A Humble Plea

It’s my last day doing tech support in a call centre.

I will do a post about my new job shortly, but before I get on to that, I have some things to say.

I’ve left with the standard two weeks notice so I can be recommended for re-hire, and MTS is likely to hire me back on if I had to go crawling back….

But I really frickin’ don’t want to.

Don’t get me wrong – MTS has been really good to me, and my managers have done all they can to not stand in my way as I’ve worked on my licences and ratings. No, what makes call centres a meat grinder that the average employee lasts six months; a place where you can get stress leave easier than just about any job short of air traffic control – what makes me so glad to never have to go back there…

That’s the customers.

Not all the customers, but enough of them. So on behalf of my co-workers, who are great people and more patient than a lot of the people they have to deal with deserve, a humble plea:

When they ask you for your name, please give them your name – the name you think the account might be under. There’s no need to ask what name we’re looking for, that only makes you sound suspicious. The rep asked for your name. If you have a deep, masculine voice, and you say your name is Brenda, most of us would rather misgender you because you can’t answer a simple question than misgender some poor trans person who can.

If you don’t understand the technology you’re calling about or why you’re being asked to do something, don’t get angry and tell my friends that they don’t know what they’re doing.

If you have one of my female friends on the line, or one of my friends who has an accent, don’t make them convince you that they’re competent. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Anyone that can be identified as a minority over the phone constantly has to persuade people (male and female customers alike) that they know what they’re doing before they can get someone to follow their directions. If they’re not smart, they get abuse so bad, they don’t make it long in tech support, while if customers have a guy without an accent on the phone, he can be completely clueless and they’ll happily follow directions without question. So if you have a woman or someone with an accent on the phone, chances are you have someone who knows their shit.

It’s okay if you don’t know anything about the technology my friends are helping you troubleshoot – they don’t need you to. Often the hardest part of troubleshooting is convincing you that you can do it. Please don’t play stupid to try and avoid having to do the troubleshooting – we know exactly how complex the tasks are that we’re asking you to perform, and you’re not going to convince them that unplugging a cord from the back of a box from the port labelled power, waiting ten seconds, then plugging it back in, is incalculably complex to the point that you shouldn’t be expected to attempt it. They’re just going to come to the conclusion that you’re either incalculably lazy or in calculably stupid. I have walked stroke survivors and people with obvious intellectual disabilities through tv troubleshooting and got them going over the phone. Seriously, the biggest deciding factor is most often not your competence, it’s your compliance.

On that note, please pay attention. I’m used to having to repeat pretty much everything I say at least three times, so if my friends sound like they’re tired of repeating themselves, it’s probably because you weren’t listening the first two times they said what they’re saying now.

If we ask you do do something, it’s safe to assume it’s for one of two reasons – either my friends hope it will fix the problem, or they hope that it will give them information that will help determine what the problem is so they know what needs to be done to fix it. If you don’t understand why you’re being asked to do something, and you don’t understand the explanation when you ask, please, just do it. My friends want to help you, but they can’t if you dig your heels in and refuse to let them.

Likewise, please don’t have a fit and refuse to do any further troubleshooting because the first thing my friends tried didn’t instantly fix it. Often there’s multiple steps to a task, and it’s not going to be a magical push-this-button-and-it-starts-working fix.

Often,you’re able to give my friends so little information about the problem we need to do diagnostic steps to figure out what you’re even describing. Please don’t get angry when they ask you to elaborate. There are too many things that can go wrong with a computer and internet for you to be able to go “That thing’s happening again” and us know exactly what you’re talking about.

Please don’t demand my friends tell you what you’re supposed to do with your kids while you wait for your tv service to be repaired. We provide tv service, not child care. You’re just turning yourself into a joke. Likewise, don’t ask them how you’re going to get assignments turned in to professors or work assignments that you need internet access to work on. Take some personal responsibility people.

I feel like this statement often falls on deaf ears, but please remember that my friends on the other end of the phone are frickin’ human beings and deserve to be treated with respect. Don’t fool yourself into thinking bullying will magically get your internet or tv working without you having to follow instructions. If you do and they hang up on you, you deserve it.

Please don’t yell. Please don’t call my friends names or belittle them. Please don’t cry. If it’s for legit reasons, like you’re calling in to change the name on your account because your husband just passed away, we’re cool with you crying about that, and we try to be sensitive as much as we can, but it’s really hard to be sympathetic to someone crying over their tv not working when we don’t even have cable.

My friends are good people, and they spend their days dealing with near-constant abuse. Give them a break if they sound tired. Look up the term “emotional labour” and understand there’s an intense amount of that involved in tech support. Look up “hang up on abuse” and listen to some of the nasty things customer service reps get told over the phone on a regular basis. My friends are expected to hop on the phone and basically treat you as if you were our old friend and they’re happy to talk you, not just doing a job. Imagine you’re getting on the phone with your own friend and they sound exhausted, irritable, even and you can tell they’ve had a long day. You’d give them a break, rather than making their life more difficult.

We’re all human, just trying to get by. Be nice to one another, people.

PSA: Sexism and Women in Tech Support

*sigh* I was discriminated against today.

This post is not at all writing related, but it’s about sexism and the ridiculous places it comes from sometimes.

I work in internet, TV and cell phone tech support, and sadly, today was not by a long shot the first time I’ve had such a call: Lady gets on the line, has already worked herself up into a tizzy, and when I answer, and give my name, she says she wants to speak to a technician.

I’m a technician, I say, I can help you.

And then she says “No offense” but she wants to speak to a man.

In the past I’ve argued with these people, and eventually got them to hang up, but I figured I’d try something different. After failing to assure this woman that I could help her as well as any man, I let her rant hoping I could get enough information to help her anyway (at my company, we’re often nice that way, even if you’re being a douche – our bosses like to see it, it’s a job — we’re professionals).

Then when I got a chance to talk, I told her I was sorry she’d had so much difficulty with her service, but (in a very firm and level voice, not my nicey nice voice) that I was indeed very much offended that she didn’t believe that I could help her because I was a woman.

It can be really fun calling people on bullshit – she backpedaled then and said she was sorry, she shouldn’t have said that. We’re Canadians, and if there’s anything we can’t abide, it’s offending people.

Again, it’s sad that I get this “I want to talk to a man” as often as I do. And I honestly don’t recall ever getting it from a man. That’s the screwy thing, it’s always women who will come out with that. I’ve talked to men who didn’t think I could help them, and I could tell they had been expecting and hoping to talk to a man, but they won’t say it out loud. Women will. We’re shooting ourselves in the female empowering foot, ladies, come on.

And I’ll let you in on a secret. Those ladies may think that the girl doing tech support isn’t as capable as the guy, but it’s actually likely to be the opposite, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not because women are smarter than men. No, it’s because of those closed minded individuals who give women such a hard time working in the industry (not my coworkers, not my supervisors – they know I know my shit – it’s the customers on the phone who lack faith in the XX chromosome). It’s because there is so much more tolerance from customers for a man who hasn’t a clue what he’s doing, than there is for a woman. Which means, the only women who stick around are the ones who *really* know what they’re doing. They’re typically above average in know-how in the call center, just because if they weren’t, they’d get twice the abuse a man would take.

And this is why it’s still hard to be a woman these days, with all the laws made to protect us from discrimination, there’s still the asshattery that laws can’t stop people from committing, and other women are just as guilty of holding us down as men.

*sigh* Going back to writing now.  Gonna type out the edits on that chapter where the brothel madam complains about how men oppress her.