Monday, April 16, 2007

Call Center

We had this little cross-continental tech support incident at work yesterday.

Last week, the office became the proud owner of a Hewlett-Packard all-in-one scanner-copier combination device object thing. I plugged it in, but we were all dismayed to discover that it wouldn't make copies, at least not without resizing and shrinking the original. Much time was wasted. This morning, the hardware IT guy came in and made a call to HP tech support, which is evidently located in Bangalore, India.

Let me say that I am overflowing with sympathy for the poor people stuck working the help desk; I've spent days dealing with the less technically-inclined over the phone, and frankly the combination of confused half-wits who don't know a mouse from a hamster and angry jerks blaming their computer problems on you that you have to deal with would turn even the most patient saint into a raving mad Luddite. I honestly don't know how the help desk people keep their cool — not to mention actually solving customers' computer issues — unless maybe heavy, heavy doses of Valium are involved.

There was probably a bit of frustration in the air already, since we'd been looking forward to photocopying things full-size for a week already, and even sitting across the room I could feel the vibes of disgruntlement going down the phone lines, into the switchboard, beamed to a satellite, and bounced back to India. Just to boost the awkwardness, the hardware guy, interfacing with tech support, put India on speakerphone. It sounded like this:

"Did you press the 'copy' button or the 'print' button?"

"Did you install the HP 5570 Scandisk driver?"

"When you go to print, does a window appear on the screen?"

...and a little pitchier...

"Does the HP Document Center start up when you turn on the scanner?"

"Does the picture shrink in one direction or both directions?"

...India's voice turns musical....

"Is the scanner plugged into a USB 2.0 port?"

"And is the printer plugged into an IEEE-2848 parallel port?"

"Did you try resetting the scanner?"

I'm sure HP spent a good deal of money sending this tech guy to accent reduction classes (no way generous billion dollar company would make its beloved employees pay for their own training) but now he sounds like Apu from The Simpsons.

"Okay, when you want to make a copy, you need to go and scan your image into the Document Center. Then select Export to PDF from the File menu and open the PDF with Acrobat Reader..." which I'll admit sounds like a lot more work than just pressing the copy button and standing by the printer, waiting for output. This sent our hardware guy over the edge. "You know, this scanner was advertised as being able to make copies. If it's gonna be that much work, I'd rather just return it. What's your return policy?"

Thus starts like a five-minute debate on the topic "What'dya mean you don't have a return policy?" I'm almost certain something or other was lost in translation from English to heavily-accented English, but the gist of the conversation was as follows: The scanner is supposed to make full-size copies. Also, the scanner is not supposed to make full-size copies. Once you settle the contradiction without causing a rift in the time-space of the universe, you can't return the scanner.

"What's your return policy? Your return policy. We only bought the scanner a week ago. It's not functioning the way I expected it to function. It says right here on the box that it makes copies." And this is only the shit from one customer that one Indian call center guy has to take. Imagine dealing with this twenty-four/seven, a nation of a billion people, with nuclear weapons. All I'm saying is we should start building fallout shelters now. "But it should make full-size copies. If I want to shrink the copies, that should be my choice. Your return policy. How do I return this and get my money back? What do you mean I can't get my money back? You realize that you're basically telling me, and my group, and everybody in my organization never to buy another HP product ever again?"

And that's where I'd find license to just hang the fuck up, which is why I shouldn't be working the help desk.

Our guy was a trouper, though, staying on the line through repeated requests to get a manager, and then repeated requests to make sure he wasn't going to hang up on us while getting the manager, and then repeatedly telling us that the manager wasn't in. Even after we thought he hung up, and we were all making jokes about how much HP customer service has gone down the tubes since they outsourced it to India, he was still on the line, double-checking our phone number and everything. Man, if they gave out awards for the most tenacious call center guy, I'd totally nominate him. And if I'm ever in Bangalore, I'll be sure to take him out for a drink.

Fortunately, I don't think I'll ever be in Bangalore, so no having to follow through on that.