Work-Related Musings


Working in consumer support for a very large, well-known company is interesting.

I've done CS in the past, as an adjunct to my duties at <The Copy Company Who Shall Remain Nameless>. It was a very different sort of experience, in part because it was only part of my many duties. The job wasn't terribly well-defined; essentially, it amounted to "Doing whatever needs done in a store with nationwide name recognition but a newly-fucked corporate culture that makes government work seem relaxing and hassle-free, where pointless bureaucratic administrivia is concerned." Half our policies contradicted the other half, and for me at least this made the work environment seem hostile rather than liberating. The customer service angle was especially difficult, because we overwhelmingly had to deal with a consumer base that was poor (or stingy if well-off), had poor or no understanding of our goods and services, and considered very complex or skill-demanding services to be utterly trivial, and therefore most of the work we did (and often us ourselves) to be beneath them. Work a shipping center with all the same problems into the back corner (far too small a space for it), and you had pure unmitigated work hell from open to close. And my first center never closed.

By contrast, my job at <Entertainment Software Company> is relatively painless. The consumer base tends to be a bit more affluent (such people are more readily-able to purchase the company's products, which run to the expensive end of casual store purchases), and that means most of them are at least a bit less paranoid about being ripped off or cheated somehow than the customers at <Copy Company Who Shall Remain Nameless>. It has been my experience, both as a poor person and with long experience dealing with others, that the desperate, oppressed and destitute often expect more hostility from the world -- which only makes sense, after all -- the middle class seems a bit less confrontational in these situations, if only because they can afford to pay our prices and money, warranties, etc are all things that involve less risk, planning, and unfamiliarity. Furthermore, while knowledge of our products may be limited (or we wouldn't get so many calls asking how to turn the <Console> on), there's a very gentle learning curve, and the company has embraced a far more "mainstream" demographic than its industry competitors have. Hence, there's expectation that we're going to get people unfamiliar with gaming in general, and that these might even constitute a majority of our consumer base.

I do still get unpleasant callers, crank calls, people trying to scam us, people convinced we're trying to scam them, paranoids, and people who Will. Not. Bleeding. Listen. To. What. I'm. Saying! Technical illiteracy seems to be the norm in this society, and fear seems to be the default response. With some callers it seems like any two familiar words, in an unfamiliar combination (for instance, "game disc" or "power cord") will almost invariably get a panicked "I don't know what this thing is, I'm not a technical genius!" The caller isn't actually listening to the words we've said--it seems like they just unconsciously vetted the compound phrase for familiarity and then chucked it out in a moment of panic. That's annoying, but then I find such a relationship to language baffling. Surely one can process some of this information for oneself? Such are the little irritations of the job, however.

The trick, I've discovered, is to work on my ability to sound in control. The callers mostly want to be pacified, and it helps that my vocal skills are very strong. However, I still stumble and stutter through the recitation sometimes; we don't work from a script, but there are suggested utterances at certain points, and at least a couple of things I repeat so often they may as well be a script. This linguistic processing chugs along just slightly ahead of my situational analysis, and means I often double back on myself in quick little ways. I always think I sound terrible when this happens, but I usually make the callers happy, or at least get their system fixed/troubles shot/issues resolved, or at least assist in getting them closer to that goal. To paraphrase Eddie Izzard, it's "sixty per cent how you look, thirty per cent how you sound, ten per cent what you say." In a phone call, that first sixty per cent gets added in to the "how you sound" column, meaning that I'm doing well so long as I'm even remotely focused and calm.

I still get nervous--I'm surrounded by people in a cubicle office environment, when I'd rather be out exploring the nearby woods, all alone. The fear that I might screw something up, or just not perform well enough (or improve fast enough), and thus get dismissed from my job is one that will probably always be present for me. However, these are tolerable concerns. I just hope, if I'm here long enough, they decide to hire me on directly. I could really use the flexibility it "associates" from the staffing company work to the mercy of our parent company.


And now, some pictures of myself, looking like an utter corporate shill in <Entertainment Software Company>'s gift-shop black hoodie (an item also required for proving Washington residency, especially in Seattle...) On my left breast, it says "Ascend to the heavenly temple" ( <Entertainment Software Company>'s name in Japanese). Draw your own conclusions...