BOFH makes a hardware call

Bloody maintenance companies

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The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Episode 23 BOFH 2003: Episode 23

So I'm making a hardware call about a dud disk which can only mean one thing: I'm going to be annoyed.

I start up a game of Age of Empires in the assurance that I will have taken over the world with my water powered nuclear generators by the time they answer the phone.

And I'm not far wrong.

After negotiating my way through an IVR phone system that was built by the same guy who invented recursion, I'm slapped in a PRIORITY queue, which will mean that I'll get to talk to someone about the time I urgently need to go to the toilet.

I pull the PFY's briefcase a little closer, planning for future needs.

The repeated assurances of how important both I and my call are to the hardware manufacturer do nothing to improve my mood as I listen to my number in the queue slowly decrement. I'm reminded all too often that if I'd bought the vendors triple-platinum-bum-cover-special maintenance contract, I could now be talking to a service representative instead of waiting in a phone queue with all the other plebs who bought the gold edition 24 x 7 x 2 hour response, foolishly thinking that that was had something to do with maintenance coverage. And surprise of surprises, for the price of a testicle transplant I can upgrade my ex-top-of-the-line maintenance for the current top-of-the-line maintenance and be assured that I will have priority treatment from now on. Until they release the quadruple platinum cover, of course.

OK, so I'm annoyed.

Several million rings later.

"Hello, how can I help you?"

"I'd like to log a hardware fault please." I say testily.

"Ok, I'll just transfer you."

"WAIT!" I cry, before he can do any more.


"If you're going to transfer me now, why didn't I get transferred when I pressed 7 on the IVR system to select 'make a hardware call'?"

"Oh, that's a customer assurance thing."

"As in 'assure yourself that the customer didn't hang up about two hours ago, sick of waiting'?"

"I... uh... I'll put you through."

I wait impatiently while the phone rings. Mid-ring I'm informed that the call may be monitored for training purposes (ie. when the company wants to teach a skilled hardware engineer how to appear retarded).

"Hi, hardware service, you're speaking with Terry. How may I help?"

"Hardware Call," I snap.

"Righto. Do you have a maintenance contract with us?"


"What was the maintenance contract number?"

"No idea."

"Well, without a maintenance number this would be a chargeable call. Are you sure you don't have a maintenance contract number?"

"No. I do have a customer number, which our contract was indexed by when I last called you. I also have the main switchboard number, which our contract was indexed by a few calls before that. I can even give you the serial number of the machine concerned, which worked about a year ago, which was in turn the index method of choice after you changed from caller name. Which was the index method you used after changing from maintenance contract number about three years ago."

"Uh. Well you see it's got this box that we have to type your maintenance number into, before we can press search."

"Terry is it?"


"How long have you been working there, Terry?"

"Uh... three months..."

"And what did you do before that, Terry?"

"I was at college."

"Of course you were. Now, Terry, where do you see yourself in, say ten years' time?"

"I... Well, I suppose as a chief hardware support specialist."

"I think you need to aim higher. With your qualifications, and at your company, you probably have all they need already. Were your parents married?"


"Ah well, that's running against you from the start - glass ceiling material. But anyway, so you have a vision of yourself in an on-site technical role sometime in the future?"

"Oh yes!"

"OK. Do us a little favour. Our customer number is 8732281. Click on the Query Open Calls button and enter that number, and then press search."

"Ah... >clickety< >click< OK, three calls outstanding in the past four years."

"Right. Now look at the last entry in those call logs."

"Um >click< Engineer dispatched to site... >clickety< Engineer dispatched to site... >clickety< >click< They all say "Engineer dispatched to site'."

"Right. And do you know what happened to those engineers?"


"No. No one does. No one ever will. One day, Terry, when you're a hardware support engineer, you might get sent to this site. And if you mess me around with maintenance contract numbers, pressing search, or chargeable calls, your call will be the fourth on that list..."

"You don't know who I am."


"Au contraire >clickey< Terry Carter, 22, partially completed Bachelor of Science at the University of L..."

"How did you..."

"It's all there in your Company's poorly protected staff newsletter. And look, there's even a photo of you. Why, I could recognise you in the street - and with the quality of the photo, probably even late at night in a darkened alley..."

"I think I'll just get my supervi..."


"I... Uh..."

"Now listen very carefully, and I'll tell you exactly what to do..."

. . .

Three hours later, and strangely within the maintenance support time, the faulty disk is replaced and the engineer departs at speed.

Sometimes you just have to reach out and touch someone. ®

BOFH is copyright © 1995-2003, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

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