Tech Support

It is frustrating how a major corporation can devalue the strengths that an Aspie brings to the table.

I remember when I worked tech support for a Major National Communications Corporation. We supported phone, data, and video connectivity over a fiber optic line. Sometimes we would fix problems in the network at our end, sometimes at the customer’s end. We might fix problems with their email accounts or remote in on their computers or routers or remotely troubleshoot DVRs. We could dispatch technicians if needed but the gold standard was to walk the customer through the troubleshooting process. A lot of time was just explaining what their browser did or helping them install antivirus software or what to do if their television indicated they needed to press the OK button on the remote to watch television.

That was not the silliest question we ever received. But all questions were good. They kept you employed.

Management sent the department to a personality assessment kind of event. A group from corporate us tests and sorted us out by 4 types, there were closers, socials, helpers, and rule followers.

I guess this group went around from one center to the next giving there tests and getting everyone sorted out.

“Closers” literally wanted to close the deal. Sold! or whatever. “Socials” wanted to develop a personal relationship with a customer and be their friend. “Helpers” were empathic and focused on alleviating the customer’s pain, whatever that was. The first group had the potential to be great salespeople and tech support was being pressured to produce sales in addition to fixing problems. The second group was praised for bonding with the customer and solidifying the customer-vendor relationship. The third group was praised for their empathy and ability to make a bad outcome seem ok. (There were a lot of bad outcomes. The system had real problems.)

The fourth group was designated “rule followers.” Now, I can only come to the conclusion they selected this name because they didn’t understand what went on in a techie’s mind. Or maybe they just had no respect for us. Maybe they thought we were just impersonally following down a list of rules to a technical result to fix a customer’s problem. Not true.

When the project began, there were no algorithms to follow. We were the ones who analyzed the customer’s issue and devised the technical fix for the problem they were having. You would deduce the fix based on how and where the system was failing and how it responded to being poked. There was no script, no required statements, and a sharp person could become a “SME,” a subject matter expert.  Officially we were called customer support analysts and I thought of my self as a technical analyst.

The job paid very well for phone support.

Having fixed the problem as quickly and efficiently as it could be fixed, the customer was usually quite happy. It did not take salesmanship, bonding, or any particular empathy, just patience, and the ability to calm an agitated customer by being calm oneself.

Fast forward a few years. The job has been really dumbed down to where you enter terms, cruise down a checklist and you’re done. We’ll have a supervisor call you back if it doesn’t work. And we had to make a sequence of required statements along the way designed to “manage” the customer experience. Suddenly sales were the most important aspect of the job instead of an option where you’d bring a sales agent on the line to complete. You need supervisor approval to do anything NOT on the list.

The new hires are making half what we are and the union is worthless. All the technical stuff is now done at corporate.

It became clear there was not a single “rule follower” in the entire team from corporate. In fact, I think they were mostly “closers” with a few “socials.” Might have been an empathizer out there but I didn’t see a whole lot of empathy displayed. I was shunted off to the “rule follower” table with one other guy and we were then pretty much ignored the rest of the day.

Fine by us. We talked tech while everyone else went thru “values clarification” and “team-building” and “contact strategies” and more positivity than even Dale Carnegie could have stomached. Occasionally the Eye of Sauron would gaze our way and we’d grunt affirmations and smile and then it would pass.

Well, it wasn’t our job anymore to be technical. We soon became Customer Relationship Agents and our job really was to follow an algorithm. Not quite a verbatim script but you could be dinged for inadequate enthusiasm, not “branding” the product enough, not making approved “empathy statements” or not trying to upsell. It became common to hear customers complain about constantly hearing how sorry we were because those were required words on every call.

You also had to “bond” with the customer so they’d give you high numbers on the after call survey and “fixed the problem correctly and efficiently” was only a small part of the evaluation. On a scale of 1-10, 7 was a fail.

For a while, we were told to ask the customer to give us 10 on the survey. Sheesh!

It was only a couple of years after this that I stressed out and took early retirement. They’d changed the job from something I excelled at – fixing things – to upselling and charm and smiley faces, something I am terrible at. There was no career path to where I needed to be.

Seriously, Asperger’s sucks.

2 thoughts on “Tech Support

  1. Ugh that sounds terrible! Corporate America doesn’t know what to do with people like us. All they care about is money, and they think the best way to do that is to have all their employees be ass kissing people pleasers who up sell everything.

    I had a similar experience albeit working at a bookstore. I told my manager that I have great organizational skills and would love to work sorting new shipments in the back, or even at the customer service desk so I could help people find what they need. But almost the whole time, they put me on register ringing up customers and trying to upsell. My skills were completely wasted at that job. No matter how much I tried to explain that, everyone just assumed I was being difficult.

    I really don’t think the problem is us or asperger’s. It’s neurotypical society constantly devaluing our unique strengths. Most of american culture, especially corporate culture, values being liked way more than actually getting shit done or being a decent person. They expect everyone to conform to neurotypical standards, which leaves only 15 percent of adult autistics able to hold down a full time job. The irony is that if that company had just tried to accommodate your needs better, you could have provided better tech support and they probably would have had less angry customers to deal with.

    Sorry you had to go through all this but you’re not alone

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I wish you’d get hired as tech support at some of the companies I have dealt with lately. If my question doesn’t fall into one of their preassigned categories, it’s really tough and frustrating to get help. We need real people who speak clearly and won’t try to up-sell me in those jobs. Sorry that you were not appreaciated.

    Liked by 2 people

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