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Grumbling among the (Cyber)Peasantry

By olprof67 ·
My story is all-too-typical among many of us making their way un the new economy; when a long-time job in traditional industry imploded some three years ago, I parlayed a long-time sideline interest in computers into a new start at the help desk of an ISP.The first few years were challenging, as my background was very limited. But I managed to build my knowledge into a useful toolkit.

The trouble began about eight months ago when, in response to better customer education, the entire help desk staff was "volun-told" into classes in what was labelled "General Customer Service". Of course, we don't all fit the "nerdy" stereotype foisted on the public by the media, but the fact remains that the vast majority of IT personnel tend toward introversion, and it's not as easy to bond with your customer and take control of the call when the problem is an unpaid bill or a keyboard that won't respond to arthritic fingers.

Reaction by both employees and management was predictable. Employees who expressed reservations with the New Order were quickly taken into the back office for a stern dressing-down and one or two of the most obstinate were terminated.

But the worst is still to come. Starting the first of the year, the surviving technical personnel have been informed that a sales pitch will be expected on every call, with quotas and disciplinary action for those whose participation lags. Most of us view unrealistic representation by the Sales Department as one of the root causes of our problems.

I'm sure ours is not the only IT enterprise that has had to deal with this issue, so please lead on, group!

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And you thought your problems were behind you!

by DC_GUY In reply to Grumbling among the (Cybe ...

Sorry, there simply is no good resolution to this dilemma. You have to make a tough compromise between doing what you're paid to do and what you know is right; between being a secure employee who satisfies his boss and a conscientious professional who serves his customers. It may help to remember that the hallmark of the American character is our pyramid of loyalties: first to yourself, second family, then friends, then company/community, etc., and dead last your country. (This is not Japan or Germany.) Nobody expects your sense of loyalty to society -- to complete strangers! -- to override your sense of loyalty to your boss. Your boss doesn't and your customers really don't either. Let your first loyalty -- that to yourself -- decide. You need to provide for yourself and your family. You can't do that if you don't have a job. Follow Sherlock Holmes's paradigm: first eliminate the impossible, which in this case is to do the job the way you want to. That just ain't gonna happen. You can't provide nice honest services to your customers if you don't have a job. Then choose from the options that are left. Yes, these are sad times. But they become much sadder when you're unemployed.

Collapse - what to do now?

by olprof67 In reply to And you thought your prob ...

Since I last posted to this thread, the sales pressure has abated somewhat. But I find myself questioning my plans, goals and motives more with each day on the job.

I'm in my early fifties, college-educated, pretty secure financially, but due to contrarian investing rather than climbing a corporate ladder.
I've given small-time entrepreneurship a couple of tries, but shown only small profits, mostly due to my distaste for dealing with a public that delivers several barflies with each prospect. I readily admit to an introverted personality which thrives on working at non-traditional hours, in relative isolation.

On a more postive note, I have no problems bonding with either my co-workers or supervisors, despite the fact that most are much younger. But I believe tha strong bond springs from the sterile and somewhat-predatory atmosphere of the workplace in question.

In addition, I've always drawn at least satisfactory, and occasionaly complimentary evaluations in my deals with customers. It's the duplicitous nature of the facade I present that I find hard to accept.

Finally, there are only two paths upward in this organization. One involves climbing through the ranks in a general supervisory role. But I have little interest in participating in a process I personally find unsettling.

The other involves becoming a "technical resource", someone who provides additional background to the people in the trenches. The problem here is that in my own work, I occasionally (more then than now) find myself lacking in some area which was inculcated among my younger colleagues back in high school. This isn't an easy scenario for someone who's always taught himself to take command of the situation.

So where to go from here. I've always taken pride in a strong work ethic; took a job as a courier a few years ago when I found myself running low on ready cash and needed to finance a vehicle for the ride home in a few months. But the message at this firm is that there is no path upward for specialists; one size fits all. I've picked up a lot of tools in a new field over the past three years. But how do you sell yourself when you view the sales process itself as tasteless?

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From the way I read this you are expected to sell

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to what to do now?

Rasther than offer a repair service or at least a technical service that solves problems.

I would start looking for another job I'm betting most of you're co-workers are doing exactly the same thing.

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How did we miss that?

by Oldefar In reply to From the way I read this ...

Seems to me that we should have taken a hard look at what was going on 30 years ago. Back when we felt we had to go wash our hands after shaking the hand of a vendor.

Guess we missed a change in ethics somewhere along the line. Sales should never have been a bad word - you have a need and I have a resource. Let's do a fair exchange. Hmmm.

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While I see where you're coming from

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to How did we miss that?

I do not have to agree with it Oldefar. I believe that you employ staff to sell and staff to solve technical problems weather that is a hands on reapir or a solution over the phone like in this case. But when you attempt to mix the two together and get you're technical staff to perform a sales role you no longer have a technical staff but a ever growing slaes staff.

At one employer where I once worked as the then Queensland Service Manager I was instructed to sell new machines rather than repair the older units which had come in for repair. I was told that this was an easy thing to do and while I was willing to sell new units when they where required by the user and often did I was unwilling to sell just for the sake of selling.

When I sold a machine it was to do a better job than the current one which they had and every time I sold a machine that was far better than would ever be expected to be sold by a "Sales: person and my customers where happy because they got the machine that they needed rather than what some "Sales" person was told to sell. When this happens it is a recipie for disater and yopu always need to keep you're sales staff and technical staff divorced from each other I know of many occasions where I could have quite happily killed a sales person because they had sold the wrong machine for its intended use and I had to fix up the mess.

But this all ended up when I just refused to sell a new machine to a 73 year old male because he didn't require anything better and in all likelyhood the current machine would outlast him so why should I place him in a position of spending several thousand dollars for no benifit? The GM hit the roof and I just asked him to show me how to sell a new machine to a customer who required a repair and suggested he do it with the next customer who came in through the door, unfortantly for him the very next customer brought in a 3 day old unit and I just asked how to sell a "New" unit to this person and more importantly why should I attempt to try? What that GM failed to comprenhend was that I made more money for the company in repairing the units than all the sales staff put together in selling new machines as most of my income was my labour which cost the company almost nothing in comparision to what they where charging for my time and then there where the parts that I required to perform the repairs on which the company made even more money than if they sold a new unit.

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Easy Answers

by Oldefar In reply to what to do now?

These don't exist. Sorry.

If you consider your current situation in terms of the five currencies, you may find the answer that works for you.

Time - sounds like an acceptable scenario in your opinion, and if you can get third shift it would probably be great.
Money - okay at least. An acceptable exchange of your time for the money?
Knowledge - this is hurting. The employer is not building it much, and you came in with less capital than your younger peers.
Security - another sore point. Both from the current employer and the overall economy, this is a negative exchange.
Prestige - the big negative. You have a perception of yourself, and the job is asking you to go against it.

Consider if a different role (current employer, current industry, or a totally new direction) might either leverage your existing knowledge capital better or add to it.

Security comes in part from assessing what your real requirements are. Perhaps a smaller home, alternate transportation, different life style. The ideal is to move security to a self contained position so it plays no part in the work situation.

Prestige is the easiest or hardest. We grow up with a tight link between what we do and how we perceive ourselves.

In IT, think of how many of us accepted the "professional, salaried" prestige and put in extra hours for years with an expectation of some long term reward. In fact, most of our work was skilled trade work that in other industries would have been compensated at hourly rates and with overtime.

If you can find your prestige, your high self image, outside of the work you do, and if you can choose only work that does not compromise this self image (to thine ownself be true), you might solve the dilemma.

You aren't alone. There a multitude of us in the late 40's to early 60's again facing that question of what we will be when we grow up. Take hope, my dad is asking that same question and he is pushing 80!

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by john_wills In reply to And you thought your prob ...

is not the worst fate. In abortuaries the counselors get $25 bonus for each client deciding on an abortion. The counselors persuade the clients by telling them lies about biology and other matters. And the result is commission from the hit man, blood money. Would DC Guy really counsel one of these counselors to stay in that job?

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Counselors in women's clinics...

by DC_GUY In reply to unemployment

...are proud of what they do and go home every night with the satisfaction of having helped people, regardless of how you happen to feel about their work. I wonder how many of us can say the same thing.

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Sales for Dummies

by generalist In reply to Grumbling among the (Cybe ...

You might want to wander by a office supply place like Office Depot or Stables and check their book titles on sales. While some of the books are for the gung-ho salesperson types, you can find other books for those who have to do sales as a sideline to their normal job description.

The 'Dummies' series that a lot of tech people know about have several books on sales. They might be a reasonable way to learn what is needed for your job without having to get into the full sales cycle.

On the positive side, at this time you will NOT be making what are known as 'cold calls'. That type of call is something that you want to avoid if at all possible.

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Also, watch Boiler Room

by mrafrohead In reply to Sales for Dummies

Pickup on the sales pointers that they throw in there. There is a lot of good stuff.

At one time, I used to work sales, and it was funny to me to see what they have to say in that movie. It's all right on the money.

Not to mention, it's also a very entertaining flik. :)

Good luck, and don't forget to turn in some resume's. They need to better their sales department instead of having techs do it.


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