Monday, 24 December 2012

A sympathetic ear

   I love call-outs.  

   I hate them too, which gives you some idea of the emotional roller coaster this job really is. But 24/7/365 support is what we’re about and if a call comes in at an inconvenient time such as during a staff review or a personal development meeting, then it’s ‘hey lads, hey’! Down with pens and notebooks and on with the uniform and into the field.

   Cue Thunderbirds theme.

   The operation has got call-outs down to a fine art because; let’s face it (no false modesty just between you and me) we’re the first and we’re still the best. When that bell rings, no matter what footling after-sales task the outfit thinks we ought to be doing at any given time, it’s our long-standing policy that the customer and the customer’s needs come first. We can worry about the paperwork later. The customer comes first, no matter how trivial or silly their wants are.
   Don’t get me wrong, the customer’s needs can be silly indeed. From the harassed housewife who’s locked out of her house with thawing ice cream flooding her shopping and a baby crying his heart out in the car as the cold gets in and a neighbour’s dog barking and snapping at her heels to the stressed middle manager who’s just seen an envelope with his name on it on the HR manager’s desk and whose software just refuses to send the report his boss asked to be ready for this morning’s meeting when he was heading out to the gym at 5.30 the previous night, Technical Support will be there for them. 
   Take those two. They’ve paid their dues over the years; having seen the advertising everywhere they go. But they’ve never believed they’d ever actually need us. Insurance is just that; something you consider, sign up for and then promptly forget all about as they get in with their lives; caring for family, career, making money, looking after each other, paying the rent and so on. But when it hits the fan and they absolutely, positively need help with the slings and arrows then boy, oh boy do they remember us then. 

   And that’s what our Management just doesn’t get.
   I don’t blame them really; they’re Big Picture guys and so it’s fair to say they just aren’t aware about what it’s like in the field; what the punters are really like and what it takes to do the job. Oh, they try: every now and then they’ll come up with some simple notion; some ten-point plan the customers should follow to sort everything out, and then they promptly go back to long-term planning, strategic reviews, the annual audit and so on. But if the customers could follow a ten point plan, don’t you think they would? If that housewife had the grit and the brains to handle the troubles of life all by her lonesome then she wouldn’t have to follow Steps One, Two and Three. It didn’t work for Eddie Cochrane, did it? Or take that middle manager. He’s been doing as well as his limited intelligence will allow; neither tyrannizing his staff in some micromanagement hell nor ignoring them in the hope that freelancing them will let them flourish all by themselves. But his bosses notice that he’s a little lacklustre in the results department and so they wonder aloud if he’d be happier elsewhere. And that’s the exact moment when his POS laptop goes Hal 2000 (and whose upgrade or replacement request has been with the Budget Team for the last eight months) but when his company’s Directors all have state-of-the-art everything with full service packages and comprehensive, professional training from the get-go, Little Mister Meek is faced with a patronizing Microsoft pop-up informing him he’s been A Very Bad Boy, that’s when he calls Tech Support out.
   He just wants a little sympathy as do we all (myself included) and someone to fix this insane, blood-pressure skyrocketing hassle and make it stop. Just you try describing that to my Management in words of one syllable or less. They’ve tried to see the small picture but I honestly believe they don’t stand a chance. The last time one of them went out into the field to show how the customers can be trained to fix their own shit it didn't end well. It’s only human nature to face grief with anger and denial rather than practical self-help and teamwork and Valuing Other People’s Opinions and all that blah, and so on, etcetera. Talk to the hand.
   That’s really why I quit the management training programme in the first place. I just couldn’t see how the bosses would ever discover the slightest possibility of hunting down the location of a hint about where to find a clue.  
   But I believe; I truly, hand on heart believe that we at Technical Support can make a difference in the world in our own humble, bumbling, pragmatic way. And sometimes we get the opportunity to upsell the customer at the same time.

    So there’s the baby screaming the paint off the people carrier and the tattooed moron next door’s pit-bull going for her ankles while a half gallon of chocolate chip is flavouring an entire week’s groceries and Mrs. Mum just wants it to stop - nothing fancy.  The muddle manager just needs the break that he’s morally certain Fate and his bosses won’t provide. That’s when they call me out, quick as you like.
   And there I am in the spotlight; centre stage and ready to do my thing and save the day. Not only will I soon get that feeling of deep satisfaction of a job well done but I might - if I can only get inside their heads and really see their point of view - talk the deal up from, say, finding the front door key or the drop-down menu that’ll email the report all the way up to them actually wishing that the dog’s bastard owner would come out of his house at that very moment and be savaged by the little brute, or that the middle manager’s fucking boss would suffer a heart attack so Mr. Meek will be needed ASAP to take over and prove his worth and thus keep his own job. With a word here and a hint there they can be persuaded to sign up for the Deluxe Unlimited Lifetime Total Cover Plan: payment deferred to the end of the contract. They’re usually so stressed and relieved when I show up they don’t even smell the sulphur.

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