People Make the Difference, not Technology

It’s funny how people make the difference, isn’t it?

In the few days between Christmas and New Year a lot of people in the UK take a few days off. This means that although there are less of us to cover the area there are less calls to cover.

I was in work because I drew the short straw. The areas to the north and to the east of mine were my responsibility and the engineers who cover them are different in their attitude to their work. Their customers react differently to field engineers as well. My patch was quiet so I picked up calls from the surrounding areas.

I called on one of them and they greeted me with a smile, a cup of tea and full co-operation. I soon dealt with the worn out belt, ran the machine to check it sounded OK, drank my tea and was sent on my way with a smile and a thank-you.

Moving across to the other engineer’s patch my reception was a little different.

“About flippin’ time too! – It’s over there.”

“What seems to be the trouble?”

“You’re the expert, you tell me!

“No chance of a cup of tea then?” I thought to myself.

There was very little wrong with the machine that I could see so I asked her to show me the problem.

With much rolling of eyes and tutting she ran the machine, it seemed fairly good for its age, a little noisy but nothing out of the ordinary.

I took the covers off and cleaned up the dust, adjusted a few belts and ran it again, it was a little quieter and this seemed to satisfy the customer. With a final wipe of the covers I packed up and left. It was amazing how one customer made me feel welcome and wanted me there, the other seemed to resent the fact that she had called me. I felt as though I had treated them both the same and could only base their reaction on their previous experience.

On my patch most of the customers seem to be reasonable, there are a couple of grumpy ones but I try not to let them bug me.

What struck me about the day’s tasks was the similarity with the calls yet the reception I received was completely different. The one thing I didn’t do was take a call in my own area, which would have been useful for comparison purposes.


negative clients are a real pain often enough. in the second call you describe, when I get that reaction from them I turn around and start walking towards the door. They always say, "aren't you going to fix it?" I respond: "If you can't be bothered to tell me what caused you to call, how can I even begin to find the problem, never mind fix it." I never get them acting like that again.


I've noticed that management's attitude towards tech support does much to color the attitude of the end users. If management sees support as a necessary evil and merely tolerates the tech, employees will respond the same. If management welcomes the tech into the business, the employees are much more likely to be welcoming as well. To be honest, I'd much rather walk into the latter environment than the former; I don't know of a tech who wouldn't. In my own territory. one or two stores give the impression that it's the tech's fault the equipment failed. Needless to say, these are not my favorite customers. I do the same quality work there that I do elsewhere, but I don't hang around and schmooze after the work is done like I will at other, friendlier stores. Edit: clarify

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