5 Nightmare Customers Types
Customers: Just One of Many Issues
Being a technician, in this line of work, can cause many types of stress. There are numerous issues that we run into on a daily basis. I'd go so far to say we run into issues on an hourly basis!
First, the weather. AT&T doesn't recognize the weather as an obstacle when it comes to work. If it's hot, you sweat it out. If it's cold, your fingers turn blue. If it's raining, you're working while getting poured on. Then, you deal with rusty tools, frozen cables, and underwear that's wet all day long.
Wildlife can be stressful as well. Wasps come out of no where and ants love making homes out of our equipment. Roaches, spiders, snakes, mosquitoes... You name it, we deal with it.
One of the most common issues are customers. There are a few others, but these are the 5 types of customers who are the most abundant on our jobs.
1. The Gamer
I get it. A lot of people like video games and need a good connection to play and unwind. However, most gamers have little to no networking knowledge. One aspect of video game speed is your internet and AT&T. However, there are dozens of other aspects that affect your video game speed that AT&T has zero control over. The 10 servers the video game routes you through, the wifi placement, the servers congestion, the video game console, etc...
They require the most difficult installations just for the sake of their video game. An install that could take an hour is now going to take 3 hours because they want the modem as close to their console as possible. Either that, or I'm expected to run extra wires to their console.
They also call in repairs anytime they lag or experience issues with their games. I'm talking weekly. They could have no issues watching Netflix on their Roku, streaming YouTube on their phone, and downloading music on their computer. They have 1 gig fiber and still whine about slow speeds. But let their video game ping drop below their expected number and they're on the phone complaining about how bad AT&T is.
There is no fix for these people. I could talk and teach until I'm blue in the face but my years of experience means nothing to the gamer.
2. The expert
In this day and age, you can Google and find results for almost anything. This creates an "expert syndrome" among customers. They KNOW what the problem is and will spend 45 minutes at the door telling you all the troubleshooting they've done. What's the result? A conversation like this.
Customer: Apparently, at the front of the neighborhood, the vrad port I'm connected to is part of an F card that is not only full but overly congested which has caused my modem to lose service. I ran a few traceroutes and analyzed the hops to confirm. Also, my ethernet wiring is standard B and I want everything rewired because a guy on the internet said standard A is better.
Me: Wow... That's a lot of technical mumbo jumbo! How long have you worked for AT&T?
Me: I said, let me start by checking outside.
Precisely 2 minutes later I find the issue.
Me: Sir, it looks like you were digging holes for your new fence and cut the wire.
Customer: That wire isn't yours though.
Then I have to explain how our wires look and how they differ from other wires.
Listen... I know what I'm talking about. I don't need a crash course on my job. I get paid fairly well to do my job so let me do my job. Just a quick "I was working outside on Friday and when I came in, I noticed my internet was down" is all I need. I can run tests before I even get to your house and get a pretty good idea of what the issue is.
It's not even limited to repairs. These guys exist on installs too. They don't want anything a centimeter away from where they told you or they're going to make you redo it. Or worse, the minute you leave, they'll call AT&T to request different tech to come out a different day to check your work. The entire time the next tech is there, the customer will blatantly berate the first technician who was there. I don't know if you were paying attention earlier, but we're a fairly tight family and you talking poorly about my brother isn't going to go over well for you.
3. The shadow
This one is a fine line and very few people can successfully stay on the right side of it. What we do can be interesting and some customers want to follow us around and inquire about each process. That's okay for a little while. In fact, it makes me feel like you respect me and my profession enough to ask how things work. I love what I do, otherwise, I wouldn't be writing about it. You may see me as some bottom dwelling cable guy but when I'm swaying from the top of a telephone pole pounding a half inch J-Hook into the pole with a lineman hammer, I feel kind of like a badass!
Some people just have the gift of gab. If they have interesting topics, this is a bit better than the inquiring mind. If you're an archeologist talking about your recent trip to Mexico to uncover Mayan pottery then by all means, continue! However, what we get is usually a life long list of their medical procedures and ailments. I kid you not, people love talking about their health issues. It's not interesting, please stop. Again, if you're telling me about the time you were surfing in Australia when a shark gnawed your arm off, resulting in an amputation, by all means, continue.
The other type is someone who wants to help. They will follow you into an attic or crawlspace. They'll grab your tools and carry them for you. They like to think they're helping, and I appreciate it, but they're just in the way. Not only are they misplacing things I set down, they're also a liability. If they get hurt helping me, I'm sure some attorney would love to twist that around as my fault, or the fault of AT&T. It's okay, helper. I got this.
I used to think Hoarders was just an overly dramatic TV show with scripted lines and created houses. It's not. Hoarders exist. In fact, they're more common than you'd think. At least once a week I go into a hoarders house. It's always the same story too. They are in the middle of rearranging, have/had a family member move in/out/die, or are in the process of cleaning. Whatever they use to justify it, it's nasty and unsafe.
I'll even extend this topic into generally nasty houses too. Not your "oh I didn't mop this week" houses. I mean houses with weeks of dog feces on the floor. Houses with so many roaches you can smell them and hear them in the walls. Houses that have an entire room filled 3ft high with Mt.Dew cans. Houses that have fleas dotting my legs after 10 seconds. Houses that have 2 dozen cats and ammonia so thick it coats the walls.
I'm not going to tell you to not call in for service because it's job security and I enjoy getting paid. But when I get there, let me do what I want. I'm going to be professional and nice to you and you're going to think I don't mind but let's be real. We're both in an uncomfortable situation. You're embarrassed, I'm disgusted. Don't be picky about wires and modem placement. I want in and out as fast as humanly possible. I'm sure you want me gone as fast as possible as well. Let's work together so I can go home and shower faster.
These houses are so common that my wife and I have a process for coming home after dealing with them. I have to enter through the garage. I strip my boots and clothes off in the garage and she brings me a towel so I can go straight to the shower. While I'm in there, she empties my pockets and washes a load of just those clothes. She then sprays disinfectant spray on my boots. Seriously folks, this is how often it happens.
5. The Bully
I understand people who are angry. I get it more than you think I do. You spent 4 hours on the phone with someone who barely speaks English. You were transferred 6 times and then the call dropped. You had to spend another 3 hours redoing everything again. You spent a total of 7 hours on the phone and are livid! Hey, those same people you spoke to, I talk to. You spent 7 hours with them, I've spent years with them. Everyday. So I'll let you vent. I'll be your ear of the company. But don't overstay your welcome. As soon as you start directing your anger at me, I won't help you. In fact, I'll just leave. Sure, you can call my supervisor and the president. I don't care who you call. I've got years of experience and a track record of customer service awards. I promise you, I will feel no reprocussions from leaving you and your house at any time. Whether the job is done or not. In fact, in the decade or so that I've been here, I haven't even heard rumor of a tech getting reprimanded for leaving a customers house.
AT&T has a strict policy on safety. You can be the worst tech in the history of the world and still retire with the company. Trust me, I've seen it. However, if you have 20 years with the company and they catch you doing something unsafe, you can be fired on the spot. This is what gives me 100% immunity from you and your bullying tactics. If I ever feel unsafe or even if I feel like the situation could escalate in an unsafe manner, I am not only allowed to leave, but AT&T actually requires that I leave or face losing my job.
If you attack me and I get hurt. I could be fired for working in an unsafe environment. If you attack me and I defend myself, I am most certainly getting fired.
I am usually fairly good at gaining a customers confidence and trust within a few minutes. Luckily, I've only been forced to leave a house 3 separate times. The first time someone accused me of being racist and I want no part of that fight or accusation and left immediately. The second time I had a customer follow me around calling me every name and curse word under the sun (I actually kept working for about 30 minutes before I'd had enough and left). The third time, the customer refused to put his dog away and it kept growling and snapping at me.
Each time I left, I drove away, I called my boss and calmly explained what happened. He made a note and I went about my way to the next house. Business as usual.
Bonus: The neighbor
Maybe it's just a pet peeve. I'm not sure. When the neighbor comes out of his house because he sees my big old AT&T truck with logos, stickers, and ladders and demands to know what I'm doing. I'm working, go away. If I'm parked on the street, I don't have to move just because it's in front of your house. The street is public property. Actually, if I needed to, I could park right in your front yard if I wanted to because as an employee of a telecommunications company, I have easement rights and laws that protect me doing so. People call the cops on us. Seriously. We've even had people call tow trucks on us. Listen, I'm working. I don't have to tell you which house I'm working on. I don't have to tell you my name or badge number or bosses name and phone number.
You're welcome to come out if you are curious and ask, "hey, is everything okay in the neighborhood?" or something similar and I'll happily tell you what I'm doing. You could even ask me nicely "hey I've got company coming over and they usually park there. Mind moving the truck when you have a moment?" I'll happily drop what I'm doing and relocate for you. I'm not a jerk. But I can be. Come out of your house and start barking questions and commands and I'm likely to ignore you completely.
Also, don't ask me to look at your service. I'm not some freelance employee just driving around looking for issues. AT&T has a strict time line for me to follow for the job I am dispatched on. If you need help, call in a ticket. It's a liability for me to go inside your home or work on your property without a dispatch.
In special situations, we get a combo. A gamer who hoards. A network engineer who claims he invented Java Script and won't stop following you. A bully who lives in a pile of fecal filth. There is no lack of combinations and just because someone fits one type doesn't mean they don't fit 1 or more others at the same time.