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.

Friday, November 11, 2005


There has been an underground movement going on at TSG (Tech Support Group) to Unionize. The problem is, it is so underground that it is invisible. I didn't know one existed until after I started this blog.

A unionizing effort has been going on among Field Techs for quite a while. They seem to be pretty well organized, (you see their bumper stickers everywhere Cablevision Techs Need Respect), and they have a website. The unionizing effort at TSG is NOT organized but at least they have a website, Organize TSG. One reason why there is no coordinated union organizing going on is the revolving door nature of employment at TSG. Many of the original union agitators have moved on to other jobs, voluntarily or not.

Let's see why Unionizing may be a good idea.

One of the biggest problems in TSG is the rapid turnover. As stated in a previous post, new hires are temporary employees making about $11/hour. Maybe Management's thinking goes as such: Hire cheap and quick so when they leave, because the job is so difficult, you can replace them quickly and cheaply. Maybe this makes sense if you only look at the numbers and we all know that Management is all about the numbers .Management is too short sighted to see this but this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When techs are hired at $11/hr they really don't have anything invested into staying. Hell, you'd probably make almost as much flipping burgers. The first couple of months are really hard and a tech needs to grow into the job. Starting at $11/yr makes it a lot easier for someone to give up easily. If Cablevision offered a higher starting rate of pay (with benefits like health insurance), I can guarantee you that techs would stick with it a lot longer. Techs who stay around longer become better techs. Better techs mean better tech support. Better tech support means better customer service. Oh, there's the problem, as I have stated before, Management has no desire to truly improve customer service, they'd rather put a band-aid, aka BPA, on the gaping wound that is customer service.

Unionizing would give a higher starting salary, techs would stick with the job, become better and customer service would improve.

A big thing we lack here is a fair grievance procedure. Right now if you are a temp, at any time a supervisor can fire you for any stupid reason at all. And if you are a permanent employee they have a huge list of transgressions that will get you written up. And of course if you get written up, down will come the Iron Fist of Management. First of all, it will reset any progress you have made toward any "career progression" (aka a promotion to the next grade level). If you had been assigned to any of the coveted TSG positions (Comm Desk, Offline Team, Live Support(which takes you off the phone 3 days a week!) you are busted back to the phones full time. A decent grievance procedure can prevent a supervisor with a grudge from abusing his authority.

Unionizing will allow techs to be treated like human beings and be a defense against heavy handed management.

Techs need input into the ridiculous work rules, partially covered in my stats and BPA posts, and someone needs to address the lousy Working Conditions around here. Taking call after call after call is simply grueling, one way to prevent burn-out would be to space out the calls, say a mandatory 1 minute break between calls. The stats have to be overhauled to make it reflect reality and BPA needs a lot of work to make it work right.

Unionizing will be good for a tech's well being. A tech who is not overly stressed is a better tech. Better techs mean better customer service.

There is no advancement in this department and management’s idea of career progression is a joke. They have no clearly defined career ladder, simply a series of increasingly difficult to maintain level of stats to match for 6 months before your salary grade level goes up. Once you make that grade, you have to maintain your stats or you get written up. Get written up a couple of times, and your ass is out the door. That’s management’s way of keeping control of salaries, make goals unrealistic and get rid of the ones who happen to reach them.

Many techs scour the internal job postings each day desperately looking for a way out. TSG is comprised of many, many talented people but this resource is little used by other departments. Techs have a hard time even landing an interview for an internal position. And even if they are granted an interview, the fact that they work in TSG is held against them.

Unionizing will provide a well defined and fair career progression. I’m sure it will not help with the other departments' bias against TSG but since they not hiring us now, that shouldn’t matter

I think it is quite clear that Unionizing is the best thing for techs at TSG and I believe it will help the customer by improving customer service.