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The Bastard gets taste of own medicine

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Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

Episode 26 This episode is based on real experiences with some of the largest computer companies in the globe. Names and Companies have been changed to protect the guilty. .

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So I'm ringing Tech support and, as usual, get put through to their lifeline, which is more like a life sentence when you're waiting for help. And of course, when you're talking to the lifeline you have to talk to 47 different IVR systems, which is almost as time-consuming as IVF, only you feel more screwed with IVR..

. . ."..if you would like to log a software call press 1-7. If you would like to log a hardware call, press 2-3."

I press 2 3.

"I'm sorry, your command was not understood, please re-enter, If you would like to log a software call, press.."

I slowly press 2, then slowly press three.

"Welcome to Software support, please have your customer number ready."

I hang up and dial again.

"Welcome to Technical Support. If you would like to speak to an operator, please press 0-0 now. Otherwise if you would like to loga.."

I press 1 and 7 slowly.

"Welcome to hardware support, please have your Machine serial number ready. For our ultima-premo line of products, press 74, For our Fantasma-Blanko products, please press 99, for all other products press 21."

I don't trust it, and wait.

"..except for our Enterprise models, for which you should press 03."

I slowly press 0 3.

"I'm sorry, a technician isn't available to take your call right now, please enter the model number, followed by a serial number and we will call you back from the number on the purchase details of that machine."

I type in the 4 digit model number and am about to type in the serial number when...

"I'm sorry that number is not recognised by our system. Valid Model Numbers are: B101, B102, B103, B104, B1."

I hang up because I just know that the alpha keypad isn't going to work, and recall the number and press 0 0 slowly. Twelve minutes of ringing later the phone is answered. (I could learn something from these people.)

"Hello, Lifeline, what is your Client Reference Code?"

"Uh, 2734278," I respond.

"No, that's your customer number, I need your client reference code," she replies sternly.

"What would that look like?" I ask, never having heard of it before.

"The Client Reference Code is a 17 letter alphanumeric identifier attached to the top of all invoices," she replies.

"I'm afraid I don't have that with me at the moment, can I use my Customer number?" I ask politely.

"I'm sorry, my machine only accepts the Client Reference Code," she responds.

"Right, call you back soon."

I look thru the swathe of maintenance invoices to find that the client reference code was only issued in the past 2 weeks and is to be used for all maintenance calls. Excellent. I phone back.

"BBETA7873884A671F," I answer, in response to her answer, some 10 minutes later.

"I'm sorry, we don't have a record of PPECA7873884A671S," she responds.

Of course not.

"Sorry, I'll repeat, BRAVO, BRAVO, ECHO, TANGO, ALPHA, 7873884, ALPHA, 671 FOXTROT."

"Ah," she replies with what I believe is a tinge of disappointment, "here we go. What was your PIN number?"

"Pardon?"

"Your PIN number for this Reference Code."

"0000," I guess.

"OK, she responds even more glumly. "And what seems to be the problem?"

"We have a hard disk failure."

"I see. What was the serial number of the hard disk?"

"I'm afraid I can't tell you that because opening the case would void our maintenance agreement," I respond, knowing only too well the odds are against me.

"Uh-huh. And your contact number?"

I give her my direct number, which she duly takes down. I get her to repeat it till she gets it correct - no fool me.

"Alright, I'll have an engineer call you within the next working week."

"Within four hours, I believe."

"Um... No, you're on Premium Cover, that's response within a working week."

"No, four hours."

"No, four hours is for Premium Direct Cover, You only have a Premium Contract."

"I see. Can I ask a question off the record?"

"I suppose so."

"How many people get this far?"

"What do you mean?"

"As far as actually getting a technician to call them."

"Off the record?"

"Yes."

"About Three per cent. Twenty per cent get put off by the difficulty of IVR, another 10 per cent get lost in the IVR system and probably lose their mind, 13 per cent or so don't know, and never find, their Client Reference number. Eight per cent do, but don't know their pin, 25 per cent supply me an 'incorrect contact number', and 18 per cent can't wait a week and upgrade to Premium Direct, and three per cent go insane and get taken away."

"So do you have any engineers?"

"Off the record?"

"Uh-huh."

"One. He lives in Wales. We mostly use the Premium Direct money to get you a service contract with another service network - one that gives us a discount if we have less that three calls a year. Otherwise you have to wait for him to get a discount train fare into London."

"And how many staff in your company?"

"Apart from me and the engineer?"

"Yes."

"None."

"I see. So I'll be expecting your engineer.."

"Dave."

"..Dave, in a week or so then."

"Yes."

"It's been.... real."

I feel humbled. ®

Tune into BOFH: Kit and Caboodle for more adventures with the Bastard Operator.

BOFH is the Bastard Operator from Hell. He is the creation of Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his copyright. ®

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