A spring bouquet

Wilson’s world

David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk and associate editor of The Engineer

There’s nothing worse than computer failure, especially if you are faced with meeting an imminent deadline. So you can imagine how frustrated I became when a computer that had served me so well over the years decided that it no longer wished to connect to the internet.

Now I might not know a whole bunch about computers, but in my experience when they do fail to behave, it’s usually a problem at the internet service provider or a software issue with the computer itself. It’s very rarely a problem with the computer’s hardware.

So I decided to call the free internet help desk of my service provider to see if they could provide some assistance. But when I finally got through, the man there began to ask a number of what I intuitively realised were completely irrelevant questions about the type of phone sockets and filters that I had in my house.

Needless to say, the search for a hardware solution to the problem proved fruitless and, after spending 15 minutes or so on the phone, no solution to my lack of internet connectivity was found. So I decided to wait. Wait to see if the problem lay with the service provider.

But it wasn’t. So after two hours, I called up the technical support department again. This time, things were very different. The woman on the end of the line seemed to intuitively know what the problem was. She simply instructed me to type a specific URL in to my browser window and enter my name and password into a dialogue box. After two minutes, I was back on the internet.

You can imagine how delighted I was. In fact, I was so elated with the efforts of the young woman that I took her name and address and sent her a rather pretty bunch of spring flowers. I felt it was the least that I could do for someone who had literally saved my bacon.

Two days after having dispatched the bouquet, the young woman phoned me up to thank me. It was, she said, the nicest thing that anyone had ever done for her during her years working at the service provider. That was the good news. But there was some bad news too. Due to cutbacks, she had been made redundant and was serving out her last two weeks at the company.

I was saddened to hear the news. After all, she had been the one to fix the problem with my machine. She was the one that realised, as well as I did, that the most common problems that plague the beasts aren’t related to hardware at all.

Nevertheless, I’d like to think that the bunch of flowers that may still be sitting on her desk will act as a constant reminder to her manager that he may have made a poor decision by sending her off to look for employment elsewhere.

After all, while almost anyone can hire folks to answer technical enquiries from customers, it takes real managerial skills to monitor how effectively they are doing so.