Post the Sixteenth "Rules of Engagement"

Our strategy in going after this army is very simple. First we are going to cut it off, and then we are going to kill it. – General (ret) Colin L. Powell 

In one of my many and storied career paths I served as a customer service / technical support operative for some of the larger technology and telecommunications companies of the time. I’ve been down the halls of MCI (defunct), IBM for about as long as it took them to figure out I was not Big Blue material, Siemens, and a few assorted minor league tech firms that I honestly can’t remember their names and history has committed them to the deep long ago.

It was not a path I wanted, I wanted to be a Tech. Specifically, Network engineer or Server Engineer, but back in the mid 90’s Tampa, that’s who was hiring, telecoms and call centers. Tampa Bay was the last bastion of American call centers in mid 90’s prior to the exodus to Mumbai. So, needing to eat I took a level one gig at MCI soon to be Worldcom.

The story of the idiocracy of MCI in its death throes is for a different day; Today, I want to impart my wisdom to you dear reader on how to deal with call center personnel in a way that will get what you need done, with the least amount of aggravation possible, maybe.

1. When calling for a technical issue pertaining to a PC or other like device you’re going to most likely get an Indian call center. No not the ones in the John Wayne movies, the other ones! What does that mean? Their English for the most part is pretty damn good and they want to help, generally. However, because their masters don’t trust them to get the job done correctly they’re usually reading off a scripted challenge and response. No matter how big a rush you’re in, they will always follow the script no matter what. Fix a drink, have a snack and answer when appropriate because you can not win here! No matter how much you scream!

2. When they’ve finished and the issue has not been resolved by wrote, immediately ask to be connected to a level 2 tech. Why for, you ask? Ah, because a Level 2 tech is located here in states and directly WORKS for the company your device was manufactured for. The Indians are a leased call center concern, they do not work for HP, IBM, Compaq, Acer, Dell, etc. They work for whoever owns the center there in Mumbai.

3. Bear with the Level 2 guy/gal, he’s really Level 1, but thinks he’s level 2. He’s probably going to ask the same roundabout questions Bill (Rajesh) asked a few minutes prior when connected to Mumbai…Time for another drink…

4. At some point, the level 2 guy is going to attempt to put you on hold…Here’s where the fun begins for you: Most call centers have some very hard rules when it comes to call management:

  • Reps can not hang up, ever. (not true when it comes to bill collectors, sales, or the IRS!)
  • Reps have a talk time. This is the time is takes from answering the call to the calls resolution and conclusion. Usually no more than 20 minutes, sometimes even less. This is called call metrics, and you will get dinged on it should you habitually go over.
  • Reps take the most meticulous notes this side of a court reporter and we all read them. Asshole on the first call? The guy you called 5 days later knows what you said, how you said it, is and presently trying to sleep with the rep you said it to. Bad Bad move…..
  • Reps place you on hold when they feel you’re not paying attention, aggravated, mad, rude, silly, or they need to arrange which bar they’re all going to later. Rarely if ever is there a technical reason to do so.
  • Depending on the time of day, they probably have a lot of calls in queue and the Quality Assurance (fucking asshole) guy is IM’ing them nonstop to get the call moving toward resolution or off their circuit, they don’t really care which!
  • Reps are trained to respond to “I want your Boss on the line right friggan now!” with “I’m sorry, my manager, supervisor, person I’m trying to sleep with so I may advance the corporate ladder here and thus my career, is currently in a meeting”. Abject, unadulterated, BULLSHIT! He’s already listening to the call and waving his hands frantically to get the Rep to resolve the issue without him getting on the line. For any reason. Listen, don’t get me wrong Call Center supervisor is a thankless job and if it weren’t for the fact it pays slightly more than Level 2, no one would ever do it!
  • You are motivated to get your issue resolved, Reps are not. Its their job to ensure you don’t return the item. Period. It is not to fix your shit, which frankly, lets face it, you know what you did, you know how you did it and no, your girlfriend’s teenage kid wasn’t on the computer looking at donkey porn, it was you. Own it.
Ok great Corey, thanks for that wonderful trip inside of call center stuff, you’re of course going to get to a point sometime, right?
Here’s why I told you all of that shit:
Same as police officers, these people are doing their jobs. They have rules they have to follow, procedures to ensure, and other silly corporate stuff that frankly I’m thankful I’ll never have to deal with again!
If you get a snarky tech or rep, ask for a different one. They will get you off their line as fast as possible. Assuming they can, some can’t transfer station to station, if that’s the case, they will say that they can’t. Hang up and try again. No, don’t worry, you will most likely never speak to that rep ever again!
“Sir, I’m going to need to place you on hold” Uhm no. I don’t think so. Your answer should be no, every time! Make ’em work for a living! Remember, you have an issue to resolve, they’re just waiting for break time!
The manager isn’t going to get involved, ever. Don’t bother asking for a supervisor. It will do no good. The Quality Assurance (asshole) guy has already notified the guy in charge that the rep is foundering. More likely, the supervisor is standing next to the Rep couching them what to say.
At some point the rep has to pass the buck. His talk time won’t allow him to do anything else. Maybe the next guy down the line is really a tech and will get your issue resolved, and its a glorious thing when that happens!
Initiating the call while mad or drunk or both is right out, we know how to screw with you. Maybe you just needed a quick part replacement, a quick question on MS Word, whatever, good luck getting that now. You’re going into Dante’s rings here buddy boy. Remember the whole “notes this side of a court reporter” thing? Yeah, its in the notes now. You are never, ever, getting any further. No resolution, NONE for you!
In short, work the system, know the limitations, and keep your ego in check and maybe you’ll get where you need to go, maybe… I was an insider and even I get to hate crime level of pissed offness calling in a problem!

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