Wednesday, October 03, 2007

From The Call Log

I understand what Jeremy and Laura are talking about. My experience at i2 more closely resembled their experiences...people from different regions were closer to stereotypes. There we dealt with the 5-6000 company employees and not John Q. Public. We had a narrow captive audience.

Before that I dealt with the general public. If you bought the software, opened the box and called the number or if you got the free CD in the mail and needed help, I was one of the guys you talked to. If you've ever dealt with the public you know that anything can happen. I had quite a few memorable calls--

Neatest call, a tie:

  • First - was helping a guy from Hawaii one day configure his modem. While waiting for a connection to go through I heard a steady 'whoosh--whoosh' in the back ground. I asked "...is that what I think it is?" He laughed and said "Yeah, I live just off the beach. I have the patio door open." Wow.

  • Second - on New Years Eve at @ 4:00 p.m. Dallas time I was talking to a guy in the Paris office of i2 Technologies with the most pleasant British accent I've ever heard. As we finished he said "Happy New Year, mate! I'm going to go celebrate New Year's in Paris with half a million of my closest Parisian friends!" Double Wow.

Most rewarding call:
Doing Windows 95 support I was talking with a guy in mid-town Manhattan. He was a professor at NYU and his wife was a real estate agent. He had all his lectures, research & class material and she had all her real estate records on their computer. He was upgrading IE from v3 to v4 (the infamous 'Active Desktop' upgrade). He had forgotten to disable his anti-virus beforehand. Anti-virus programs were notorious in those days for bricking a system if they were running during the Active Desktop install. He called his OEM when he got this black screen with a blinking cursor and a funny looking "C:\" thing. Their answer: "run restore". Wiping his drive wasn't an option so he made a paid-support call to Windows support. I got permission and walked him through a nearly 4 hour 'manual uninstall' of IE (look THAT one up in the K.B.) that requires extensive work at a DOS prompt and deft use of the 'extract' command. At the end he was up and going with no trace of any ill effects and he & his wife were ready to name their next child after me.

Funniest call, another tie:

  • First - was speaking to a gentleman named Armando in L.A. who was the proud and very enthusiastic brand new owner of what was then the fastest computer money could buy. He was trying to set up the not-so-intuitive-in-those-days internet access software that came installed. He was about 7 layers deep into things and lost. I said "Armando, let's get back to the desktop." He said "Si, si. My computer - she is on zee desktop!"

  • Second - was helping a curiously pleasant yet grouchy novice user in New Mexico from the Greatest Generation do a 'manual uninstall' of Dial Up Networking. During the lengthy reboot he was chattering away about all the technology changes and what things were like during the war when I heard a tinkling sound followed by a loud flush then "..ahh. That's better."

Some of the more unusual calls:

  • the drunk who called late one night and actually passed out while I was talking to him
  • the guy who wanted me to move in with him after fixing his problem (a whole new meaning to 'connectivity')
  • the guy who called for help fixing Outlook Express...he was a biology researcher connecting via satellite phone and internet from his camp in the middle of the Northwest Territories miles from nowhere. I could hear the generator running in the background.
  • several celebrities that called
  • a nearly 6 hour call helping someone upgrade a 486 DXII with 512 K of RAM from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 using the extremely rare 20+ set of floppy disks. All went well, just took forever. Luckily MS was way more concerned about having happy, fixed customers than about average call time.

Most meaningful call:
I was speaking with 'John' from Seattle one day. He was having trouble setting up his email program after switching to us from another provider. He was getting more irritated every passing minutes over the simplest things yet wouldn't listen to my directions and then blamed me for things not working. He was bordering on abusive. I finally stopped and said "John, look: I'm on your team. I'm here to help you. If you're not ready to work on this now, no problem. You can call us back later to finish. Or, you can cut me some slack, listen to what I'm telling you to do and we can get it done now and get you fixed." After a long pause he said in a very apologetic tone "I'm sorry. I just wanted to get my email going so my son can send me some pictures of my grandchildren. Please forgive me. I just found out today that I have terminal cancer..."---somehow, through the tears, we got him fixed.

Most fun gig:
During my time in the 2000+ seat call center I spent 9 months on the MSN Irate Team (guess who we talked to all day). There were 9 of us. I worked 4x10 shifts (Mon, Tu, Th, Friday from noon to 11). We had NO support boundaries...we could do whatever it took to fix a customer. We had NO boundaries how we talked to the customer short of profanity or insults. Each person would only take about 5 calls a day. We spent most of our time doing testing and research. We each had a 'Crash' box. Whenever a new version of some critical software came out we were given a CD and told to "Break it" then report back to Redmond. During this time we solved a major crisis: they began a program where a customer signed up for 3 years of service and received a certain brand of free computer. Only problem was hardly any of the software controlled generic modems (not a Lucent chipset modem) would connect to our access numbers. A couple of us researched the command control set from the chipset manufacturer and came up with a string that would allow nearly 100% of the customers to connect. We received special recognition from Redmond.

Best all around job:
i2. Working for them was what I would have imagined working directly for Microsoft-Google-Yahoo or any of the other high profile, high tech companies would have been like. If I had been willing to move to Bangalore I would still be working for them.

Overall I appreciated the experience I gained during this time...I was in a constant state of learning and I couldn't have bought an education like it. I love my job now but if anything ever happened that I was back on the market again I know where I would look.

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