November 13, 2010

Phone Slave's Lament

After a frustrating day, I usually find some therapy in writing an angry letter that I'll never send.  So, I decided to put into words some of the frustrations of your average Phone Slave.  By that, I mean anyone who's worked in a Customer Service, but more specifically, a Help Desk job.  This is by no means a complete list, in any particular order, or a slam against EVERY caller.  But, there are the chosen few, the frequent fliers that people who answer phones for a living would really like to see take this to heart. 

First of all, there are some basic facts we would love to see all of you figure out.  Reboot ≠ log off.  Reboot means you actually cycle the power on the computer.  Also, Shut Down ≠ turn off the power to the monitor.  This does nothing for the problems that the computer is having.  The nature of the beast is that the operating system runs like a machine that gets an oil change every 7500 miles or so.  It works, but it kinda limps from time to time.  Consider restarting your computer to be like a lube job.

Also, please please PLEASE learn what your user name is.  I know you have 7 of them for different systems, and I know they all need different passwords and they all have different requirements.  Trust me, for every system you have an ID for, I have one as well so I can reset your passwords when you forget it.  I get it, it sucks.  However, you're an adult.  It's not asking too much to have you remember that basic information.

One of the technologies that has saved countless hours of frustration is remote control software.  So, in order to use this, we need information like your PC name or IP address.  Now, I can understand not knowing what I mean by IP address.  That's fine.  That's they they pay me the medium bucks.  However, when I ask for something, it's not some random piece of jargon, so by responding with "did you mean XYZ?" it does nothing but piss me off.  If I meant XYZ, I would have asked for it.  I don't just ask you for random information just to prove my vocabulary includes more alphabet soup than yours.

Which brings me to my next point.  I know how dumb it sounds when I ask you if you've rebooted, or if you've tried a different outlet.  I know, and I'm still going to ask.  I have had calls where a USB port has gone bad mid-conversation.  I've had a situation where the outlet on a powerstrip stopped working.  Heck, I've had times where the power was out in the entire room but the person didn't think that had anything to do with why their computer wasn't working.  I ask dumb questions because sometimes there are dumb answers, or in our panic, we forget to check the small stuff.  It's not a reflection on you, nor is it an assumption about your intelligence.  I've seen some weird shit, and anything I'm asking you to do is in an effort to help you get back up an running, not my grinding an organ expecting you to dance.

Speaking of smarts,  I know you have them.  We all have our own skill set, and we all have areas where we're clueless.  You wouldn't be calling me if computers were your thing.  I get that.  It's ok.  You can be dumb with computers and I'll still respect you.  It's the refusal to help me help you, the completely disregarding my attempts to troubleshoot in exchange for what you think will work, being two steps ahead of where I am,  or the ignorant and belligerent attitude that makes me want to feign technical phone difficulties and hang up on you.  Here's the thing - you called me for help.  All I'm trying to do is help you to the best of my abilities.  I would love nothing better than to get this resolved while we're still on the phone. 

Oh, and on the subject of you called me, I will disconnect the call if I pick up the line and I hear hold music.  End of story.  I will also be irritated and less willing to give you all of my attention if you have to put me on hold while I'm helping you.  I can hear your cell phone ring.  I know why you put me on hold.  You have voicemail, use it.  Call me when you have the time to talk.  I don't waste yours, I appreciate you returning the favor.

I need to mention that if you're going to call in a problem, or check on the status of an existing ticket, the more information you have, the easier and faster we can help you.  If you're calling in for a status update and you didn't originally request the work be done, please have the work order number, or the name of the person who sent in the original request ready before we pick up.  Trust me, it helps to have that when looking through the thousands of open tickets in the system.  I'm not just being difficult when I ask for this stuff. 

I'm also not trying to make you dance like a trained monkey when I ask you for the exact text of the error message that you're getting.   I'm also not throwing jabs if I ask what you're trying to do works on another machine.  I'm trying to narrow down where the problem is so we can get a more targeted fix for the problem.  I'm not dictating how you have to use the equipment if I suggest trying to run one page through the multi-use tray on the printer, for example.  My goal is to help determine where the problem lies so I can send a better-informed field tech if we can't get this running over the phone.  Trust me, if you and I can work out that widget A is causing the problem instead of sprocket C, we can make sure that the guy that shows up has the right tool to tighten widget A.  It's more efficient.  Really. 

I know quite well that we as a society can't live, much less do our jobs without computers anymore.  I know this, and I also understand that they break at the worst possible times.  But, I need two things from you as customers.  I need you to know that it's not personally my fault, and for you to call me in a timely manner.  If this quit working 3 weeks ago, but you were too lazy to call until 4 minutes before you needed it, I'm not going to take kindly to your lip and insistence we fix this right-god-damned-now.

Also, and this is critical, I'm not just being difficult when I ask to talk to the person who's actually having the problem.  I understand that you're the one calling.  But sometimes, like in the case of a bad password, I need to talk to the actual user to get the problem worked out.  It's not personal, it's a matter of security and efficiency.  They're having the problem, they're going to be able to give me the most help when it comes to getting things working again. It's also a matter of security.  If I don't have to have a track and field relay to get a password to a user, we're going to have a more secure network.

Speaking of which, if you're going to call me about getting something fixed, please for the love of all things holy, be in front of the machine in question!  I might have some questions or ideas for how to get it working again that will require you to press a button or two.  Being either in your car, or across the room, is going to make it take longer to get anything done.  If you can't help me help you, then you're going to have to wait until someone in the field can get to you.  It's not a matter of calling and insisting that we get this fixed right now, it's a matter of when we have the manpower to get to it.  Trust me, our guys have enough to keep them busy for weeks right now, much less what new tickets get thrown into their queues every day.  We don't forget about you, but we all need to prioritize what we have so we can get the largest fires put out in the best possible order.

In short, we're human beings.  Well, most of us.  Some of us have been at this so long we forfeited our souls to keep our sanity and homicidal urges in check, but that's another story.  All we ask is for basic respect for someone who's got a crap job, a willingness to help us help you, and enough information to make sure that everyone involved in finding the solution.  If we can agree that we should both give as much as we get, we'll get through this just fine.

Help Desk Slaves Everywhere

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