Dispatch from the Trenches #14

Dispatch from the Trenches #14

First, a story that turned me into a puddle of tears this morning. I love stories of people going above and beyond to serve others. It’s something I try to embody in my work and I love seeing others not only take notice, but share their stories.

To the usher at the Cardinals game who spent two innings finding my son a bottle of milk

What you didn’t know is that beneath my son’s Yadi t-shirt there’s a central line and a feeding tube. You didn’t know that the unusual form and function of his little body mean that he dehydrates easily, but also that drinking too much water could ultimately land us in the hospital, and for whatever reason, against most logic, right now milk is the thing he tolerates best.


NBC’s coverage of the Olympics is religious, not athletic (at least in prime time). No, seriously:

As has been discussed in endless numbers of places, NBC doesn’t do this for its prime time Olympics coverage. It doesn’t emphasize the sport, or even the athletes’ struggles to excel in their sport. Rather, it emphasizes the athletes’ individual struggles with themselves. The point isn’t how to be good at sport X. The point is to overcome the disadvantages of injury or poverty or gender or race or whatever. The competition is moral, not physical.

This makes a lot of sense and I see it the longer I watch the Primetime Olympics coverage especially. I also can’t tell you how many times I heard the entire story, complete with security video of Ryan Lochte and the other three swimmers last night. Every time the official NBC program changed, we were given the entire story. Again.

The Olympics are treated closer to the Real Athletes of America more than Olympians competing in their chosen sports for medals. The sports are secondary to the drama.


✉ Fwd: the heart is a lonely Pokéhunter

This is absolutely worth the read. It’s about dogs, love, loss and Pokémon Go. It was a beautiful story. I saw a lot of myself in the author. I recently worked from home for a week and, if I wasn’t married, would not have left the house. I am a hermit at heart and I’ve also fallen in love with Pokémon Go and had wonderful experiences playing it.

Patience

Patience

People have been taught to get off the line as quickly as possible. This comes from a toxic help desk culture of tracking the seconds of each call and keeping agents to strict quotas.

I work in a place where we are not bombarded with hundreds of calls per hours even though we serve a user community of over 20,000 people. Everyday once I’ve unlocked an account or reset a password, the caller says please wait with me while I try that or please don’t go! And I reassure them I am here for as long as they need me.

I am not held to a time limit for calls. My metric is customer satisfaction. Did I solve the problem? Did I give the customer an avenue for support if I’m not able to offer it? I want my customers to be happy and I work in an environment where that is not only expected but encouraged.

When you work in a place that respects the customer’s time and success, you’re still fighting against those in the industry who do not.

Fi

Fi

AT&Tata

I am fed up with AT&T. We’ve been with them for a long time. My wife has been an AT&T customer since she had a smartphone. She started with a Windows phone well before the iPhone was invented.

I’ve been with AT&T since we combined our plans into a family plan when we became family 6 years ago. And we’ve been iPhone users ever since. Upgrading every 3 years as our phones wore out.

Recently, I was trying to cut my bill by removing some of the data allowance which we weren’t using any way. There’s no way to have less minutes which I would have happily done. We’re still heavy text users because not everyone uses iMessage. But that’s not expensive either.

I made a change which the AT&T’s site said would save us $30 a month on our plan. That was a relief.

Until the next billing cycle started and I saw my bill would not be $1 more than it was before. So I called AT&T and spoke to billing. The woman there basically said changing the plans only saved me about $5 a month. Which I said wasn’t even true based on what I was seeing.

We’re paying our phone off through AT&T Next 24 so that adds about $50 to our plan each month just for the phones since they no longer offer phones on contract. (Well, they do offer it, but it’s more expensive than using their Next program.)

At the end of the day, I was still paying almost $175 for two phones with data plans. There had to be a better way.

After Billing, I spoke to Colton in cancellation to ask what fees we would be charged if we canceled our plan.

Since we’re not under contract, there is no early termination fee. We’d need to pay off the balance of our phones or return them to AT&T. (We’ll see if this is true when we visit the store this week.)

Major Carriers

I looked at Verizon. Their plans are very similar to AT&T and we’d need new phones so we’d be right back where we started.

I debated T-Mobile but I worry about their coverage area. The same with Sprint. Even through they’re running a great deal now. They’re slicing AT&T’s fees in half and offering a second iPhone for free after you have one on the plan. So we’d be back paying for phones over time, but we’d get one of them for free.

I worry about the coverage areas of Sprint and T-Mobile. We’re in the DC area but we often venture out to see family in the middle of nowhere and drive through the country. I need a data signal that will guide my GPS everywhere I need to be. Not just in the middle of downtown.

My wife and I were weighing our options last night and neither of us are married to our iPhones. It’s a fine device. I’ve owned the 4, 5 and now 6 Plus. But they’re not magic. They serve no greater purpose than being pocket computers.

There’s very few apps native to iOS I rely on. And even fewer I can’t use on the iPad instead. So there’s nothing keeping us from Android. There’s no synergy with our old Mac laptops to take advantage of. iCloud is a necessary evil but not a joy to use.

Fi-nally

We are diving headlong into Android with Google’s Project Fi. As of last night, we have two 32GB Nexus 5X phones headed our way. We are leaving Apple for Google and traditional carriers for Project Fi which uses WiFi and a trifecta of cellular carriers to mesh together coverage.

Between Sprint, T-Mobile and US Cellular, they’ve created a network that cover most of the country and blankets the east coast in signal. We’ll see how it works this summer when we travel to San Francisco, Las Vegas and rural Virginia to see if the network holds up.

This will be our grand experiment and will save us money. We don’t use a ton of data each month and Fi’s pricing is a simple $10 per 1GB. If we don’t use what we’ve allotted we’ll get that money back. It’s not billed in round 1GB increments. If we use 1.2GB more, then we pay for 1.2GB, not 2GB. It truly is a pay what you use plan.

The phones should be here this weekend. We’ll be canceling AT&T once they arrive and we port our numbers over. I’m excited to try this out and see how far Android has come since the Motorola Droid.

The Internet is People

The Internet is People

The world is filled with real people, just like you. I talk to people everyday in all moods. I get the happy people excited to learn. I get the frustrated people who need a little help. I get the pissed off people who want to scream at me because I’m the poor sucker who took their call.

Working in tech support makes you the target of anger and frustration. We listen to a lot of it. We take it and try not to internalize it. We’re people. We’re real. We’re sitting at desks in sterile, soulless rooms taking calls and emails from frustrated customers.

We’re doing our best to help you and be nice about it. We’re real people, just like you. The Internet is full of those real people. They answer phone calls and emails. They read scathing words and insults hurled at them. They wait patiently through the profanity-riddled diatribes that take a 5 minute fix into a 45 minute call like I had yesterday.

We’re all people. It’s hard to remember when it’s a name in a chat box or an anonymous voice across a phone line. We’re the other person at the end of your email.

The video below animates Derek Sivers’ post Real and it’s a good reminder that we’re real people behind the technology.

Slack slash ignore

Slack slash ignore

Rob Malanowski, the internet’s greatest literary platypus brings up a great point about Slack. Now I know their idea is to use it for teams in workplaces. And I’m sure plenty of people do that. However, I use it as a place to hang out with like-minded nerds or all sorts. I also dip my toe into the SupportDriven Slack room which has nearly 1,000 customer support professionals.

Slack is a social tool since I don’t work anywhere that would consider Slack in their business. All Hail SharePoint!

Rob writes in Slack and /ignore:

Slack clearly needs a /ignore command.

One simple command, and everything is back to rainbows and puppy dogs. There are several Slack teams that I visit less and less frequently because they each have one person that I would be happier never hearing from. Without /ignore, I have to opt out of the whole team. That doesn’t seem ideal.

This may not have any place in a workplace team setting but it would be useful to those of us who use it socially.