IT Policies

Lines of communication


When I need to ring our helpdesk I have a short dial extension number that connects me to the support centre. This used to be in a room upstairs in our European headquarters in England and we got to speak to the team who looked after our kit. We knew the people; they knew us and understood the way we work and what equipment we have.

Now that same short dial number takes us through to a twenty four hour call centre somewhere in the USA, where the staff sound bored. OK, most of the time it is the middle of the night for them but they took the job.

I placed a call again today, a problem with one of my field calls, the phone was answered and a heard a noise. Not a clear announcement, not a greeting, but an unidentifiable noise, a cross between a grunt and a cough.

The importance of communication was lost on the operator, I gave the details of the fault to complete silence, there were no affirmatory verbal nods, no questions, no understanding noises, and I realised where my true vocation should lie; I should travel over there and give helpdesk training.

At the end of my explanation there was more silence so I said:

“Hello, are you still there?”

“Yes!” came the snappy reply.

“Did you get all that?”

“Of course!” Again, she was snappy and defensive.

After another silent moment she gave me the ticket number and I hung up. I didn’t feel like saying thank you or goodbye, she certainly didn’t. When I worked the helpdesk we identified ourselves, greeted the caller and asked what we could do to help.

I don’t hold with these sickly pre-scripted greetings, they sound so false, like telling somebody to “Have a Nice Day” but I do expect the basic skills of holding a proper conversation between adults.

Why does this happen?

I think it is because the helpdesk is still seen by many organisations as the poor relation to the IT elite. It is seen as a team that can be staffed by people taken straight from the street whilst in reality it is a skill that has to be learned to do properly.

Sadly the way of big business is to look firstly, secondly and lastly at the bottom line and forget about practicality, professionalism and courtesy as an afterthought.

26 comments
drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

It's the users that are the pains in the ass. ( --> A sign on the wall of an IT call centre that I've never forgotten!!). :)

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I got a call a few weeks ago (note: I am not in IT anymore), for someone asking me how to copy or move data from a file share to the local HDD. I told hem how. Then another call later, asking the same thing, from the same person. It gets a bit annoying sometimes, but 3 times today I was asked the same thing by the same person... Persoanlly, if you cannot copy/paste, then get the F*** off of a computer... If one cannot grasp that concept, moving and deleting will be beyond them. I wonder how this person manages to make it through each day, I mean needing to open email, drive to work, etc... LOL

Your Mom 2.0
Your Mom 2.0

Have to agree that Helpdesk is an entry-level position, and often nothing more than warm bodies are hired to man the phones (or wo-man the phones, Maecuff? You Are Woman and I Hear You Roar). I used to work a consumer electronics customer service / tech support line, and I know that lots of the people that got hired along with me had no business dealing with the general public, even with "Phone-Pro" training provided. They just didn't have the necessary soft skills, patience, and troubleshooting skills to be decent at it. But as I was also 'on the inside', I know that dealing with dozens of calls from idiot customers that don't know how to power-cycle their equipment or even bother to read manuals will make one somewhat punch-drunk and jaded after awhile. Still, it's no excuse for rudeness of half-assed doing the job. Seems to me that what is required is hiring the right people for the job and providing appropriate training, and when or if that doesn't work get rid of the warm body. If it was me, I'd use simulated customer calls as part of the hiring process in order to test the potential hire's basic troubleshooting skills and how they handle irate customers and complicated assistance issues. Often, the Helpdesk is the only person that directly interacts with the customer. More of an effort needs to be made to ensure that the main point of contact between the business and the customer is going to leave a positive impression of the company.

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

I beleive help-desk can be an entry level job as long as that process is supported with strong personal training, product / platform training, and a graded series of steps in the help-desk scenario. If it is done like that then it can work well. What I see a lot of (and not just in IT but in call-centre strategy in general) is companies using the 100 monkeys = 20 good candidates = 5 people we'll keep. Throw them in the deep end and see who floats. Unfortunately the people who end up doing the vetting are the clients / customers. And I also see companies with rigid development strategies that say "new people MUST come through the help-desk scenario because that is the only way we do it here". The fact is that they lose a lot of talented people who may not be that comfortable in a personal communications environment and thus don't immediately shine.

RFink
RFink

Didn't she have a song that went something like" I am woman, hear me roar. At volumes too loud to ignore... :)

Jessie
Jessie

I personally find it deplorable that helpdesk is an entry level position. It takes a heckuva lot more skill and patience to talk someone else through doing something over the phone when they have no clue what they're doing or why than it takes to go up to someone's desk, steal their chair and fix their issue. I think it should go, general call center schmuck gets promoted to more intense helpdesk job, then gets promoted to easier and more excercise desktop job. And for the record, I've done almost as much helpdesk (and was damn good at it) in my career as I've done desktop support.

maecuff
maecuff

but I don't have problem with the 'man the phones' phrase. In fact, I think it's silly when women get their panties in a bunch over machismo in our language.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

...wiping the butt. I'm firmly convinced that a mandatory requirement for almost any indoor job these days should be the IC3. From the web page (http://tinyurl.com/ymy7hg) IC? certification helps you learn and demonstrate Internet and digital literacy through a worldwide industry standard. To become IC? certified, you must pass the following three exams. Each exam takes less than an hour to complete. Computing Fundamentals: - Computer Hardware - Computer Software - Using an Operating System Key Applications: - Common Program Functions - Word Processing Functions - Spreadsheet Functions - Presentation Software Functions Living Online: - Networks and the Internet - Electronic Mail - Using the Internet - The Impact of Computing and the Internet on Society

Joe_R
Joe_R

It shows that outsourcing is a two-way street, in this case TO the United States.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Is this a real story, or just a story? You know, one of those "it could happen, so lets use it to generate a heated discussion".

Joe_R
Joe_R

To start one of those heated discussions! (And sometimes, outsourcing is the four-letter word that can do it.)

Jessie
Jessie

pretty much a common business practice wherever you go? Any business that wants to expand has to attempt things they've never before done. The GOOD ones make the grade. The BAD ones die thirsty at the side of the road.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Lie about what you can deliver, then scramble to attempt what you said you could.

jdclyde
jdclyde

I can not blame people that live in India or anywhere else for taking a job that is offered. I on the other hand will never do anything to assist people in those regions take more jobs.

jdclyde
jdclyde

she was riding her menstrual cycle when you so rudely interrupted her. I can honestly say, I have NEVER seen or heard of such an event of being treated as you were, so am glad to say it is isolated, and hardly a reflection of US help desks.

maecuff
maecuff

So, what happens when this behavior is exhibited by one of YOUR species?? Hmmmm?? Perhaps this person is just a b@tch all the time? Maybe just an all around unpleasant person? You can't just go around blaming it on a menstrual cycle. God, you men make me so mad sometimes! Now, go get me some chocolate. Now..to address the issue. That behavior is completely unacceptable and the person should be shot. Or at least fired.

jdclyde
jdclyde

you never said which kind of chocolate you desire, ma'am...... :D [i]~backs away slowly from the mound of assorted chocolates left at the foot of the throne~

maecuff
maecuff

Really. Chocolate of any kind is nice. Although, the darker, the better. Keep that in mind.

faradhi
faradhi

Unfortunately, help desk training is lacking here. That was rude and obnoxious. The problem with the help desk is that the good ones don't last long. They are off to better things. It is still seen as a stepping stone to "real" work. The ones who just want the job act as you described.

jdclyde
jdclyde

It is treated as an entry level job, so that is how people that fill them act. If the esteem and pay is not there, you will not be able to retain a good employee.

Absolutely
Absolutely

I prefer the IM/chat-based tech support I've received to the phone support, in general. Most of that tone of voice stuff doesn't have anything to do with solving technical foul-ups anyway, and skipping the personal greeting that the "good ones" do expedites resolution. Not hearing a person over the phone confirm that they heard me is distracting. IM is just better-suited to simple TS issues, IMO.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Good morning jdclyde how may I help you today?

jdclyde
jdclyde

most of their pleasantries are hot keys or copy and pasted, but who cares? The people that don't do well are the mouse people that need two fingers to type. one to scratch their forehead and the other to peck out keys. It is funny how many places are adding in remote control software.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

That does seem bad, however, may be a reason. She may have muted the phone when the coughing or whatever started, and you started telling about the problem before asking anything else so she did not want to interrupt.

seanferd
seanferd

Forget professionalism and courtesy, how about acting like a human being for starters?

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