Year2012

Customer Service Is

Customer Service is…

Working three hours past lunch time to fix problems.

Staying a little late waiting for a meeting to finish.

Relentlessly tracking down a customer who works odd hours.

Cover for a teammate when they get sick or slammed with work.

Communicate outages and issues to the larger team quickly and accurately.

Read notifications about upcoming maintenance.

Read emails from the team and management.

Read.

Learn.

Toiling all day in a basement then leaving to a beautiful sunset.

Saying Yes. And meaning it.

Promising to followup. Then following up.

Taking time to answer questions. No matter how mundane or simple they may appear.

Speaking slowly and clearly.

Remembering to smile.

Calling people by their first name or preferred title.

Politely pushing back when a customer want something unethical or illegal.

Treating every customer like they’re the first person you’ve seen that day.

Knowing every problems has a solution.

Putting the customer first.

Remembering the customer is a human being too. Not a ticket number. Not a line on a spreadsheet.

Remembering we are all fallible.

Remembering we all make mistakes.

Being kind.

Being confident.

Being trustworthy.

Being trusting.

Being approachable.

Job Insecurity

For the month of December I am writing a journal entry each day called Today I Learned where I talk about what I learned that day. It could be something like a technical fix at work. It could be something bigger about my life. Earlier this month I was thinking about work and the time I got laid off.

I learned today I am thankful to have a job. I am thankful to be drawing a pay check. I am thankful to have that measure of stability in my life. But I have thought about my quality of life. What kind of life do I want to have? What do I want to get out of my life? How do I want to spend my days?

I have settled for a lot of jobs. I have settled for jobs. I have settled to sub-par situations. I have worked below my potential and I learned nothing in the process. I have done a lot of things I am not necessarily proud of. But I got a pay check. I had health insurance. I had stability.

Or so I thought…

Until the day I got laid off.

I was working for the help desk of the City of Richmond, VA. It was my first help desk job. I took the job because it paid more than the position I held. I was happy where I was and I was making pretty good money for grunt work. I was content because the work was easy and I could listen to music in one ear and take calls on the Bluetooth headset on the other ear. I was content there.

And then I was told I was going to meet with the head of the IT Department there along with my manager. I figured this was not a good sign even though I was working circles around the other help desk tech. So I went to the meeting and I heard the words that still ring in my ears.

“This has nothing to do with your job performance. You are a great employee who works hard…” and the rest is a blank in my memory. He talked for a few more minutes but the writing was on the wall. The city was going through a round of budget cuts. Because I was the last person hired, I was to be the first person let go.

Last Hired, First Fired.

I was not going to have a job in two weeks. Maybe it was longer. Maybe three weeks. But I was out of a job as of that day. The rest of the time was worthless in a way. I was gone. Deadman Answering Phones.

And because one of the desktop support technicians had been hired before me, he was given the choice to take my job or lose his own and be laid off too. He opted to take my help desk position. I can’t blame him. I would have made the same choice. But I was expected to teach him what I did. I was expected to train him to take my job. That was just too much for me. I couldn’t do it. My pride was hurt. I was freaking out because I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I was freaking out inside and trying to keep myself together outside. But I was unemployed. And no amount of hard work and effort on my part would change that.

I was unemployed.

15 Minutes to Critical

Critical ticket comes in 15 minutes before I’m scheduled leave work. Computer won’t boot. I cringe. I debate. I call the customer. He is there. I act nice even though I’m secretly disappointed. I agree to see him. I race upstairs.

Windows 7 greets me. Looking cranky as ever. “Inaccessible Boot Device” flashed across the screen.

I cringe again. This could be fast or this could be days. I say a silent prayer as I calmly reboot and talk to the customer. Reassuring him everything will be OK.

Inside I pray louder. It shuts down.

A pause.

It starts up again. Black screen. Blank. No beep. No messages. Yet.

I wait. Milliseconds seem like eternity as the machine decides my fate.

It sings to us. I see blue. Not a sickly error blue but a soothing corporate blue.

Windows Starts Up.

Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to Logon.

Success.
Inside I cheer.
Outside I’m calm and smiling confidently.

My customer thanks me for my quick response. I thank him for his patience.

He logs in.
I leave.

Victorious.

Please contact your system administrator

I’ve thought a lot about how people interact with the computers they use. I’ve often wondered why people in offices know so little about the computers they use 40 hours a week. In many cases, the machine has not changed in years. The Operating System is the same. The Office applications are the same. They perform the same tasks day in and day out. They’re the 21st Century versions of assembly line workers.

They perform a skill. They perform it repeatedly and anything outside that small skill set is foreign and deemed impossible in their minds.

I often thought about the several times I’ve had to revisit the same people for the same problem over the course of weeks, months, or in some cases years. I see the same people for the same problems and I ask myself, Why?

Why am I solving the same problem for the same person so many times?

I thought perhaps it was a lack of understanding. Maybe the tasks were too difficult, but in comparison to what they did everyday, it was no more difficult, just different.

I thought maybe it was willful ignorance. They knew what they needed. They didn’t like computers. They resented having to use the computer so they were determined to learn as little as possible about it.1

I thought I was failing them in some way. I was not educating them. I was not providing a way for them to understand. I was speaking to them in techno-gibberish. I needed show them. I needed to help them to understand.

I was wrong. Thomas Brand and he gets to the root of it better than I ever could.

He writes,

Windows users are different though. Enterprise Windows users never had to fend for themselves. They never made a meaningful transition to the new and different. They stuck with what the company gave them, the clear and popular choice, and never identified themselves by the technology they were provided.

Relegated to having to ask for administrative rights to do anything on their computers, most Enterprise Windows users never learned to take an interest in administering their own machines because they never could.

This lack of understanding, and the security vulnerabilities of early Windows operating systems made Windows users the primary targets of malicious software and phishing attacks.

Worst still, companies reactions to these threats have been less about user education and more about tightening controls. This gave Windows users even less of an incentive to learn about the machines they sit in front of 40 hours a week.

He works in a role where he supports Mac and Windows computers and the people who use them. He is writing about Enterprise Windows customers in comparison to the Enterprise Mac customers. 2

They have never been challenged. They have never had the ability to go outside of their pre-defined corporate box. I’ve seen effects of his last paragraph all too often.

Anytime there is a threat, the immediate reaction is to clamp down on rights and abilities on the computers instead of educating people about the problem. Security is always the battle cry instead of Education. Why educate people when you can simply ban them from doing anything to hurt themselves or the company’s equipment? Security seems like the easy answer.

Working in the IT field, I have never been on the other side of the administrative rights fence. I have always had the ability and knowledge of working around problems and the abilities to do so.

I never had to call and ask for permission to install software. When I wanted something, I would load it on to a USB drive and run portable versions of the software I wanted to use I knew the company would not approve.

Corporate computing rewards the compliant and punishes the inquisitive. There is no benefit in learning more than what is required to perform a task. There is no room for exploration and learning. The corporate world rewards conformity and obedience. The structure of the system explains the results of that system. Why would anyone take in interest in something denied to them anyway?


  1. There is some truth to this one. Certain people are set in their ways and no amount of help you can offer will make them help themselves. 

  2. Macs and PCs in an Enterprise environment versus a Home environment are extremely different, especially on the Apple side. 

Question 6 has passed.

My Fellow Marylanders,
Thank you. Thank for you allowing people to marry those they love. Thank you for voting yes on Question 6.

You have changed lives tonight. You are affirming the good decision to allow people to marry those they love and to have civil rights and protections afforded by marriage.

I am extremely proud to have been a single vote in this measure passing. I am extremely proud to have played a small role in allowing people in my state to enjoy the same benefits of marriage I have been able to enjoy just for being a straight white man.

Thank you Maryland.
Thank you voters.
Thank you all.