Customer Support

Customer Support


photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

I do not enjoy cold calls.

Well, that’s not quite true. When I worked almost exclusively from home, spending hours in a house alone, I would relish the call from a total stranger as a way of alleviating the isolation.

“No I don’t want new windows, but, hey, whilst you’re on the line, how’s your day going..?”

I think I must have been a salesperson’s nightmare. But now I work for a company and – apart from right now – go into an office and share a kettle – okay, not any more – I want as little extra disturbance.

When I do get a call, I remind myself that this is a person, not a computer – unless it is obviously a computer, which seem increasingly to be happening – and I am sympathetic and tolerant when explaining that I am not interested, but thank you very much for your call. It’s common decency. And afterwards I feel better.

To avoid feeling grumpy you must first stop being grumpy.

Do unto others, etc. etc.

I, therefore, expect, as one would hope, that one is treated in the same way when you call up, say, Customer Support for something that you are paying a proportion of your monthly money too. Yes? Well, for the first time ever, today someone decided that it was going to be a “No.”

As a way of explanation, just before the lockdown our family grew by one. We picked up our 6 week old Labrador from a breeder in Dumfries and Galloway, brought her home and proceeded to spray the house with anti-chew stuff. Despite this, her tiny teeth managed to sever the extension lead from our Openreach box ( UK company who puts in all the phone lines in houses) and subsequently separate the room we call our office from the internet.

Not a complete nightmare, as almost all the machines in the house are wireless, I did not immediately look into rewiring the extension, especially as it was a wire legacy from the the original owners of the house when the office had been the garage and had passed through walls now boxed and plastered. It was going to be a nightmare.

It was in March that I needed to really do something about it as the aforementioned office was about to become a cloud, our machines integral parts of the cloud, and we would all be working from home. It is a feat of technological know-how by our Company IT guy who is also one of the Company Directors. It’s a small company. We all multi-task a lot. The only downside of this was I needed to have the computer connected to the router directly, not wirelessly, as we all needed to open ports on the machines (basically, a private doorway) so everything would work.



After a fashion, we moved the router to another extension, the main box being at exactly the wrong height for a chewing machine. With cables draped around door frames and looking like grey washing lines around the house, we managed to set up the computer in another room other than the proper office. It’s a bit inconvenient, and the internet is a bit dodgy due to the extension the router is plugged into, but it’s a temporary fix.

On the 23rd of March I contacted my ISP and asked when if it would be possible to organize an engineer to come round and move the box to a new location. That’s right, the office – dog free zone 101. The outside cable comes in through that wall, so it would be a matter of minutes to disconnect it, drill a new hole and mount a new box. Then we could cut out the old box entirely as we do not really need the other sockets for phone lines at all. I paid a charge – not a small one – for the service and thought I’d soon be back in the office rather than perched in a cable nest in the hottest room in the house.

Then, on the day of the arrival of the engineer, the country went into lockdown. I had not expected the engineer to come. I was not disappointed.

What was disappointing, though, was that I did not receive any sms, email, call or contact of any kind from the ISP saying “Sorry, but, you know, it’s a lockdown, and we have to think of safety. We’ll let you know if we hear when it’ll happen. Bye!” I expected they were going through phone hell and thought I’d wait. I’ll hear something soon enough.

So it has been almost 60 days since the day I was to be back in my office ‘pootling’ away for the company. Today, I rang the ISP Customer Service line. I was my normal happy self. I explained I had not had an engineer and was wondering why no had had contacted me about it not happening.

“Because of the Coronavirus.” he expressed, as if he was saying the word, “Duh!”

“Yes,” I said, “I understand that, but I was wondering why no one had contacted me to let me know that the engineer wouldn’t be coming round. You now, as a courtesy call or something. It’s been 60 days now”

“Because of the Coronavirus.”

“Yes, I know that’s why he or she couldn’t come, but why did no one contact me to let me know, like, in a text or something?”

“Because of the Coronavirus.”

Literally all I wanted was this disgruntled sounding person to say, “I’m sorry about that, let me check your records and we can sort out how we move forwards.”

I tried again. I just wanted to know whether there was something else he could say. It turned out that after saying literally just the word “coronavirus” at me I decided he was not going to help. This person sitting at a helpdesk who’s only job is actually to be helpful.

I am not an angry person – not really – but this guy was being so blunt and abrupt I was getting frustrated. I did what any other person would do.

“Look, I’m not trying to be a pain or anything. Is there someone else I could talk to? Could I talk to your supervisor?”

His response flabbergasted me. I can honestly use that word. Flabbergasted. My gasts where utterly flabbered. Perhaps my flabbers where completely gasted? Whichever. One of those two.

He said, “What difference would that make?”

“What?” That’s me, flabbergasted.

“You’ll only get the same answer.” This response was delivered in the same way someone would say, “Just shut up and live with it.”

“I want to speak to someone else, please.”

“Then hang up and ring in again.”

I paused and then said, “Thank you.” and hung up.

My wife heard my side of the conversation from the other end of the kitchen. She said, “You sounded grumpy.”

I recounted the whole conversation. She blinked and said, “Well ring back. You might get the same guy.” That put me off the idea of ringing again. But I did ring back and after the rigmarole of the getting into a queue and the like, I was put onto a very charming man who, despite English not being his first language, seemed concerned, searched out my account, checked for the purchase order for the moving of the box, found it, put notes in my account, changed my password, organised for a refund if I wanted it and was apologetic, but explained that everything was up in that air because of the coronavirus. He was perfect. He helped.

I cannot remember either of the support staff names. Which is a shame. I would like to share the name of the second one so that he could get the recognition he deserves. For being someone who understands that everyone on the phone is a real person and requires help. The sort of staff member a company can be proud of. A real helper. I would like to send the name of the other one to the ISP – Sky – along with a description of the call, so they could find it, talk to this member of staff, and hopefully explain to him how to talk on the phone to people.

I am a 50 year old man with a solid grasp on technology and all my faculties. Imagine if someone older, or frailer, or with emotional support issues had called in asking about a missed appointment and had ended up listening to the first so called Customer Support Staff member?

Attitude is everything on a phone call. I can’t see your face, I can’t see your eyes, I can just hear your voice. I would be horrified if this man had spoken to my mother like he spoke to me. How that could have traumatized her.

Actually, my mother is 74, buys some of her shopping online, adores her iPad and would have told that first guy where to shove it, so that’s not a good reference, but you get the idea.

There is a small moral here, after my long winded entry. Be nice to people. It’s simple. Be nice, don’t be cruel, or grumpy, or angry, or pithy, or anything other than kind. It is the only way that people will thrive and not withdraw and internalize and worry about everything.

As to Sky, they need to do better with their Customer Support otherwise it won’t just be more checking out their competition.

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