Vendor Support Clue/NOC Clue

Forrest W. Christian forrestc at
Sat Jun 26 06:10:50 UTC 1999

NOTE:  This is just something to think about....  It's not meant to start
a flame war or another neverending thread.   Please followup to me
directly instead of the whole list.

My opinion on what is really wrong with support - be it from a software,
hardware, router vendor, or the NOC of some other ISP can be fairly easily
summed up as follows:

Each of us have varing levels of "Clue" depending on what you are talking
about.  Back in the "good ol' days", whenever you called support you got
someone with at least as much clue as you did, thus, the clue
relationship looked something like: 

     Support Rep Clue >= Customer Clue 

This is good.   Basically it means that you are at least talking to your
equal, and someone who could probably understand what your problem was and
if not fix it could at least go find someone else in the company (the
engineer who built it) who knew more than they did.

Now as things progressed, your favorite company added more and more
customers - more and more of which had little clue.  They found that a lot
of the customers didn't have much of a clue at all.  And they were having 
lots of problems keeping enough customer support reps with a high level of
clue.   So they decided to create the "1st level support rep".   So, the
clue relationship looks something like this:

     "typical customer" clue => 1st level support rep clue.
     "advanced customer" clue < 1st level support rep clue.

The 1st level support reps are supposed to have enough of a clue to be
able to tell when they don't have enough clue and to pass them up to the
"2nd level support" - which might pass them up to a "3rd level support"
and so on.

The problem is that a typical 1st level support rep, for some reason or
another rarely passes the problems up the chain.  Might be company policy,
might be personal pride or something.  I've had numerous times that I've
tried to deal with the 1st level rep and finally, after finally begging
"is there someone else I can talk to" numerous times, getting
passed onto someone else with more clue and the problem being fixed 
in less than 30 seconds.

Here's the real thinker....    Is there a way that a company could set up
their support lines so that "normal customers" get "1st level support
reps" and "advanced (clueful) customers" get "2nd or higher level support
reps"?   Every time I think of an option, I can see a fatal flaw.
Separate numbers would be abused.  Certifications are expensive and mean
nothing.  And so on.   There HAS to be a solution, we just haven't thought
of it yet.

So put on your thinking caps.....

- Forrest W. Christian (forrestc at 
iMach, Ltd., P.O. Box 5749, Helena, MT 59604
Solutions for your high-tech problems.                  (406)-442-6648

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