the Camino Ramon facility. This building is second in size only to the Pentagon, and Scott used to work there. We call it the "Death Star" for obvious reasons. Word on the street is that some people there tried to sue Scott because the dilbert characters were too much like them in real life! Yikes! Who's actually admit to that???

    Fawking Trolls! [slashdot.org]
  • Since we are on the subject, check the Original Series [ntk.net]
  • First off, I've been in Tech Support for 4 years now (with a university and now a start up). I'm a little burned out on it, but I've been lucky in that my bosses have always been suportive and the Help Desks I've worked at have been successful.

    I've also used PacBell DSL for a year. Last month I moved to a new city and had PacBell come out to install the DSL. THe guy who came was great (as was the guy who installed the 1st time). He installed the hardware and software and checked to make sure everything worked and then left.

    1 hour later, the lights on the DSL modem go out and I've lost connection. I do all the right things to try and reconnect, but no dice - this modem is dead. What starts from there is 5.5 hours of telephone hell. I don't blame the dsl techs themselves, rather, I blame PacBell. I talked to 7 different people, non of whom knew how to get someone out to replace the box.

    Finally, after asking to speak with a supervisor and being on hold with him for over an hour (while he is on hold with someone else who eventually helped him), he gives what I want - the number of person who schedules visits.

    I call this person, and the same guy come back to my house, confirms the box is dead, replaces it and is gone is 10 minutes.

    The moral of this is that the people of Pac Bell tech support are, for the most part, very nice and helpful, but they don't have the tools to do their job. But the company itself has no clue. No way should I have to talk to 7 people and wait over 5 hours to get this service.

    The supervisor I talked to was actually the 2nd that day. The first one hung up on me casue I didn't return his hello" fast enough. I would have killed that guy at the moment if I could have. Hell, I still want to. I spent (at that time) 4 hours of hold, this guy gives me 5 seconds to say "hello", and then hangs up (I had my cell phone to my other ear trying to explain to my boss why the dsl was taking longer than expected).

    My feeling is that Pac Bell DSL rocks when it works, but that it's not worth they hassle the few times it doesn't. It's too bad, cause I've always felt their telephone support was top notch.

    Oh, and the last time the install guy comes to my house, he gives me his pager number. I hope he stays with PacBell for a *long* time.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    That's what my union when I was working in the UK, the MSF (Manufacturing, Science and Finance) called call centres. BTW. they're not just talking about IT helplines. (The 'dark satanic mills' bit is from William Blake's poem Jerusalem, which was talking about the factories of the Industrial Revolution)

    The article was a fairly decent description, but (like the article in the MSF newsletter) it leaves out a crucial part of the picture: how do people overcome the tactics of division and discipline in these places?

    The intensification of work in call centres is part of a long and dishonourable tradition. In Henry Ford's factories, for instance, the imposition of the assembly line (designed to regulate the pace of work of the workforce) was combined with barracks style accomodation for workers, and a rule which forbade conversation while on the line.

    A feature of factory work in the 1950s and 1960s was the struggle over intensity of work - an example of such a struggle can be found in 'Counter Planning on the Shopfloor' [geocities.com] by Bill Watson. 'Autonomists' have examined these struggles, not just as a study in being disgruntled, but as examples of a way beyond control, domination, and the endless imposition of work.

    In contrast to unions, who want 'more humane' working conditions in this shitholes, some 'autonomists' (like the people from Undercurrent [snpc.co.uk] in Brighton, UK) have been examining how the 'refusal of work' operates in 'call centres'.

    As Watson's essay shows, the 'refusal of work' is a collective process, a process of people covering for each other and building an alternative way of operating. It also gives those of us who are call centre users as handle on the process - it poses the challenge of how to link our own struggle against the imposition of work (a process which is hardly critiqued, and often embraced by IT workers) with theirs. In a sense, the origins of the open source movement - in programmers who would rather use code they create and control, and who would rather spend time coding a creative solution (an activity considering 'innefficient' by management) - are an aspect of the 'refusal of work' in IT.

    Lets not pretend that call centres are an exception here - a minor 'blemish' whose inhabitants are too stupid or too different from us non-call centre types in some way. They're just the 'best of breed' example of how to impose work on IT workers.

    Fuck that! Never work! Monkey-wrench your network today! :)

  • I do work at the university..I spend half the time on the phone, and half the time just outside a large lab that is always full.
  • Kind of reminds me of being a teacher.

    Oh yes, but there they don't fire you, they just keep you at low pay unless you're a good teacher, in which case they'll fast-track you to administration.

    Kevin Fox
  • Uh huh. He and I did tech support -- his cube was adjacent to mine (and vice versa). I found a different job and he left the company (in opposite order), and we haven't really kept in touch since then.

    --

  • If this job sucks so bad, get another one... it's not like there aren't tons of them out there

    people have the right to decent work environment - the answer is not 'move along'! People need to demand to be treated better - and form Unions to defend themselves against bosses who dont give a damn about anything except $$$. The article makes my stomach turn - those people need a Union like ive never heard before.

  • No it won't...it'll say:

    "All wake up calls are busy...your call will be answered in the order received."

  • by Jafa ( 75430 ) <jafa&markantes,com> on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:35PM (#579979) Homepage
    Anyone who ever has to do with users should take a read through:
    http://techtales.com/

    Funny as hell, and you can submit your own stories.

    Have fun,
    Jason
  • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:37PM (#579982) Homepage
    Here's a mirror [thecomputerbox.com] of the text.. formatted a little better. *grin*
  • I can agree with the "hiring losers" part. I worked at a small ISP (600-700 customers) from 10th grade to this past summer, and I suppose I was good, because they didn't fire me at any point. Here recently, I had an @home cable modem installed (the other provider sucked, no flames ;) at my house. The techs were great at doing what they were trained to do...they got up on the cable line, ran cable to my house, through my wall, set up my computer, and all.

    Then it didn't work.

    When I started to load up simple programs such as winipcfg and did a couple pings, not only were they "amazed" at "dis kid's typuhn" (50-60 wpm), but asked what I was doing. After a couple minutes, I had the problem fixed (a computer on the HUB didn't like the cable modem) by tweaking some drivers...something they were boggled by.

    It makes me wonder how many people are entering the "computer industry" because of the lure of supposed fortune.
  • DecisionOne?

    Been there, done that. I worked for D1 in the mid-90s.

    God, what a pesthole. It's a body-shop, pure and simple. Get 'em in, chew 'em up, spit 'em out.

    I lasted almost a year, IIRC. The scripts were useless, the information out of date, and there's nothing finer then listening to people scream at you all day long for stuff that's way, way out of your control.

    Redhawk

  • ... serving a company, rather than a call centre. It was my first real job, and overall was no problem whatsoever. I sat in help desk in a manufacturing plant in my hometown, helping users with whatever problems they had. I also did some low-skills IT work (setting up workstations, replacing toner, etc).

    There were about four of us serving over 400 employees, but we got to know the employees and knew what level of experience each had. There was no push to get them off the phone and answer the next call. Instead, the push was to fix the problem and get them productive again. Plus, it felt really great to get a thanks from them in person when you ran into them in the lunch room.

    Over time, as I was exposed to more of the network, servers, etc, my duties expanded to use these new skills as well. I was also greatful for the wide range of questions asked, keeping me learning and interested. It was everything from "I can't close this window" to "I need something which will scan these two columns for numbers which are in one, but not the other". If you ask me, this is a much better way to build skills, and apparently a much better work environment.

    Caveat - there will be many fewer positions, of course. However, with some call centre experience, I'd say that this type of position would be the next logical step up.
  • A gentleman remembers to use someone else's title. A gentleman also overlooks it when someone else forgets to use theirs.
  • You hit it right on there. I did tech support one summer while I was in college. Being a college student I had been to more school than most of the managers and from what I hear I was at a pretty damn good place. The only college graduates in the place worked on the Canadian contracts, but they weren't IT grads they were French majors.
    _____________
  • There's a better life after tech support. Let me tell you about my experience.

    When I interviewed for a programmer position at Microport Systems [mport.com] (then the vendor of SystemV/AT, Unix for the 286), I was asked by company president Chuck Hickey what was the best way to implement strcpy.

    Well, even though I had been a manager (really a team leader) of a bunch of student programmers who wrote a Common LISP interpreter on the 8086 running DOS, it had been a few months and, well, I forgot.

    Ol Chuck said "this is the kind of question that separates the men from the boys" and then he let me know I wasn't one of the men.

    So I got tech support.

    At least it was unix system administration tech support, and I got to learn a lot of stuff while I was there, and the engineers were friendly and helpful.

    But there was some crazy shit like advertising new version numbers to match The Santa Cruz Operation's [sco.com] Xenix version number so we could compete (shades of Slackware anyone?) and then not telling the techs, so we all told the customers for a while that it must be a printing error, there was no such version.

    And then there was the full page ad that said we'd have Berkeley Job Control in some upcoming version, and the customers all started calling and saying "Control-Z doesn't work, where's the job control?" and I'd ask the engineers, and the engineers said we had no intention of ever getting job control. When I told this to our marketing guy, he just said "Oh, OK", and took it out of the future ads.

    What really killed me was the guy who staked his whole company on the FORTRAN compiler in our product. We had one, but it was buggy. After he'd delivered product to customers, it turned out it wasn't working right. Engineering kept promising they'd build a new one from source. But they were busy and never got around to it. So finally this guy told me he didn't hold it against me personally, but he was going out of business because he'd chosen to use Microport for his solution.

    Well, I quit and went back to school again. But I was never very happy with school and eventually I got a programming and sysadmin job, a pretty low-level one where I'd take a whole month to write a 300 line image processing program. But I struggled, and eventually I did better for myself.

    Now I have my own incorporated consulting business [goingware.com]. Have a look at my resume too [goingware.com] and scroll all the way down to where you see Microport and then look at all the stuff above it.

    If you're working on tech support there's a few things I want you to do:

    While you're with the company, use every opportunity you can to learn new skills, knowledge of new technologies, applications and operating systems.

    On nights and weekends, study programming languages, or at least study system and network administration.

    If you're going to do tech support for a while, then job-hop. You'll pick up a wide variety of skills at your different employers, even if it all has to be tech support.

    And most of all, don't stay in tech support. It's a miserable existence. But it can be a good start on a much better career.


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • Here's why this situation needs
    • a union
    • tighter government controls

    Cheaper suppliers will undercut _good_ suppliers- and put them out of business!. It's that simple- straight capitalism uncut- and the person who compared it to Dickens was right on the money. It's such a curious notion when people start to whine, "no-one is holding a gun to your head" (who are they defending, exactly?). Clue time, brainiac- what people are saying in this thread is that they are ALL that way. And that's disconcerting, though hardly unexpected.

    The logical solution is of course to outsource all the work to South America or India or Vietnam or just anywhere really- doesn't matter if they don't speak English once the allowed time drops under a few seconds. You can hang up a phone in any language. Because it will be impossible to compete with this if you have to spend money on _real_ techs the good companies will die off, and we can have a world in which nothing works- but by God is it free! Everything will go straight to the cheapest possible provider regardless of concepts like consumer protection (read: commie socialist union people), and the world can have an economy that is hugely impressive so long as you are OK with all the labor coming from uneducated children in sweatshops- or lower-income Americans subjected to workplace conditions just one stage removed from sweatshops. If they don't like it they can damned well move to Guatemala- the job is!

    In all seriousness- haven't we learned _anything_? Must society continually race for the gutter? The person who invented the corporation has a lot to answer for- but the social dynamic in question is far older. We are effectively looking at a slave class being formed- let's not be so sure that the other jobs are by definition OK. How long until Wal Mart shelf stockers etc. are forced to wear electronic tracker bracelets, _their_ every second counted as well?

    I think that in some places, if you treated a dog the way these employees are treated, the dog would be taken away from you and you'd be fined for animal abuse. I don't see how the human 'glorious right to choose' is significantly different from that of a dog. It's a lot of mystical bullsh*t made up to serve the needs of the wielders of the whip (real, abstract, economic or psychological). There are strong parallels between the underlying psychological aspects of this story, and the psychological aspects of brainwashing or 'breaking' prisoners of war- except that this tech support stuff is ubitiquous.

    Maybe they should outlaw tech support. Think about it :)

  • it is true, all true

    I couldn't improve on it if I tried....

    really

  • I know that helpdesks are pretty stringent about trying to get the fastest times they can. I develop applications with some software that is used primarily with helpdesks (Remedy.) However, I would think that they are not quite this strict with helpdesk people. It is a stark contrast to my job: I am highly paid, there is so much beaurocracy I can barely do work, I play a lot of ping pong and pool in the game room, I work on Solaris and perl scripting on my sparcstation at my desk, read slashdot, and when a new request comes for me to fix a bug, I get it in 15 minutes or so, then it has to wait a month to be tested and put into production. Only when I work on new projects, which can sometimes take a couple months, give me something interesting to do. I know the helpdesks have a high turnover rate, but I would have expected at least a little bit of concern about the quality of their work and support. The same managers that tell these people to keep their call times down are the same ones that come to me and look for ways to better track problems and how they were solved with the phone support. Is the industry that screwed up that everyone is basically doing useless work? Also, why do these people have their time scrutinized down to the minutes, when I can come and go as I please, and go play ping pong with my manager? I bet these helpdesk people think that something stinks in Shitsville...and their management is the mayor.
  • A quick traceroute confirms my suspicions, their router isn't routing to the backbone link. Ok, no problem, call tech support. I then spend about 15 minutes with a COMPLETE idiot trying to "troubleshoot" my problem. I finally hung up after she suggested that I should install dialup networking. I don't know where she got the idea that would help.

    Wow. This sounds painfully familiar. I had a problem with my email server that certail random emails would freeze the pop3 connections in the middle of transfering the email. It would show this when I telneted to the pop3 port and manually grabbed the 1.5k mail. It would do this from my University account, my home machine, any machine in the world. And I simply could not get the tech support person to focus past "did you try to re-install Netscape?" (this was the solution they thought would help).

    Eventually the problem seemed to go away on its own, but it left me with the feeling that if I ever have another problem with my Pacbell account, I'll probably be on my own.

  • Finding a job is never that simple. *NEVER*. The last time I checked the rule of thumb was 1 week for every 10k you earn. So the person in question here would have looked for 2.5 weeks, over one pay period, looking for a job. Then they have to wait one more pay period before they get paid. When I was working for 25k I was living paycheck to paycheck. A 1 month interruption was not acceptable. I doubt it is for this person, either.



    Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong...
    It depends on where you're located, who you know and what you know. If what you know is what they need it's even better.

    My second job (4 years ago, during the begining of the whole Y2K craze), had yearly performance reviews. I rated 2nd department-wide, and was offered 4% raise. I politely told them to shove it up sideways, handed over my resignation, picked up my nerf gun and 1US Gal. coffee mug on the way out, crossed the street, and 20 minutes later signed a contract. 2 weeks later, got a first paycheck. (no pay interuption. you got to know when to quit.)


    Most of the time, I'll quit upon signing up for a new job. I always sign at "my" condition (min. 3 weeks vacation, 2 weeks training, healthcare insurances, and any freebie they throw at regular employees.).

    I get a load of job offers every week, and at least 2 solid leads monthly.
    I'm not a genius, I dont program and I wont do windows. I'm just a run-of-the-mill sysadmin with a knack for setting up call centers.

    The longest unemployed period I had was a saturday-sunday pair 2 years ago. Quit on friday, start on monday. It's the IS business. You shake a tree, and jobs fall off.

  • This is true and a half. I actually had to take days off because my interviews required more than four hours of travel each way, but I also found my current job while still working at my old one. It took me, start to finish, two weeks in my spare time and two days off work. I was looking in a fairly specific field, and had fairly unreasonable salary demands of California-based companies, so it's not like I had a wealth of options from which to choose. Still, as soon as I put my resume on the internet about half a dozen companies came looking for me (not counting random headhunters and contract opportunities I didn't want), and I ended up getting a 20% or so pay increase to change jobs. That's modest, certainly not great, but I got the environment I wanted and the type of people I wanted, so I'm quite happy. It's not difficult if you have any real skills or even if you're just a good interview.

    Here's the distilled wisdom I've gained from my two job-hunting experiences (as if anyone in the world cared). . .

    • Look people in the eye (though not obsessively so), speak in complete sentences, and remember to say "please" and "thank you."
    • More than half the time the on-site interview is really only to decide whether you'll get along with their gang, so don't sweat technical matters unless they ask. If they do ask technical questions, be honest about what you don't know; it goes over better, and moreover, anybody who thinks that reference material is for wusses is not somebody for whom you want to be working.
    • A sense of humor can take you a long way in any interview, but only if you have one.
    • Don't look for a new job unless you're willing to relocate or live someplace where you probably won't have to do so.
    • Be honest about your goals and salary expectations in the phone interview, so you won't waste a day off on a useless on-site interview.
    • If you don't get an offer or a promise of one at the on-site, you didn't get the job.
    Finally, don't be afraid to blow a little of whatever nest-egg you've managed to build on a nice vacation between jobs. If you live in the USA, taking six weeks off is only practical when you're self-employed or unemployed, so go ahead and take advantage if you can. It's said that life is uncertain, so one should eat dessert first. This is doubly true of time off work, IMHO. Good luck with your search!
  • Heh, I'm a contractor working for the largest bank in America. I was pretty amazed that, when I interviewed, I was talking to a Vice President. That was until I actually took a job there and found out that in order to be paid what a modern tech worker makes, they have to be at the VP or at least Assistant Vice President level. Out of the 60k workers in this city, roughly half are at the AVP level or above. It's insane.
  • I mean, dealing with the numbers they do.. that's the thing.

    The mojority of customers are happy as long as tehy don't have to sit on hold. If they get a person right away, but are told 'sorry, we don't know', that's acceptable.

    It's the minority that get pissed at idiots.
  • I am going through many of the same sorts of troubles with @home. If you would be willing to help out with getting through their policies so that they could service my connect by answering some of my questions, I would hold thisfavour in the highest regard.

    Please reply to my E-Mail address if this is so. I would have mailed yours, but I did nothing much but smirk when I saw what it was.


  • You are the exact type of person I am talking about. You know why I was able to keep my call times down? Because I was doing support and nothing more. I was down to business. If someone ranted to me, I would tell them I'm not there to listen to their rant, but to fix their problem. You know what? 99% of the people I talked to appreciated that and stopped and we got their problem fixed. It is not a shit job, it is one of the easiest jobs in the world. Go to some African country and watch the jobs that most of the younger people have and tell me that it's still shit. The reason why it's a shit job for you is because you are a wus. That's the bottom line -- it's work, it's not supposed to be fun. Unfortunately the massive amount of pansies in tech support caused a insurgence of bad management to control the pansies as well as the disgruntled attitude customers get. If you pansies never went into tech support, then customers would feel a lot better about calling and wouldn't yell.

    If it is a real problem, and you can reproduce it - that is what callbacks are for. Don't keep a person on the line just so you can tell them you don't know. If I was your lead I would have fired your ass for having a customer on the line and you not knowing the solution.

  • by Xerithane ( 13482 ) <xerithane@@@nerdfarm...org> on Wednesday December 06, 2000 @07:44AM (#580017) Homepage Journal
    Out of my hours on hold with Pac Bell DSL support I can tell you that each and everyone of their support personnel are grossly unqualified to do their job.

    I know what the problem is, yet they dont even understand when I tell them what the routing problem is. It's not like it's a hard problem.. Most of these people dont even understand what a router is, I know this because I was told that "Windows is a great router!" the other day, and then the same lady asked, "How does your Eww-nucks" (funniest mispronounciation) work for you?

    Case in point, most tech support people are stupid because they think it's an easy job. The good people have to pick up the flack from the idiots, and also the irate customers who just had to deal with one of the idiot support people.

    The same tech support building I worked at also had Apple tech support (about 400 people in that center) - if the queue times reached over 1 hour most of the people would wait for 3 minutes of silence (if the customer didn't hang up) then release. Because it "cleared the queue" -- those who stayed on the lines had to deal with people yelling about being cut off an hour ago.

  • Well, yes and no. At the time everyone was pushing the 19.95 mark an ISP was lucky to get 3 bucks of profit out of the account. If someonw used more than 15 minutes of Tech support time a month you've lost money.

    But times have changed. T1 prices are down. Now you can make about $10/account at $19 bucks. I can't think of a good excuse for poor tech support at the $19 price point anymore.
  • Morale booster? You want morale boosting?

    My first job after high school was a minimum wage job pumping gas at a full service Shell gas station and car wash.

    Average employee turnover was about a week. I stayed for six weeks, so it didn't take long to get seniority.

    My manager said "Anybody gives you any trouble, you send them to me." so that's what I did.

    And what would he do? He shook his fist at them and told them to get the fuck off his gas station or he'd pummel them.

    Took care of irate customers pretty quick. We were grossing $20,000 per day, so losing a $10/day customer wasn't a big deal compared to losing a trained - and, more important - competent employee who'd already lasted longer than a week.

    Now that's morale boosting!

    And I didn't quit because of the low pay or working conditions or anything. I told the manager I had to leave to study astronomy at CalTech [caltech.edu]. He suggested he put me back on swing shift and I could bring my telescope to the gas lot (which was in the middle of the city!)

    I explained this wasn't really how one did professional astronomy these days... at CalTech I ended up getting to observe with the 60" and 200" telescopes at Palomar Mountain.


    Michael D. Crawford
    GoingWare Inc

  • While I'll admit school is rough, the guy you just flamed is probably busting his ass MORE trying to support a family and better himself. There are those out there who can't for whatever reasons pick up and just go to school for 6 years.

    To be fair, he did flame me first, and for no good reason. All I did is point out that the original poster's salary/unemployment formula was foolish, that high-paying jobs are plentiful for me, and that tech support jobs are plentiful in my geographic reason. For this, I was called a dickhead.

    Having gone to a relatively expensive college with people who easily qualify as dirt poor, I don't buy most of the excuses people give when they say they can't go to college. There is a LOT of money out there for people who want to go to school, and if you have to take out a loan, so be it. Considering that people go into hock with Visa to buy all sorts of worthless crap, a college education loan is pretty easy to justify.

    We all aspire to be something more than we are, just because you took one road don't discount the road others out of necessity take to get to the same place you are.

    I don't discount them, but I also am not going to put up with people who blame me because the choices I made were better than the choices they made.

    Most of the time, people don't go to college because they just don't want to. Most state universities have amazingly low standards for entrance and most junior colleges have no standards, save a high school diploma. They are also quite cheap to attend, and as I said before educational loans are available, if you can't find a grant. When people pass up these chances and then blame society for not giving them cushy, high-paying jobs, I get annoyed.

    It's not like the rules of the game have changed suddenly; people with college degrees (esp. professional degrees like engineering, architecture, medicine, law, and business) have, on average, been out-earning people with high school degrees or less for decades. Skipping college might seem more entertaining at first, but unless you can live off your parents, it's going to be a far more painful route.

    -jon

  • Wow. You're me three years ago, full of all kinds of rage. I'm not going to throw any platitudes about motivation your way, there's almost nothing more draining than working at the helplessdesk. Here's some unsolicited advice instead:

    1. Start looking for other helpdesk work. You're qualified, obviously. Don't tell them you're burning out, of course, just use common sense, you'll think of something to say about why you're leaving (and the recruiter knows why most helpdesk people make lateral job moves anyway). You might end up in a place exactly as bad, but you'll have at least months of breathing room enjoying your escape from the old company, and probably a small raise to go with it. Take that exit interview if they offer it, and unload about what you think went wrong -- about the company, do NOT go after individual people.

    2. Read man pages on your OS like crazy. Tinker. Have a friend break stuff and see how quickly you can find and fix it. Put unix system administration on your resume, and recruiters will eat that up. Learn NT -- warez a copy for home if you can (not off the net, just find someone who has a CD). Lose the OS religion, think of it as knowing your enemy if you don't ever want to do NT admin (I sure don't). Don't imagine that sysadmins have any easier a life than phone drones tho, but maybe you'll find it your calling still.

    3. Pick up a computing book, one of those high level architecture type books, like Modern Operating Systems (Tanenbaum) or TCP/IP illustrated. Using some high level language you like, like perl, python, MOO, or even shell, go implement some of the ideas. Doesn't have to be fast or complete. Stick a web interface onto it. Put it on your personal website (go get one from xoom/geocities/wherever), explaining how it works. Now you're an educational resource. Put this personal project on your resume. Now do another. (N.B. I haven't actually made my little projects educational like that. Wish I did do that for my compiler projects in python)

    Hope some of these help.

    --
  • by TeTalon ( 142851 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:41PM (#580027) Homepage
    I used to work for a Help desk, till the company could not make money for 2 years in a row and laid off 2,000 techs.

    So First they were looking for Friendly geeks, but they cost to much.

    Then they were looking for friendly geeks with out a lot of experaince, but they tend to leave the company because they get badly mismanaged by management.

    Then they start to look for people with any computer experaince, and then train them.
    This becomes truly misinterpreted over time, and they hire a lot of losers who just don't get it.

    Then they decide to hire people at a higher wage, hiring them at a higher wage then some people with a year or more in the company.
    This causes many of their best to leave the company.

    Then Service is so bad, that the Tech leads who take Supervisor calls have to add regular Techs to the tech lead line.

    And Now the Tech lead line is so overwelmed due to incompetence that they make everyone a supervisor, to take the supervisor calls.

    Does any one else see a trend here?
    Why is it stupid people get to make the rules that smart people are suppose to follow?

    BTW: after working in it for over 3 years I am now considered over qualifed for most of the help desks in my area.

    TeTalon

    UNIX is "user-friendly", it's just particular about who it's friends are....

    "I see stupid people they're everywhere, they walk around like everyone else they don't even know that they're dumb."


    TeTalon
    You are either a part of the problem, or a part of the solution, which are you.

  • > Have you never heard of a UNION ? This is what they are for...

    Tech workers, with the exception of telcos, are not unionized. In some areas (defense industry tech workers for example) they are *prohibited* by law from unionizing. Look, it doesn't matter what you think of unions, they just aren't available in this circumstance.

    --
  • by RembrandtX ( 240864 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:42PM (#580033) Homepage Journal

    having been former tech support (for @home even) i have always been constantly amazed at the hoops that both the customers , and the employees are made to jump through.

    For example, in Comcast's division of @home .. if you score less than 90% on a random montitered call's QA (quality assurance) you are immediatly disqualified from ANY bonus pay that month. So, if you forget to ask "is there anything else I can help you with today?" EVEN if the customer (who has been screaming at you for the last 5 mins about how he is going to get a lawyer becuase his cable service just shut off when his wife backed into the green box outside - dont laugh .. true story) hangs up .. you are expected to say those words .. just in case.

    call center people were written up for being 30 seconds late to work. And also penalized if they stayed more than 5 mins overtime. (it was more benificial to hang up the phone (and then say "is there anything else I can help you with today?" ) and log out on time . .than to actually FIX a problem and wind up going over.

    We were expected (for less than 25k a year) to trouble shoot everything from ipstacks and regestry problems- to router errors, all the way down the line to .. 'no mam ..please use the RIGHT button on the mouse .. its the one furthest away from your thumb if your using your RIGHT hand.) All the while trying to calm down pissed off customers (sometiems rightly so , sometimes ONLY becuase they had $$.

    and then there is the idiot factor. People are written up for the most assassine reasons .. just to make an example. I was always in the top 5 (of 120+ people) for sales/tech assistance. yet one day I myself was written up becuase i refused to call a customer Dr.So-and-so. (the only reason i refuesed is because he had stated to me that he would report me to my supervisor if i didnt stop calling him *MR* so-and-so. I figured anyone THAT irrational, wasnt going to listen to my suggestions anyways, gimmi an old lady over a DR anytime .. at least the old ladys are willing to read manuals, and TRY.)

    man .. just thinking about those poor souls still stuck in tech support reminds me why i NEVER bother them with my problems. I would rather learn it myself, then force them to read the canned scripts they are told to use in place of 'I don't know'

    There is SOO much more i could say .. but i *like* my job now .. so im gonna get back to it ;P

  • by Vanders ( 110092 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2000 @12:53AM (#580047) Homepage
    If you yourself are at all talented, you quickly realize that you are getting customers who have called others in your call center only to have a terrible experience because your coworkers are by and large average, hence not very good at being excellent.

    I know what you're talking about. Unfourtunatly, actually providing Customer Service usually goes against the business case of trying to get your call & Wrap time down. I actually lost my job because I was being too helpful!

    Still, I view being released from that call centre as one of the best things that ever happened to me. So it's not all bad. :)
  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:45PM (#580058) Homepage
    When I started in Tech Support, 8 years ago, I was told:
    "You either learn out, or you burn out."

    He was talking about front-line support. I still to this day don't understand people who can survive more than 6 months in a front-line position without losing it and gunning folks down. I learned out. The rest of my career has been as a 2nd line, 3rd line, or QA.

    I can say one thing about this PacBell story. First of all, you've got to make your customers happy. If some guy's got a problem, and it's not YOUR problem, you tell him, right away. If your contract with the Telco won't permit it, then that's bullshit. If it's their problem, then they should be taking the heat. And the calls. #1, tell the customer the truth. If you give them a lie about what the problem is, then they're going to get more and more irate, and as they get more irate, they become more EXPENSIVE (make more support calls, go higher and higher up the chain of authority, etc.).
    If your company has made a deal with a third party where their problem is not one you can fix, but you can't send the customer to them, then it's fiscally a bad deal - your company is expected to bear the expense of taking calls on problems that are beyond the "support boundry"? That's major suckage. The management chain, if they're worth anything, will come to recogize the problem, and ask their seniors to resolve it. You can make a clear-cut loss analysis based on it; "these types of calls account for X dollars of our budget." If the managers can't or wont do this, they're worthless.

    For the front line guys who are treated like the ones in this story, I feel very sorry for you. When I was on front line, we weren't watched that closely. We did our jobs, we were treated like adults. The people in this story are being treated like prison inmates. The lesson to the managers should be: employee turnover is bad. Treat employees like dirt, and you'll have high turnover - man, especially in a labor environment like the bay area. People will walk, and go somewhere where they can get paid twice that and be treated like a human being. Maybe they're not qualified for that at the time you hired them - but they will in six months. You can mitigate that by hiring lower quality people, but in the end, it will translate to dissatisfied customers.

    Also, support people should be given the authority to resolve problems - like the billing issues. If some guy has no service for two weeks, then the support guy should be able to credit the guy's account. Otherwise why bother, you're just wasting time answering the customer's call. Of course with my PacBell DSL problem, I was out for two weeks, phone line problems which ultimately were a combination of CO wiring problems, and problems INSIDE my house. The tech they sent to my house found that my phone lines were distributed too much - so what we did was use the black/yellow pair for the DSL signal and put a filter on the red/green pair at the NID. Black/yellow were connected to my primary line ahead of the filter, so there was a straight signal run to my office that was connected to the black/yellow pair, and the rest of the phones in my house were on red/green, and didn't need the little filters, because of the filter at the NID. They credited my account for two weeks because the service was down due to the CO switching problem. Now it works great.
    Why was my service down for two weeks? Support hold-times were very high (1-2 hours), so I couldn't get through, and when I did, nobody could figure out what the problem was (I tried not to involve them in my individual computer setup, because it had nothing to do with the problem, I was sure. I have Macs, and I know Macs scare people - but Macs had nothing to do with it, because I was using a LinkSys router - it was the modem that failed to connect.) but the big time waster was, waiting for a tech to be assigned to come out. Actually, originally getting set up took 2 months to schedule, after many phone calls and emails asking them to set it up, nobody could tell me if I was in the 11k' radius of the CO or not.

    The bottom line is - it sounds like PacBell has a product with a high demand, so they and their partners who provide the service have little incentive to provide good service, because the alternative is the Cable monopoly, and they have no competition either. So basically, at a high level, nobody gives a shit if you sign up for DSL or not. So they hire idiots to man the phones, provide them with no tools or pathways to do their jobs, and audit the labor so tightly that it looks good on paper.

    I don't see any of this changing any time soon.
  • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2000 @03:24AM (#580079)

    I worked in second level tech support for roughly two and a half years. I saw all the problems which the helpdesk for one reason or another could not resolve. Yes, this was internal technical support, but there were still people who did not know how to use a mouse... just far less of them.

    I don't for a second envy what the helpdesk had to do. I didn't even care if they just gave up on a difficult user and said "I've passed the ticket along, somebody will give you a call in roughly an hour." And by difficult user I mean those "call me doctor" fellows. It is much easier to deal with people like that in person anyways.

    I would even defend the reputation of the helpdesk because of the difficulty of their jobs.

    But what would drive me absolutely insane are the few people who get in there who are simply incompetant. End users who go in with no problem (litterally, the network is down, DHCP is down, something like that) and after hours of "troubleshooting" come out with a toasted protocol stack.

    I think the main culprit of this kind of thing is the application of metrics to individuals. If you're told that you have to meet 80% resolution, and you're encouraged to make it as high as you can, then you wind up with five customers who spent four hours... DHCP came back and their protocol stack was rebuilt at about the same time... and had thier 'problem' resolved. And your failure to resolve drops.

    What's really fun is calling first level support and to have them lead you through a script, while you're telling them that the DHCP server is down and the Network team is working on it.

    I guess my point is, just like there are stupid users, there are stupid techs... and in the case of those misinformed of corporate structure... stupid managers.

    Yes, I've told management about this already.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:48PM (#580087) Homepage Journal
    This is the result of PacBell's, and other's, boilroom push to get people to sign up for "service." On my morning commute I hear AT&T, PacBell, XO (formerly Concentric) and a host of others all pushing DSL, Satelite, cable modem, Ricochet, etc. The reality is the job market is so hot that there are scarcely enough competent people to put these things together, let alone well. Customer Service and Tech Support bear the burden of making those suits promises look good.

    On a positive note, once you've served your time in purgatory, you can pick up a cush tech support job anywhere else, because you know the routine. Just don't stick around too long and get burned out.

    --

  • by Flavius Stilicho ( 220508 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @08:20PM (#580101)
    Perhaps I read something wrong:

    "Back at AOL (am i violating my NDA here?) we used to fuck around all the time to try to ease the boredom of monotonous "i can't sign on" calls." and "It wasn't uncommon for those of us who knew our shit to fall asleep on calls or put people on hold to run over and see what our friend was up to. Half of the calls i took, i would forget the problem, come back from chatting 5 minutes later, and tell the customer one of several canned answers i had for that sort of thing. (usually: "you need to delete and reinstall AOL ma'am")"

    Sorry, but that's slacking in my book. Someone who was trying to resolve the problem would work to actually resolve it.

    I'm not arguing the monotony of the job. I know what it's like to have some raving asshole, moron on the other end of the line where all you want to do is reach through the phone and strangle the misserable bastard. I know it well... I worked on a support desk for a few months until I started to not care anymore. I promptly got out but *never* did I once put someone on hold to goof off just to come back and give a canned answer or pass them off to someone else. I now run the network operations for a publicly traded company. We have a call center of about 100 staff (non-tech related). Something close to 75 of them are worthless and almost to a person, under 30. I watch these people go out of their way to not do their jobs. They do it because they know that someone else will pick up the slack. Worst part is, IT'S A GREAT PLACE TO WORK! I mean, really, it's a nice environment. Best I've ever seen. We don't time, monitor or pressure the call center staff in any way. They get generous breaks and other 'sanity checks' and the staff level is maintained so that the normal call volume per operator is around 20 calls/day at an average 10 minutes/call. Yet they still spend most of the day chatting it up with their neighbors, surfing the net and making personal calls while the average time in queue is 7 to 10 minutes. It drives me nuts. My company really goes above and beyond to provide a good work environment and it gets shit on for it.

    I'm part of that twenty-something generation. My entire staff is under 25. They all bust their asses off each and every day and I take care of them for it. I pay them well, they get more comp days than I can count and I never question them or dock them if they need to leave early. All I ask is that they work and be there when I need them. It works. They don't take advantage of it nor do they complain when we have an emergency and they need to stay until the wee hours of the morning.

    The problem, which is also my point, is too many twenty-somethings have little or no work ethic and will never be successful, nor do they deserve to be, until they do. Most of them in the tech field don't even qualify as script kiddies because they're too lazy to pilfer someone else's hacks but they want to work in 'computers' because they think it's an easy, fat paycheck. Guess what, reality sucks. There are plenty of real sysadmins reading /. who know what it's like to put in 36 hours straight and most of them, I would venture, are young but they have a decent work ethic. They deserve every cent they make and probably much, much more. Unfortunately, I think they're a small minority for the age group.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:56PM (#580106) Journal

    It was related to me that in a certain call center they got bored one night and decided that everybody would be named "Bob". I wasn't there when it happened, but it was part of the lore, and it seemed just as plausible as anything else.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @12:59PM (#580127) Homepage Journal

    What can you do? Put a "Press 1 if you are an idiot, Press 2 if you're l33t." menu tree into the system?

    I agree that that would never work. Tier 1 could be provided with a list of important words and phrases only a clueful person would use. It's not perfect since sometimes the clueless will get lucky or use a phrase they heard a clueful friend use once, but it's something.

    For example, if someone calls and reports the status of everything on your 'KISS' list as in "I have a dial tone, the router indicates a line fault. I rebooted the router and get the same thing. Traceroute doesn;'t go anywhere, I can't ping the router". There's a good sign the person is clueful and needs tech support rather than handholding. On the other hand, if they say "I think the internet broke when I stepped on the phone cord", they need the handholding.

  • by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @01:02PM (#580130) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, but even the supposedly clueful can have miss the obvious. Do you do any programming (it's sad that I have to ask that these days on /.)? Ever spend 4 hours poring over your code to realize you typed bra instead of bar? Brainless moments even happen to the smartest.

    The best thing to do is when you are describing your problem, explain to the tech support person what you have checked on your end. That way, the person you are talking to can determine if they are qualified to help you, or if you need to transfered up the ladder.

    One thing to avoid is trying to diagnose the problem on their end. You can give them the evidence that you've gathered, but avoid drawing conclusions. The support person may assume you know what you're talking about when you are way off, and this can lead to lost time spent trying to fix something that isn't broken.

    Also, remember that you are speaking to another person, and don't lose your cool - angry people get the worst quality tech support.
    --
  • Of course I never worked for "the man". But even indie ISP's have this stuff. It's a little more friendly and you can actually have 15 minute breaks.

    The rules of tech support
    1. Always assume the customer is lying.
    2. Always assume your company lies to you.
    3. Never test for more then one variable at a time.
    4. Learn to smoke. The deeper and raspier your voice is the better. Nobody fucks with you when they think you're 35 and 6'4".
    5. Never show fear.
    6. The customers is stupid. If he knew anything he wouldn't need to talk to you. Never deviate from this stance.
    7. MCSE ALWAYS need to be smacked.
    8. Some people want help, some want to abuse you. Don't take it personally.
    9. You won't last more then 18 months. Keep the resume updated.
  • by Xerithane ( 13482 ) <xerithane@@@nerdfarm...org> on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @01:02PM (#580142) Homepage Journal
    I used to do tech support, supporting 4 different accounts simultaneously. All these people bitching about how stressful it is to take 30 calls a day are on crack.

    That is an average of 15 minutes per call with 2 15 minute breaks in an 8 hour day. I'm sorry, but come on and get real. I never had to worry about my stress levels or take health breaks. It's an easy job, you sit at your chair and talk to stupid people. Most of the time the call is Tech support is not for people who can't handle being yelled at though. But, that's in the job description. Those people who have to complain and cry over it should go be florists or something.

    I was average 40-50 calls a day, in an 8 hour time period. I had very high scores on success rates and was promoted into being the lead tech, and every person under me was the same because I told them the same thing I said above. Those who didn't like it got transferred or quit. Dont work in tech support if you can't handle it, but dont expect sympathy. That is like a police officer getting pissed off about having to write tickets because it makes him feel bad.

  • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2000 @01:07PM (#580160) Homepage
    "i have always been constantly amazed at the hoops that both the customers , and the employees are made to jump through."

    I have always been amazed that any employee wouldn't tell their boss to shove it sideways up his ass, wide end first, and walk out the door.

    In almost all of North America, staying with your employer is *optional.* With the exception of some of the more impoverished rural areas, you can get a job within *days* if you get off your ass and get serious about pounding pavement.

    The call center people are people who *choose* to suffer abusive employment situations, possibly because they have masochistic tendancies.

    Likewise for customers. You can *choose* to find another provider. There are two theatres in my town: one of them fucked up the film the other day and the audience spent over a half-hour waiting for it to start again. When I went out to hunt up some complimentary popcorn, I was rudely told to shove off.

    Well, I have. I'll never set foot in the local Famous Players theatre again. Period. I can *choose* to let them abuse me... or I can *choose* to have some self-respect and seek my media fix elsewhere.

    The customer -- and employee -- reign supreme these days. Take advantage of it.

    --

Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance? -- Charlie McCarthy

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