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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


One reason why we need all those Uptrainings is that we have to work with a mishmash of outdated and poorly integrated tools. You'd think that once you call in and give the tech your phone number, up pops all your information, right at his fingertips. HA! This is Cablevision, the place where while you are on the phone navigating those endless menus, you enter in your phone number but then have to tell it to the tech when you finally reach a human. Didn't you just give the menu system your phone number? (Or rather didn't you give it 5+ minutes ago? :( ) Why is the tech asking for it again? Because Cablevision is incomptent!. That should be your first clue that we are (by Mangement's design) totally disorganized.

In the call center we use a ticket tracking application called Remedy. After we request your phone number (carefully following the BPA procedures) we enter it and hope your name comes up. There are a number of reasons why your name may not show up, but the most common is that you've gotten a new phone number (like a new OV number, or you may have moved) but your account is still listed under your old phone number. When you order OV and are given the new number, why isn't your account updated to reflect that? It's because of the poor integration. What happens in one application often isn't reflected in another.

Here is an example of their poor integration. Let's say you move and you take your modem and your IO boxes with you. What Cablevision does is disconnect your old account and create a new one. Your modem mac ID and IO box ID will probably be left attached to your old account. In a couple of weeks your TV and modem service stops working because The System does not recognize those boxes as being attached to a valid account. You call up customer service (not tech support) and the Customer Service Rep fixes your problem. Now why wasn't it done automatically? Because it is a manual process, there is no way to link accounts. This happens all the time. But guess where your email address is and will stay forever? Yep, attached to your old account. The CSR knows nothing email addresses, they are just concerned with the box numbers. There are tens of thousands of email addresses attached to disconnected accounts. Can Cablevision go in and clean out old disconnected email addresses? Nope! They may be used by a customer who has simply moved! That means if you ever drop OOL, you can pretty much guarantee on using your email address forever. This brings up another problem, remember Bulk Mail? Cablevision's vaunted SpamAway was to put any identifed Spam into your bulk mail folder where you could review it for mistakes and report any errors. That lasted how long, six months? And I believe this is why, there are tens of thousands of unused email addresses that are no longer being used but still get Spam. These emails never get deleted and use up valuable disk space. The BISC's only option was to remove the Bulk Mail capability in order to reduce disk space. After all, they can't delete email addresses because they have no idea which are are being used by paying customers and which are not!

Back to the tools.....

Let's say we are unable to bring up your account in Remedy but you have your account number handy. You would think we could bring up your account in Remedy using your account number. NOPE! That would make it too easy for us. We have to go to another application which accesses the repository of all the customer's billing and service information, Cabledata. This POS is a text program which runs in a DOS window. Believe it or not it is a 16 bit application! For you non-technical people out there, that shit went out with Windows 95! Being a text program it is comprised mostly of short acronyms and codes and there are HUNDREDS of them. Do we get training on them? See Uptrainings for an answer on that! When all we had to do in Cabledata was to set up truck rolls to fix signal problems it was easy, but then Management dumped all sorts of other responsibilies on us (fixing rates, Changes of service, OV issues,etc). More responsibility = more pay, right? HAHAHAHAHA! Not in the Cablevision universe! And the lack of training we get causes errors to be made all the time. Since we really don't know what we are doing with Cabledata it is very easy to remove existing services when we make a change to another service. So if that happens to you, don't blame the tech, blame Cablevision's management for their incomptetent Training procedures.

Remedy and Cabledata are the two main account tools we use but there are a bunch of others. And testing is never done by the Corp IS idiots. Man, I should have included those boneheads in my incompetence entry. If we get a new version of a tool, you can guarantee that their will be big problems for the first few days and then they will remove the tool until it is fixed. Half the time they don't even restore the old version so basically you are SOL! Anyway, at any one time we probably have 15+ windows open. And there is no built-in integration in any of them. What we have to do is cut and paste and cut and paste.

There is one bright spot in this mess of tools, a very smart and enterprising tech took it upon himself to write a program (on his own time!) to try to integrate a number of these tools. It's not perfect and has its flaws but it is MILES beyond what Cablevision provides us. He distributed this to a few fellow techs and management noticed their stats improved. In a rare stroke of intelligence they asked him to continue to improve his program and distributed it to the rest of the call center techs. For what this guy does, he should get $50/hr. Cablevision is getting a 60% discount on his programming! BUT he was still just a phone monkey. He was allowed a couple of days a week to work on his program but the other days he had to be a phone tech. This guy was far more valuable working on his program than answering phones. But it's like I've said before, Cablevision just cares about throwing bodies at the queue. Eventually his reward was a promotion to the Corporate IS department. There was no increase in pay of course, I'm sure Management must think that he should just be happy he's off the phones.....

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Training around here is nothing but a bad joke. When you get frustrated with an incompetent tech, don't take it out on the tech, it is not his fault, it is Management's inability to properly train the tech and keep them up to date. I've already detailed the abysmal training given to new techs and how it could be improved. But after you get on the phones, Management feels that any new features that OOL provides can be handled in a quick 45 minute or so Uptraining. Uptraining. WTF does that mean? Uptraining. The way management is around here it is more like Up your ass training.

Every couple of weeks you will get an appointment for a Uptraining. These Uptrainings will be on either new tools or new features that OOL supports. They are usually scheduled for 45-90 minutes and are held in a conference room. A "lead" technician hosts the Uptraining and hands out a photocopied document that details "everything" you would need to know about the new feature/tool. Do we have any computers to view or work with the new feature/tool? No, but the photocopy has screenshots! Yay! Screenshots! WooHoo! So how is the class conducted? The "lead" will sit at the head of the conference table and in a monotone, simply read off every fucking line in the document. As you can imagine, this is about as informative as watching ice melt. The sad part is you look forward to such Uptrainings, it gets you off the phones and away from customers.

These Uptrainings are supposed to provide the absolute minimum needed to perform the required function. How to handle anything out of the ordinary is not detailed at all. So the Uptraining might be useful 50% of the time. The rest of the time, well, good luck finding a lead.

Another useful thing that was suggested to Management (and promptly relegated to the circular file) is to provide refresher Uptrainings. Quite a few times I have talked to fellow techs about a customer's problem I solved and have had the tech tell me "I forgot about that". But the reason why Management won't do that ties in with the following.

The hell with keeping techs well trained and able to properly help the customer, what did I state earlier is the most important thing to Management? That's right, their ASA. It doesn't matter if you are scheduled for an Uptraining, if there is a queue of customers waiting to talk to a tech (and there is ALWAYS a queue), Uptrainings are cancelled. Of course they are supposed to be rescheduled but what happens? Yep, another queue, Uptrainings are cancelled again. Eventually the Uptraining is forgotten about and then you are on your own. When new features roll out as the new OV portal did recently, I'm sure when customers called in about it, they knew more about what it does than the tech did!

Other methods of training consist of leads coming around while you are on the phone, dropping off a document and then they make you sign that you read it. Or it is emailed to you. When do I have time to read these documents? Oh that's right, management allows me all of 5 minutes at the beginning of my shift to log in, setup all the tools I need and then go through my email to read and digest these documents. Or while I am on the phone with a customer I might recall there is something in my stack of documents I have to carry back and forth to work (remember, we aren't given drawers to store our stuff in) that may have something to do with his problem. Let's see how Management can screw us. If I put the customer on hold, I run the risk of exceeding my hold time stat. If I tell the customer Let me research your issue and NOT put him on hold, I have to watch out for BPA and fill in the silences. Yet again, Management sets up the tech to bullshit the customer and not fix his problem. As we have seen, it is not in either the tech's nor Management's best interest to help the customer.

When you speak to a tech remember one thing. The tech on the phone is considered by Management to be nothing but a phone answering piece of meat. The tech only exists to lower the ASA. All management cares about is that you get off the phone as quickly as possible. They don't care if your problem was fixed, they don't care if the tech knows WTF he is talking about, they simply care about you hanging up the phone ASAP.