MonthJune 2005

Just Fabric

A constitutional amendment that prevents “The Physical Desecration of the American Flag”

For fucks sake. It’s a flag. It’s a bit of cloth. Its only purpose, its only meaning, is to be a symbol of a country, and if you want to get more abstract, for the freedoms which that country claims to stand for. Such as, for example, the freedom to burn a fucking flag if you want to.

The Happy

I heard some upper management types talking about the call center at work today. Now, I’ve never run a call center, but I have (like most techies, getting their start) worked on an ISP helpdesk in the past, providing call-in support to users with problems. My first tech gig, in fact. We grew very very good at walking people through things like windows networking settings, while playing Quake at the same time. So anyway, I have worked on the coal face, so I am not ignorant of call center stuff.

Now here’s the weird bit, the management guys in question were talking about stuff like maximum call times, abandonment rates, and other phone related shit. Which is all well and good, but these are .. really .. fucking stupid metrics for call center performance. The customer doesn’t give a shit about how many calls the techie they’re talking to has answered in an hour. If you start rewarding your call center staff based solely on how quickly they get off a call .. they will find ANY FUCKING EXCUSE to get off that call fast. And then you end up with calls like this:

“Hi, I can’t connect, I’ve double checked my password and username, but I just…”
“Sir, try rebooting. Then call me back. ThankYouForYourCall.” [CLICK]

…time passes ..

“Hi, me again. I rebooted, and I still can’t connect, I don’t think it’s any…”
“Okay, Sir, try reinstalling windows.”
“For serious? But windows runs just fine, I think it…”
“ThankYouForYourCall!” [CLICK]

..because hey, management has very clearly informed staff that what REALLY matters is call duration. Nothing else.

In my day we used to occasionally spend an hour or more on the phone with a customer, but when we were done, everything worked, and the customer understood what was happening. Repeat calls were rare enough to be comment-worthy when they happened.

Which is why if I ever need a support call center for this kinda stuff in any of my companies, I plan to measure performance in only one way – I’ll tell the staff “Stay on the line for however long you want. Hell, have them bring the PC in, if you can’t work it out over the phone. But fix the problem. While you’re there, ask if there’s any other problems you can fix. Video drivers. Printer drivers. Desktop background colour not quite what the customer wants. Whatever.” and I’ll have an auditing team (or person) whose job it will be to track recent tickets for each call center member, and randomly phone up customers that have called in, and ask “Did we help you? ARE YOU HAPPY?”.

And THAT will be my metric for call center performance. Because that’s what matters.