Inside Tech Support

An insider's view of the OOL technical support call center. I am an OOL techical support representative and I've created this blog to give you an insight into the workings of the call center as well as help you get inside the mind of the guy who is helping you.

Sunday, July 31, 2005


A culture of incompetence pervades Cablevision. Everywhere you look there are idiots and the idiots beget idiots.

From the HR managers that hire techs that can barely spell their name, to the trainers that couldn't train someone to tie their shoes, to the retread former Verizon supervisors (there's a good reason why Verizon dumped them) to the clueless morons in the networking groups, incompetence is everywhere.

I feel sorry for our customers, there might be a 25% chance they will speak with a tech that will be able to help them. Because Cablevision pays so little (you start as a temp making $11/hr) and this is a job that takes you a couple of months to really get into the flow of things, you rarely get techs that 1) are technically proficient when they walk in the door and 2) stick around to become so. For the new tech, Cablevision has a wonderful support structure, there is always someone around to help. HAHAHAHAHA. As I've detailed before in Managements obsession, any tech or lead that should be available to help new techs get ordered to or are scheduled to be on the phones. How do these techs learn from their mistakes? They don't. Since they don't know they are making mistakes and Management doesn't care about the quality of the tech support, they will just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. BUT! Even though the odds say you will have to call in 3 more times before you get someone that can help you, at least be happy for the call center management because you are helping them get their year end bonus.

I don't know what these guys are doing all day because the new techs come out of training almost as clueless as when they come in. Simple little tasks like determining if a customer is part of an outage is beyond them. Forget about trying to diagnose a Winsock problem. New techs get a couple of weeks of classroom training, followed by a day or two listening in with an experienced tech and then they are put on the phones. Training should be at least 6 weeks long. Two weeks in class, one week sitting with an experienced tech listening and discussing the calls, one week taking the calls and having the experienced tech discuss their approach and coach them and then two weeks on the phone with a trainer close by to monitor their tickets and answer any questions. Management will never do this as all they care about are bodies on the phone. They don't care about properly training their techs, they don't care about proper customer service, they simply care about answering as many calls as quickly as possible. Is my approach a better long term solution? Of course, but as I've stated before, it won't help Management make their numbers and thus their precious year end bonus.

In the past year, we have been inundated with former Verizon supervisors. Cablevision's incompetent management would rather hire retreads than promote from within. They've probably hired 10 supervisors from Verizon in the past year and promoted maybe 3 people from within. As a result, the technical abilities of these supervisors are nil. Techs are told to See a lead or supervisor if you have any questions. If your tech puts you on hold to ask one of these Verizon supervisors a question, you'd have been better off had he just used a Magic 8 Ball

Field Techs
The majority of Field Techs are excellent. They come to your house, do a great job and you are happy. BUT! We don't hear about them, nobody calls in to tell us what a great job Jose did when he installed their triple play. We hear the horror stories, of untrained techs (sound familiar?), botched jobs, and rushed incomplete jobs. And when that happens, the customers that call in are PISSED. And for good reason. I hate these calls, all you can do is kiss some ass because you KNOW we fucked up and when you schedule a repair you pray it will be assigned to a good tech. What you really want to do is go to the customer's house, fix his problem and then track down the Field tech and kick his lazy incompetent ass. There are two types of Field techs, Cablevision techs and contractors. Because of the explosive growth of Optimum Voice, as well as the Triple Play promotion, Cablevision cannot handle the volume of installs and repair calls and must hire contractors. 99% of the problem installs are because of Idiot Contractors that don't know WTF they are doing. Next time you have a tech come to your house, just hope to look out the window and see a real Cablevision truck. If you don't, well, good luck......

These are the guys who run the mail servers. If you are masochistic enough to use an address, you know where this is going. These guys love performing unplanned maintenances in the middle of the day and bringing down a mail server. Of course their excuse is It isn't customer affecting. Oh no? Then why do we have 100 angry customers in the queue because they cannot get their email? Also the mail servers crap out for no apparent reason at all and the first indication the BISC has of this is a phone call telling them about it! There are something like 10 mail stores, each email address is assigned a mail store. Why doesn't the BISC have 10 email address, each on a different mail store and a program that every minute tries to log into each email address in turn? If one fails, set off an alarm or something. I know guys that can write a program to do this in minutes. This is basic, simple stuff! Why isn't it done? Incompetence, plain and simple incompetence.

These idiots are responsible for running the UBRs. They are real winners. Let's roll out an untested IOS upgrade for this Cisco UBR and wait for call volume to see if it works!. When the calls come rolling in, they deny there is a problem on their end, constantly duck the issue, do everything they can to stall and finally when pressed to the wall with an overwhelming amount of evidence that there is a problem, take some action. Of course this is probably 12 hours later, thousands of customers have been affected and the issue is guaranteed to occur again because they didn't fix the problem they just masked it. And that is on an issue that affects thousands! Imagine trying to get them to fix a smaller issue on their end. Forget it.

All in all, If I have to decide among all the above, it's a close call between the moron field tech contractors and the idiots at RFDN. But in my final analysis, the group that wins the Incompetence award are the knuckleheads in RFDN.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Power users

Oh man, these guys are a challenge.

Some of them call in and they right away don’t want to talk to you.. They know the issue cannot be on their end. They don't want to troubleshoot, they don't want to deal with a lowly worm like yourself, they want a supervisor, or even better, they guy in charge of the network. They want their "issue" acknowledged and escalated RIGHT NOW. "Oh my GOD! In the past year my speeds have dropped from 900K to 600K! Fix it NOW!!! There is usually no data to back up their talk, they frequently curse, and they are very angry. This is NOT the way to deal with someone you are asking for help. Acting like this will NOT put me in a mood to help you.

So go ahead, call in. Bitch about the company, bitch about your speeds, complain about the customer service, threaten to disconnect (PLEASE DO!!!). Demand I escalate your complaint. Be a big important man and act like an ass. Yes, yes, yes I'm SURE you are smarter than I am. I'm SURE you are better looking, better paid (well duh!), drive a better car, have a prettier girlfriend, and I'm SURE you have a bigger dick. But guess what, you're the one with the problem.

Go ahead, treat me like a piece of shit. I'll escalate your ticket alright, right into the fucking Recycle Bin.

But thankfully that is not the most common kind of Power User that calls in. I find there are three kinds. The Angry Guy as related above, Real Power Users and Posers.

Posers call up and think they know what they are doing. "I'm a programmer/MSCE/CEO of a tech company/Linux user and I KNOW there is nothing wrong on my end. Meanwhile you have them reboot their PC or power cycle/bypass their router (all the while they are bitching and moaning) and viola, they are online. I recall one moron calling right after he couldn't retrieve email. After checking his settings and determining he can't connect to port 110 I asked him if he had rebooted since this issue occurred. Of course such a thing never crossed his mind. And of course that fixed the problem. I've never understood the immediate reaction of people to call in the instant they are unable to retrieve their email. Can't it wait? Do you really need that joke from Uncle Charlie/mailing list email from Anal-retentives R Us/how-are-you email from your bored-friend-at-work/increase your penis size|viarga|save money on software|Nigerian business proposal| spam- RIGHT NOW????? Yeah,yeah,yeah, all of you are awaiting vitally important email every damn second. Geez, if it is that important, use the damn phone......

Real Power Users are a lot more pleasant to deal with. They come armed with information. Trace routes, pingplots, complaints from dslreports, etc. Sure, they’d rather deal with a lead because they’ve called in before and have probably had some idiot tech that can barely spell their name(Yes, I am well aware of the wide disparity in the quality of OOL’s tech support – there are many good techs but with the turnover there are many more who are poorly trained and inexperienced). .I’d love to be able to help them. I’d love to be able to fix their problem. But here's another dirty little secret. Even if you have a legitimate complaint and I escalate your complaint, NOBODY CARES that you have proof the network is having problems. You are just one caller. Yep, that's right, it's true. You, with all your proof, your trace routes, your pingplots, etc, are treated just like the Grandma next door who calls in complaining of slow speeds. Your call will be lumped in with the rest of the slow speed calls and maybe, just maybe, at the end of the month, someone will analyze the tickets and see that there were a larger number than average calls from a specific area. And only then will we do something about it. Of course all the call center can do is tell the networking groups that we see a larger than normal call volume from that area. And they will promptly blow it off and say it will be addressed in a future maintenance. Now will that fix your problem? I think you know the answer to that question……

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Management's obsession

Everything at the call center is ruled by one thing: Statistics. While I'll cover tech statistics in a later post, this one will describe a management statistic.

Management is ruled by one number over all - ASA, average speed of answer. That is the average amount of time all customers have had to wait before talking to a rep in a 24 hour period. Right now the goal is 60 seconds. When the queue goes up, the wait to speak with a rep gets longer and the ASA rises. And management starts running around like a chicken with his head chopped off trying to figure out why the queue is so high.

Management's slavish obsession with the ASA comes at a price. Let me give you some background. In order to allow the techs to work more efficiently, you should have a few experienced techs or even lead technicians walking the floor to help out with questions. This is why techs will put you on hold, to confer with a floor walker. But management frequently short staffs that position and it causes lines of techs standing next to the one or two available floor walkers. Also when the queue goes up, floor walkers will get ordered to take calls. This is, of course, short sighted.

Here's an example. Let's say a floor walker can help one tech in one minute and we have two floor walkers. And let's say techs come for help at a rate of one every 30 seconds. If your tech goes to ask for help, he should be back in a minute. The queue now rises and one floor walker gets ordered to the phone and his first call takes 10 minutes which is about average. The first tech who asked a question is back at his desk after a minute which is expected, but the second tech had to wait 30 seconds extra, the 3rd tech, a minute, the 4th, 90 seconds, etc. Eventually some techs may give up and possibly go back and tell the customer something incorrect. So in the 10 minutes that the ordered to the phone floor walker has taken one call and the 10 callers, whose techs needed help, have had their calls extended a total of 12.5 extra minutes. Now how many customers have called in and have been on hold during those extra 12.5 minutes?

Now THAT'S the way to lower your ASA!!!

So when you are on hold for an extended amount of time, well, now you know why.
Management feels that making their goal and thus increase their end of the year bonus is more important than any inconvenience an individual customer may experience.

Or maybe they are just stupid.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


You deal with all sorts of customers in this job. They run the gamut from the petty tyrant who takes out his frustrations on the poor sap on the other end of the phone and feels like a big man (or woman) when he curses at him or belittles him, to the people who are genuinely happy and grateful that you helped them.

It is the latter customer I'd like to salute. When a customer calls in and is pleasant and willing to work with me and I do my best to solve their problem, most of the time both of us walk away happy. That is the customer I try to think about on the ride home after a long shift.

And the others? Well, they gave their name and address. Keep that in mind the next time you are rude, demanding, condescending or just plain nasty to a tech. Remember, you're not talking to a far away Indian and now He knows where you live...

Hey, don't be taking this as a threat, it's reality, you really don't know to whom you are speaking with. Your tech may be a former postal worker. But don't worry about me, at the worst a tough customer might make me take a break to cool off and then I'll go home and take out my frustrations on the characters in GTA.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Slow speeds Part II

In some cases the problems with slow speeds may not be OOL's fault. Sometimes the problem lies outside of our network. I've had customers show me traceroutes that show spikes of hundreds of millseconds but when when examined the spikes appear after they leave the OOL network.

You would think that once we are notified that our peering networks have issues we would route around them or use another peer but no, the networking groups don't care. Not our network, not our problem is their motto.

So go ahead and call it in but don't expect much. The tech will not be aware of it. If it ain't in our network, it ain't an outage and thus will not be on the Outage board. If you insist, the tech can escalate it to the Comm Desk but they're useless, since it is one customer, and it is not in our network, they won't do anything with it. Your complaint will fall on deaf ears.

Hell, I don't like it, I know YOU don't like it but that's the way it works.