Thank you, come again.

Over the past week I have noticed something about IT support that I believe is a pervasive problem throughout the industry in America as I have witnessed it. That problem is with contacting vendor support.

When you call for support to a hardware or software vendor, whether is a Microsoft or an HP, you are getting level one support. This should be what is assumed, that you’re talking to someone that is either reading off a script or who has notes about the product. You may even open a support case online or via email and should expect the same support, something canned. What is usually expected though is a SME (subject matter expert), someone who knows the product inside and out like the back of their hand.

This is the first part of the disconnect. You do not get an expert usually on your first contact attempt for support but most IT personnel, especially managers and less technical IT, assume that is what it is. It’s time to admit that along with the fact that even if you escalate the case you will get probably the next tier of support, which is basically level one support that is allowed to Google for answers.

Let me be clear, I’m not arguing against this practice. Companies that offer support not only have the right to use these tiers of support but, from a business perspective, it only makes sense. If a company can use the cheapest resource to keep customer support efficient and cheap, so the company can focus on growth and development, then it should.

This is not even something that I find as a flaw in the IT departments that are contacting for support, the fact that they are assuming a higher level of knowledge then they are getting.

What I am wanting to point out here as a flaw is the fact that if the person on the other end of the support call sounds like he or she has an Indian accent then there is grumbling. Grumbling and rolling of eyes. I have lost count of the comments on “off-shoring” IT phone support jobs and the perceived slight thereof to the person contacting support and I’m not really sure why this is other than American IT has been tainted from years of media perception.

Could it be the language barrier that causes it? I say no. Yes, it can be hard for Americans to understand a thick, central Asian accent but it’s just as hard to understand someone who is discussing your firewall problem who has a Eastern European accent. However it’s just as hard to understand ‘Vlad’ when he is reading off the same unhelpful tech script and still I’ve been on plenty of calls where that happens and the caller will assume the genius of said support person.

It might sound like I’m painting with a large brush in saying this but I can honestly say that, up until a few months ago, I was one of these people. Then I started getting testy with any support person with an accent, assuming the same off-shore support problem as with someone on the phone from India for anyone who didn’t sound like me. I’m not claiming I found ethnic enlightenment at some point though. What happened next to me after realizing that about anyone who sounded different than me was that I realized that even the support people that did sound like me were starting to infuriate me.

In short, I was the person I’m complaining about. I was not only expecting SME, genius level support on my first contact but for them to be sitting at a desk in Michigan somewhere with a midwestern accent and a calming personality. I see I have been a fool now and serve to post this as a warning to others.

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Holiday songs day seven: The Wildcards.

DSC_0016One thing I’ve noticed listening to the same dozen or so songs every hour on our local Christmas music station is this, the wildcards. Yes, the same 12-15 songs done differently every hour but every half an hour or so they throw in one that makes you really remember that there are more than just the standards to enjoy at Christmas.

Some are head scratchers, some nostalgia. Right now I’d like to point out some of the highlights for me from this season:

I’m going to actually start out with the low note before I rattle off the list of the rest. That low note is Same Old Lang Syne  by Dan Fogelberg. If you know the song you’re going to think I’m lying but they do play it this year with the other holiday songs, not that this should in any way be considered a holiday song. I get it, Old Lang Syne is in the title but does that mean that whoever is programming the songs is just doing a search on terms to find songs to add to the list?

If you don’t know the song, I suggest you look it up and give it a listen. Give it a chuckle too. As much of a story based downer it is, it’s kinda funny in a morbid and depressing way.

Also, keep in mind that up until a couple of years ago Last Christmas by Wham would have been on the list you see here. I don’t know who to thank or curse for that but I would really like to find them so Dan Fogelberg’s piece of crap song doesn’t end up doing the same thing.

Enough of that, here’s the list of the holiday ‘also rans’:

Yes, I understand there’s some standards and classics on there. I’m just saying they don’t get played enough to be part of the “core” songs. Also, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Happy Christmas (War Is Over) should probably be on this list but I got this from the radio station’s website with a list of the last 350 songs and apparently they are as sick of the song as I have been for so many years.

Holiday songs 5: Manly songs.

DSC_0021Two songs I would like to point out today. Both seem to either be being played a lot this year or stand out for various reasons to me.

Song one: (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays. I’m thinking mostly of the Perry Como version.

For some reason the line: I met a man who lives in Tennessee and he was headin’ for Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie…

What makes this man so special that he gets singled out? Maybe it’s the repetitiveness of the song that makes it stand out to me. There’s only like four or five sentences in that song in my mind so one of them being about one guy in one place going to one other just sort of makes me wonder.

Let me stop here to point out that Perry Como and song two’s singer, Andy Williams, I have pretty much always confused as one person. Something about that laid back, white guy crooner style they both have that make them one in the same in my mind unless it’s pointed out. Yes, I said it. They all look alike to me.

Song two: Happy Holidays/Holiday Season by Andy Williams.

I realized this year that this song has so many words that end with -ick and -ock and -ack that I can help but have my twelve year old, juvenile mind kick in. I just see a mischievous Andy Williams needing to be reigned in while in the studio.

“So whoop-de-do and hickory dock and don’t forget to take out your…”

“Andy! NO!”

“So leave a peppermint stick…and put it on your….”

“Mr. Williams! This has to stop!”

Then there’s the double entendre of the last lines:

He’ll be coming down the chimney!
Coming down the chimney!
Coming down the chimney, down!

Ew…

Holiday songs day 5: Dean and Frank

DSC_0014For some reason I thought all of the Rat Pack had a glut of Holiday tunes. As it turns out, from what I can find, it’s really only Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin that are clogging up the airwaves with their Christmas/winter holiday songs.

Frank Sinatra has ones in my music library from back when he was a skinny Hoboken kid to right before his death so when I hear something from him this time of year I can’t help but wonder, “what was it about holiday songs for Frank?” Was it the money? Was it the tradition?

I guess I shouldn’t be so cynical and say the musical traditions.

Dean Martin on the other hand from what I can figure did it for the booze. Song after song of lazy, slurred speech singing. Take his version of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. In this department store sponsored holiday mutant Santa’s helper classic he goes off script several times, calling him Rudolph, Rudie, Rudie the red beaked. Heck, he even breaks into German with a fake German accent at one point, for no apparent reason.

Perry Como never did that.

Holiday songs 4: Note to self, make misletoeing verb.

DSC_0012With it being Sunday and all, today I’d just like to point out that in the song The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year there is a verse that goes:

“There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of the Christmases long, long ago…”

This does make me wonder what the heck kind of Christmas they have around Andy Williams house. Ghost stories?

Holiday songs 3: Luckily that song was White Christmas and I made a killing.

DSC_0008Today I come to praise Christmas songs, not criticize.

Let’s take White Christmas. While it’s simple and probably one of the most played songs, holiday or otherwise, it’s still a great song. And yes, the Bing Crosby standard has to be the high water mark all other versions of the song hope to achieve.

However, this year I discovered the Michael Buble version. Prior to hearing this version the reggae version by Dobby Dobson was my favorite, mostly for the “Aye aye aye aye’m dreaming of a white Christmas” break in it. The Bing version would have been my second favorite.

The Michael Buble version incorporates both of these. It’s simply, for me, the best version of the song so far. It’s uplifting and happy. And, for my money, has to be the best thing Shania Twain has done musically, which isn’t really saying much.

It’s not at all like the song Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, which I just today realized has to be the most depressing Christmas song of the whole bunch. It’s sad, it’s forlorn. It’s almost as if any time it’s sung it’s like “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas…in spite of all that other stuff that’s going on in your life. Do try and enjoy something.”

Wait, I thought I said I wasn’t going to criticize any Christmas songs here today…

Ignore that last part there. Becoming a grumpy old man in the holiday season isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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