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Andrei in the office


Andrei's Universe

One man's journey from infinity to nothingness

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Andrei in the office

Customer service thy name is kiss-a&$

EDIT: had posted an image instead of a link. That was annoying. Fixed that. Sorry.

I just got off the phone with my ISP. Last week someone got onto my network and ran a peer-to-peer downloading problem. I discovered the next day that my network had gone to hell. I disabled the ability for such programs to be run on my network. (Without certain firewall precautions).

Well, it turns out the networking issue was unrelated. I called tech support at the ISP. They checked the line and told me it was obviously my hardware. (As always while trying to evaluate my hardware the tech started with, "Go to your start menu" At the mention of the accursed word "Macintosh" he sighed and said, "Oh." Then he advised I call my manufacturer.)

After several internal tests, it was obvious that it wasn't the computer or the ethernet cards. I figured, maybe my 5 port switch had gone to hell. Several tests suggested that it too was fine. Then yesterday I tried to open a video chat to the ever lovely, fiannaharpar. Insufficient bandwidth. I scratched my head and checked.

I have a business DSL line. It is provisioned at 5MB/768KB, I am told to expect (due to location), 3MB/768KB. As of yesterday's check I am running 1MB/20KB. That's right. I am pushing out 2.6% of the data I'm paying to deliver. I called my sales representative. I explained that tech support doesn't work on the weekends. (Far be it for an internet business to work on the weekend) and the quality of service I'm receiving. Agog, he promptly credited my account and asked me to keep him posted.

The downside of living in a remote town is that net services are still not an automatic thing. A small town may have _one_ ISP. No choice, no debate... that's it. You get what they maaaay be able to deliver to you. The only way to assure service is to pay for the laying of a T1 line. This usually amounts to about $2000-$3000 for set up and about $500 per month. Unless that is a line item on your business expenses... it's not worth the cost for a startup.

I discussed with the sales rep that the quality of service and lack of weekend support makes me question exactly what I'm really paying for since a residential service can get the same 'provisioned speed' and the same ability to request static IP. He agreed wholeheartedly and said, "he'd pass it along." Those who've worked in any service related business know exactly what I mean.

I suppose the one good thing that came out of it was the fact that at the end of the conversation he said, "I can understand your frustration" (Standard sales kiss-a&$ speak) and then ended with, "I hope the rest of your day is a bit better."

This last comment actually meant something positive to me. I have a huge gripe with service company representatives who have conversations like this:

    Me: So, there's not a thing you can do to help me. You can't fix my problem and I'm pretty much screwed.
    SCR: Yup. There's not a damn thing we can or would do. Is there anything else I can do for you?
    Me: Apparently not.
    SCR: Okay, have a nice day, thanks for being a valued customer.

Now, before anyone goes off on semantics. No. This is not the wording I use on a phone call. I am always professional and polite to a point. When I have been given the run around I will climb through wires and eat people, but in general I am polite, even when I make making thinly veiled threats... That said...

If you as a representative have not made every effort to help me with my issue and this includes passing me up the line to your supervisor. You have NOT assisted me. Asking me if there's anything else you can do, is not only inappropriate, it's downright annoyingly hypocritical.
Hi, I have a problem
Yeah, but I'm not gonna help you with your problem, wanna find another one instead?

But the one that gets me livid. The one that makes my blood boil. Is when an unproductive conversation ends with Have a nice day

I know fully that customer service is the fine art of making the customer blindly happy with as much pablum as possible. That being said... if I have just spent a phone getting more and more agitated because you are not living up to business promises and making less and less attempt to provide service; a sudden smile and vacant wish of happy day really gives me the impression that not only didn't you fix my problem, you absolutely don't care about how I feel about the company anymore.

Sadly, for most of the customer service industry, we have hired in mindless automatons who follow scripts and data paths to solve basic problems and then have the words to perform stupidity when the problem takes effort.

Another side comment, I would not be surprised if there are readers in Customer service who take complete offense at what I say. Well, on one hand you should and on the other, don't. The average person who has a life (someone who is not an NPC for a living) actually tries. The really awesome waitress, the CSR that actually tries, etc. But in all honesty, what happens is that the company burns them out or they become viciously frustrated because they are not receiving support or recognition for the job they are doing.

An example: One nameless company that I know of that is somewhere on the planet Earth, Linked into the internet used to have a huge CSR division. It worked this way, "You are to process as many calls as possible as fast as possible. Get them on, make them happy, get them off. Offer them freebies to make up for problems." One friend of mine in the order worked for them and honestly wanted to help them with their issues. (Go figure). He was constantly chastised by his manager for low productivity. He didn't take enough calls. He spent too much time on the phone. Who cared that he had 95% satisfaction as opposed to the 45% which was the median goal line for the department? Eventually, he left in a huff. When I first went to work for that company he warned me that if I actually cared about the work I did, I would probably wind up leaving in a huff. I explained that I don't do CSR (anymore) and it wasn't likely. On a side note, I don't work for that company anymore and the entire CSR (over half of the company's 5000 employees) were outsourced to India. Having assisted in the scriptwriting of training for Outsourced support, I know exactly what the solution path script looks like.

In general, I look at sales agents and CSR like I do at any other bait or trap you'd get at the local hardware store. They have a job. They do their job. Their job is to give you as little of their company as they can. Their job is to dazzle you and make you feel good about how little they are giving you. And if they can't make you happy, their job is to shrug and go away. It sounds cold, but in all honesty, if you haven't done your homework going in, you really get what you deserve.

It sounds really kinda dark, cynical and jaded. But in all honesty, it's also uplifting in a way. The truth is, the term customer service means that the customer is serviced. Most companies, take the approach of a badly dressed pimp, abusing their chattel of most of the money they earn. If you have to deal with a company, learn as much as you can. Be prepared. And most importantly, learn their game. Nothing throws a game player more than being good at their game or perhaps better. Be professional, know that you can always call for a supervisor, and that they are their to do work for you. They are charging you for a service and if they don't deliver, they may be in breach of contract.

In my (not so humble) opinion. Once the customer learns his or her rights and learns how the system works, the power shift occurs. Then maybe we can live in a world where the standard elevates from caveat emptor to caveat venditor (Let the vendor beware)


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What Andrei, you don't like being serviced? :)

Anyway, I live in (for NJ) a VERY rural area... 24 square miles, 5200 people. There are technically 3 high speed internet options available to me...

1. DSL. Too bad I live 24500 line feet away from the CO and thus can not get it, at least according to the phone company.
2. Satellite. I could have forked over more money, and gotten a satellite link that would have given reasonable upload and download, but I like playing games, and the latency would have been too much.
3. One-way cable. This is what I ended up getting. Cable download with 33.6 dialup modem upload...

In short, I feel your pain.

maybe I am dumber than I think, but i thought there was a way you could protect your network from being accessed remotely by using TWO firewalls, one as a software program and a hardware device that you can plug in your machine.

I recommend zone alarm : http://www.zonealarm.com/

Also try this: http://www.jiwire.com/spotlock.htm?cid=44122&kw=WiFi+secure&se=GOOGLESP

to secure your wifi network.

hope this helps

Oh I forgot to mention my favorite customer service people are the Citibank workers with thier unhelpful cheerfully dissmissive phone staff.

Having to work in customer support, I often feel completely un-enabled to actually FIX most of my customer's issues. I never know what do to about it. I ask people where I should go and get the run around. Makes me hate being in tech support. I don't want to wake up and hate myself every day.


25 years mostly in customer service - but am also empowered to sit on people's desks and whale on them when the customer is unhappy. In one regard, I feel sorry for the first tier folks at firms that require scripted sign-ons and sign-offs - there are companies where the sincere expression of regret by the rep you talked to would get him written up.

In order to improve that holy grail, "Customer Sat," over the years I have had to sit through some excruciating "training" sessions, usually from a consulting company that specializes in designing excruciating training session for customer support employees. Apart from obvious injunctions (like be professional, courteous, and interested in helping, or change careers) they focus on the touchy-feely side (Have a nice day) and often come apart when dealing with the reality of providing support in a decentralized, often frustrating service environment.

Here's hoping he has the clout to pass things along by sitting on the right desk (but we probably both assume it means he punches the escalation button on the ticket and it goes into the Black Hole).

Unfortunately most times it is not the reps fault. There is usually a certain dialogue that you MUST follow or face the wrath of your superiors and a bad score on your "listened" to calls. I had a fairly high call volume and a high sucess rate of helping people. (Then again working for the bank I was also one of the few people who ended up getting promoted within a year and sadly probably would have continued up the line and would have been more able to help people if I hadn't quit.)

The standard greeting of "Thank you for calling Company, my Name is Name, How May I help you." is started at the beginning of all calls. Then from there you get into the problem trying to keep it as short and simple as possible. This keeps the cost for employees down to a minimum. THe more efficient the more calls they can take care of, the less employees they need on the phones. So already you have all that working against you. Then from there you try to help but you have been given a company mandated list of information on what is acceptable to help the customer and what is not. Usually the customer is going to get screwed. You as a customer service rep (if you are good) will try to explain to the customer how they can protect themselves in the future from this happening again. However, this then leads into you selling them product that they may or may not need.

Once done with all that whether you truly have serviced them or if you've only managed to make them upset since you can't go above and beyond what the company mandates.. Then each call is REQUIRED to be ended with something similar to the following "Thank you for calling Company, Is there anything else I can help you with?, WEll then have a nice day."

It's litterally handed to each CSR that works for most companies when they are hired and trained and if you don't use that you are docked points on your reviews and then you can either lose out on bonuses (since they don't pay great either.) or they can just up and fire you. (I knew several people who had that happen to them at the bank..)

So in general... it sucks... you do your best.. but it's usually the companies fault... not the CSR.

(Deleted comment)
Most CS (mine certainly) includes the point that the client is already upset by the time he calls. He is, in the main, even if professional, calm, pleasant, etc. himself, certainly not calling to say hi, everything is fine.

OK, I had one client who did that about once a quarter. Wise man - when he did call with a problem, it itended to get triaged to the top of the queue even if it was not critical, as long as there wasn't a down system or equivalent ahead of him. Flies, honey vinegar, etc.

[Sorry Andrei, I know this wasn't meant to turn into a Customer Service old comrades session]

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