I’m Old, Part XLVII: Customer Support

When I started at Atalasoft, I was employee number 7. The company was engineer heavy for a tiny place, but that’s to be expected. We had Glenn, Dave, Seon-Young, Bill, and me all writing code. Bill was the CEO and routinely wore many hats. We had a goal of taking his compiler away from him and eventually succeeded.

One thing we didn’t have was support. Dave and Glenn did most of the support since they knew the products better than me. I mostly consulted.

Our sales grew and we were able to move into a new office. It was necessary; our office was packed to capacity – in the meantime, we had hired Sean and Lou into engineering and John into sales. It was also necessary that we had to take a more methodical approach to support. I wanted full-time support, but we weren’t flush with funds yet, so Lou put into place a process where we had engineers rotating into support. For each rotation, the engineer would answer the phones, take support cases from our Salesforce queue and also hit our forums.

Glenn had a rotation when he encountered a customer who not only he couldn’t please, the customer went as far as to royally piss of Glenn. This was a tremendously hard thing to do. Glenn was a quiet, reserved Texas transplant who was about as even keeled as you can imagine. I had never seen him pissed off before. He had put the customer on hold and explained to me just how awful this man was. I’m going to call him Jim Jones. Jim managed to rattle Glenn and Jim was still angry and demanded satisfaction. I had Glenn transfer Jim to me and I let him blow off some steam. I did what I could do to help him and he spent some time complaining about Glenn. After he was done, I promised him that he would never have to work with Glenn again. Ever.

After he hung up, I told Glenn that he would never have to talk to Jim ever again and that if he ever called in and showed up on caller ID, feel free to forward his call to me or to whoever else was available. I made sure that everyone else in the office knew the rule: if Jim Jones calls in, under no circumstances should Glenn have to speak with him.

We were talking about it a few weeks later and no sooner had we mentioned his name then Jim Jones called in again. It’s as if when we spoke his name, his ears started burning and he called in. We kept Glenn away from that call. I think the same thing happened again: we mentioned his name and he called in. It was like Voldemo…he who shall not be named. At that point, I started referring to him as Tim Tones or Slim Slones or Bim Bones or some other obvious alliterative variation on his name, just to avoid having him call in again.

From then on, whenever we got a new hire for any title, we made it clear that if Trim Trones called in, under no circumstances would Glenn speak to him.

Now, from Pim Pones’ point of view, I met his desire of not speaking to Glenn, but I couldn’t care less. I cared far more about Glenn. That I could meet both of their desires in one fell swoop was extra awesomesauce. The best part of it was that Thrim Thrones had absolutely no idea how much I was favoring Glenn here and as far as I know, he never will. Another satisfied customer.

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