Carefully Thoughtful Stupidity

In his column, Gearhead, Mark Gibbs relates his difficulties in troubleshooting his DSL connection at home, and gives the reader a clear picture of the difficulties involved in dealing with typical tech support personnel.

Gibbs speaks about SBC support, but all tech support is basically the same, as if there was a book written on the subject of careful contrived frustration of every customer encountered. All support personnel must read this book, although I doubt it has an ISBN number, or could be checked out of any library.

First, detailed is the observation that first level support is something to be avoided at all costs, unless you have problems with spatial recognition and have never had even passing familiarity with the various cables necessary to achieve a DSL connection.

This avoidance of first level support is, of course, coming right after getting out of the Interactive Voice Response system, something that is so often employed, but any information input from the customer ignored, and never carried forth to the support personnel about to come on the line.

The first level tech support, should you forget to absolutely insist on being moved to the next level, will also ask you the most mundane questions, and propose that steps totally unrelated to your problem be taken.

A case in point is an experience I had not too long ago with my carrier. After moving past the IVR (I have done this enough to move out of this easily and immediately), and giving the phone number the account is tied to, the name of the account holder, and the operating system of the computer in question, I immediately told the Customer Service Representative that my system was fine, my connection was fine, and that downloads and uploads were fine. I further asked if she knew that the network news server was down, and if she had any idea when it would be back up. Without skipping a beat, she asked if I could reboot my computer and see if that would fix the problem! After assuring her that I could ping many servers, but the ping from the news server wasn’t being returned she then asked if I could hold the line for a moment. After a wait of 4 minutes, 27 seconds (yes, I have become so annoyed that I always time these things) this CSR informed me that she was transferring me to 2nd level support. After another sizeable wait, the 2nd level CSR came on line and immediately told me that the server was going to be down for about 8 more hours. The outage was a scheduled one, and yet there was no note of it on the website that many of the CSRs refer you to, to have your questions answered.

Why is this policy and protocol followed with almost all call service centers? A certain amount of it is designed to frustrate the customer. The company at the other end knows that a certain percentage of people who call are stupid. It is that plain. These people will call, rather than reading any provided instructions. These same people will not heed any advice given them, and insist, in many cases, that they have much experience with the problem, and are certain that it is (insert problem here). This is done through no inductive or deductive reasoning, but simply a ‘feeling’. It is easy to see why this sort of difficulty causes the company involved to put their own ‘idiots’ in place as the first line of defense.

As for the question of why the same information must be collected at each step along the way, and none shared with any other level, your guess is as good as mine. This is one frustrating point that every customer has a right to get upset about, but the chances of change are slim – this is clearly not part of the book that no customer has access to, under any circumstances.

If you are lucky, you can get your problem solved, to your satisfaction, and with your sanity in tact. But, in the words of that unknown sage‘You pay your money, you take your chances.’


[tags] customer service, customer service representatives, NetworkWorld, Gearhead, SBC, Internet Service Provider, frustration [/tags]