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A Christmas Support Story

Warning: A non-technical story from being on the frontline in support

As it’s the festive period and this time of the year is for caring and sharing, here’s a short story from many years ago. This might make some chuckle, but some of these times were not pleasant and I can assure you, they were very real!

Like most IT related people, I started in support. The job paid peanuts, it was shift work and I had much to learn. Being quite eager to please, many mistakes were made and in these cases seniors were supposed to help the younglings (like me). For some companies, a functioning support network just isn’t there and low rank power struggles leave you fighting fires a la solo.

Within the first three months of the job, I experienced two major backhaul fibre outages, a group of people stealing our generator power cables and the air conditioning system failed to the point of meltdown. We also had a total power outage which took 40 hours or so of non-stop work to get everything back online and healthy.

These kinds of experiences make or break you. The phones do not stop ringing (at least when the power is on) and customers rightfully do not stop complaining. If you survive the pressure, your skin begins to thicken.

The thing that happened that should have never have happened, can also happen again. Lightening does strike twice in the same place!

It can always happen so be honest with yourself and customers. Understanding contractual obligations for both parties is important and despite the customer trying to push you in to a corner, you have real limits on what you can do.

Customers

When it comes to customers, I like to make sure they get what they pay for and feel connected to us. When you have a good relationship with your customers, awkward conversations are sometimes easier to have. I recall one particular customer who had leased line issue after leased line issue. Her issues combined with our issues made her job very risky after placing her eggs in our basket. Knowing that her job was at risk, she was often the first customer I called proactively when we were having issues. I nearly lost my job over this.

Despite how proactive you think you’re being, always ensure your management team understands what position your customers may be in due to issues in your realm. Sometimes, management want to come forward with a more rounded package and story as compensation instead of a young happy go person ringing them up to apologise and assure them everything is being done to restore a service.

Do not allow yourself to be brushed off by poor management but allow yourself to be guided by them when they understand what the full situation is. Shared responsibility goes a long way for your customer and for yourself. If they do not understand, try harder; that’s their job and don’t let them forget it!

Fin

To all of the support people over this festive period, good luck my friends. May it be an event-less and merry time.

Dave
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