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.