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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Willie-O BS: Techs Online (20) RE: BS: Techs Online 24 Jun 09

Joe sed: "Then I called Trendnet, and their support tech talked me through a manual connection process. All I had to change was the VPI number, from something to zero. Then it worked. The Trendnet representative was very helpful, although it was clear she was reading off a piece of paper.

But why couldn't the modem be set up to connect easily to AT&T? And why couldn't the AT&T rep have talked me through a manual logon? And why couldn't AT&T have given me a decent modem to start with?"

Far be it from me to defend ATT, or the just-as-evil Canadian telecom corp I worked for for two years as a level one tech, but I can perhaps illuminate the process here.

The key words are "modem not supported". In a perfect world, all questions would be answered by whoever picks up the phone, but that knowledge base is not available to everyone. There is hardware that is designed and configured for your particular service, and then there is hardware that you choose to buy which might work, or might not work. The ISP can't keep up with the exact features of every conceivable type of modem that might work with your service, so they choose two or three "supported" models and make sure the helpdesk has all the necessary info on those. If you want to use one that they don't support, you are of course directed to the manufacturer of the product you are trying to use.

AS you point out, AT&T also has two streams of tech support service: one that is included in the price of your service, and one that charges by the minute for support questions which deal with non-supported hardware that people choose to use with the service, or presumably other non-supported issues dealing with user knowledge. (Your ISP help desk is not there to teach basic computer-use skills. I'm not being snotty; read on) Most people want the free helpdesk service, of course, and they want the phone picked up in twenty seconds, not twenty minutes. Call centre logistics are a balance of staffing, scheduling, training and all that, and to meet the answer-time objective, calls must be kept as short as possible, and there needs to be priorizing of essential and supported services. So it makes sense to limit the number of items that are supported.

If the free support service tries to support every type of question thrown at them, they will not be meeting their call-answer time objectives, and if it's you calling in with a routine inquiry for your DNS numbers or a sync check to find out whether your modem's blown or the network is down in your area, (or your kid unplugged your modem, but you don't believe that do you?) you won't like waiting and listening to that stupid music for half an hour because other people are on the line getting support for their non-critical or issues, which take longer to sort out (often because the callers lack any knowledge of their computer or internet setup--again, we don't teach that--go read a book or take a course).         

Level one techs are not PhD-bearing systems analysts, they are people like me, who have basic tech savvy, demonstrate communication skills, and will work for about fifteen bucks an hour. It's silly to put them down for "reading from a piece of paper"--um, it's a computer screen, just like yours--but that's actually a good thing. Cause it means there's a procedure to follow. You're not the only one to have this problem. I don't know how it is in the US, but in Canada, a lot of level one techs are experienced and very good in their jobs, like I was after a year or so, because if you're not bilingual, there are not many promotions you are eligible for in the call centre business. (Since tech support calls go to level one techs first, they can be streamed into French and English-speaking queues which can be staffed by unilingual techs. However, if the call needs to be escalated to level two or higher, there are a lot fewer of those people around, especially at night, so at that point, bilingualism is a job requirement. That's just the way it is.)

Now, there is certainly abuse of procedures from many techs, who have the simple objective of keeping their call times short. Because bottom line, that (aside from multi-linguistic skills) is how you advance your pay grade. Customer service skills are nice, but call time is everything. (I got stuck at grade 2 of 5 pay levels within Level One, cause I was better at customer service than at keeping em short.) So if the tech can quickly establish that you are using something unsupported (whether or not that unsupported item is relevant to the problem, which it may or may not be), you are gone, and understandably pissed off. Or they may tell you to reboot your PC, power-cycle your modem and router, then call back if you still have a problem (note: always do this before you call--it fixes at least half of all disconnects!) Bye, you will be calling back five minutes later but you're someone else's problem.   

Also, I found that although your calls are listened to and graded, if you "accidentally" lost a connection with a customer, you weren't penalized--the transcript would just say "connection lost--assume positive intent". All the calls I ever lost were by accident, lots of buttons on those phones--and they helped my call times! You can see where this could lead.   

I could go on, but I think I already have...plenty

hope that provides some understanding, Joe and everyone else.

Former Help Desk Slave

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