Let's go back a bit...
I didn't really apply for the job in the first place, at least not with seriously considering taking the position. The woman at the employment office handed me the advertisment of vacancy after being too emberassed, because she literally couldn't answer any of my questions concerning self-employment, start-up bonuses and health insurance boni, which might or might not something for my case. I found it so ridiculous I wrote some half-assed CV to the bureau … and got in on first try.
During my job interview the talk was less about my qualifications, more about me being from the general area my boss was born in. Then it turned into a heated discussion about sausages and beer, sometimes we were disrupted by the HRM-woman desperately trying to contribute with questions in the lines of
„do you get nervous?“
„I just don't?“
„is that a question?“
„No, but it gets slightly irritating that you don't deliver any context to the question“
„Oh“. Silence, mutual three-way-staring. „oh“. Some more silence. „So still no?“
Back to discussions about the irony of the name of the „Frankenschnellweg“.
I get to work for a Federal Bureau, with a somewhat decent pay, a team consisting of academics only and – which is the greatest part – colleagues that are very cool to work with. The downside, it's a Federal Bureau and they put the extra crazy (lazy) in bureaucracy.
To some degree a lot of labour information is managed in my department. Sadly, I don't dare to describe the most hilarious things that happened in the fear it might get leaked the wrong way. You can not possibly imagine what kind of madness is delivered on a near-daily basis by unions, field offices, lobbyists and managers.
Let's also skip the part in which our team ridiculed our newest team member from Berlin for not understanding the way Franconians refer to date and time conventions. For the Southern speakers, here's what our boss did on her first day of work:
The thing with a large bureau is, the IT does not comply to any request in a timely fashion. If you request new software, you have to wait a ton of time, at least a few months. Since our department's work was new, that meant we had to manage on our own, supposedly archive calls, mails and whatnot on paper. With a pen.
I set up some Access desktop database after googling for a long time. I'm a sociologist major and have no clue about SQL, VBA or whatnot, but thank god there's google. Then again, the MS-SQL documentation is rather funny, as it automatically gets translated by BING in our case. I found, and that's not a fake, this entry:
A basic SQL query, which selects only entries featuring the first name „TANJA“ is
WHERE First_Name = „Mary“
We still share news bulletins via White-Board, which sometimes causes problems...
last point: "Please don't use permanent markers". Obviously the rest is permanent marker.
At some point the higher us decided for some reason to publish our phone number and called the result „support hotline“. They told us a few days in advance and caused a major panic – we had no phones set up for the task. I mean no mute button or anything, no headsets, nothing.
The panic turned into more panic as we were confronted with the requests – we were told we should answer highly specific questions about labour market related subjects you can't possibly know in its magnitude after only working for a few weeks.
However, if you ever worked in a call center or any kind of support, you will know that the every day requests are anything but complicated. You face quite silly folks. Really, you can't make up these stories. I thought IT-Crowd was overdoing it with the comedy approach, when it really was more of a documentary.
On our first day of „Customer Relationship Management“ we were really thrilled – and I mean every single person in the department, even those who were not responsible for our specialized field. About twenty people stood around a PC, waiting for the first mail to come into our new account. After about an hour it popped in, the discussions stopped, everyone went silent, and then this happened:
Translation, trying to get it right:
Hi my stranger. How are you? How are you mood? I want to recognize you better. I search for right man in the internet for serious relationship. I have the serious intention. I'm the lonely woman and don't have children. I am Marina. I am loveable and chill woman. I think you not vulgar person. And you don't want intimate photographies. I think you are gentleman. If you want to develope mutual relationship, I will tell more. I would wish you would tell me more about yourself, also. What is your real name? Where do you live? How old are you travelled? I want to see your pictures. Please send me your photography.
The best anticlimax ever.
So, I was the first person to have the honours of answering a customer request. Lucky for me, some field bureau called in and had an easy question I could answer within a few minutes. Everyone else was still standing around, silently waiting for the conversation to finish. Then it dawned on me – the new headsets, which arrived literally last minute, disabled my phone to hang up. I really didn't know how to end the call. So it went stupid, as in:
Customer: „Well, thanks for the help and have a good day.“
Gecko: „No problem ma'am, that's why we're here for.“
C: „See you“
Gecko attempting to hang up, failing hard, meanwhile crowd tries to point out possible solutions, which also fail
C: „Are you still there?“
Gecko: „Yes ma'am.“
C: „Anything left? I'm confused.“
Gecko: „Could you please hang up? I don't know how to, my phone's new.“
My boss and the rest gasping
C: „Well, in that case: no“
C: laughter continues
Gecko: „Well. How's the weather then? Any good?“
C: continues laughing „yeah great. How's it at your place? I remember Nuremberg's weather to be ghastly in general.“
We spent some more minutes talking nonsense.
So, some more highlights from the hotline.
The first one was from a colleague of mine who had to call back the music department of a larger universty after rejecting some of their occupational courses, as it was unclear what that was for. She was on hold for a few minutes and looked really concentrated for a bit. Then she put the ring-tone of the line on speaker and went:
„I do recall this jingle. It's from an advertisment right? Or from some phone game? I really don't recall where I heard it last. Could it be the new <random advertisment name>? Is it from a movie or something? I think I remember a kid humming it. It must be a children's song.“
Then the phone answered:
„That, my lady, is Beethoven's 6th Symphony. Hello, I'm the professor you wanted to talk to about the educational value of music theory in today's society“.
At sometime around lunch break I came into the hotline room and wanted to take over the shift from our only IT-engineer – meaning the only person in the entire team to have actually studied and finished university in IT-related issues with a degree. He was sitting there and facepalming, while trying to surpress his laughter. He frantically waved and then put the conversation on speaker:
Customer: „Really, I can't press the button.“
„The stuff does not work. I know I do it right, I do what you told me.“
„I press on the windows-dumpling [windows-knödel] as you told me! NOTHING!“
my colleague, short of breath, calls:
„try the windows-dumpling-key on your keyboar. Right next to the space bar“
„HOLY! IT WORKS! NOW WHAT?“
A voice from the off interupting the screaming lady: „Helga. HELGA. I got the batteries for your mouse as you asked.“
Customer: „Why can't I see my courses in the published area?“
Gecko: „Well. Can you give me your log-in name so I can check for potential errors?“
Customer: „I don't have any.“
Gecko : „Alright. Please tell me your city, your business' name or anything, I'll search with that“
Gecko searches, finds nothing
Gecko: „There's no business under the name registered. Any more details you could share?“
Customer: „No. I didn't register anyway. So why can't I see my data publicly?“
Thanks to the guidance via phone everything's fine now.
With kind regards
PS: The castigating choice of words „Due to the amount of deficient courses your access has temporarily been disabled“ is a little strong in my opinion. At the first moment I felt quite shocked and taken back to my school time … and didn't really know if I can handle all of that....
Yeah, that's me. I can't write nicely for some reason, it always sounds as if I'm about to execute someone. I really didn't do that on purpose.
Customer asking random questions about internships. Customer being a field officer guiding youth.
Customer: „Thanks for all the help, I know the question were kind of stupid.“
Gecko: „Well, no problem. Have a good day!“
Customer hangs up loudly. For some reason didn't hang up properly, so I can still her talking.
Customer: „Well. The agent on the phone told me there's no hope for you. Whatsoever. Unless you get your grades up. He said the future's not bright. So apply to this course“.
I told her no such thing at all.
Hall of Shame entry from a mail:
The name is Kevin. I'm from Berlin. Do you have courses for me? Call me back. Only accept salaries of 3.000€ at the minimum.
Special skills: Can drive a car
Excerpt of a mail conversation
Please stop sending me E-Mails with the request to correct my courses. Whenever I check, you corrected nothing. At all.
thanks for your reply.
Please tell us to which cases you refer.
To all of them.
we still need more information. We can not find your E-Mail addy in our system.
sends some case files
thank you for submitting the required information.
Your account has been banned from our database, as you failed to comply. The reason you did not see any of our corrections is that you re-uploaded your original data ten times after being corrected ten times. For further information we included the screen shot documentation of the corrections in this mail, including time and date of our actions, as well as the requests for change via mail.
Colleague sits there and phones. Then hangs up baffled.
„Gecko, this woman from one of our field offices asked me why we as employees of the government pay taxes. Like .it makes no sense. We should just get less money and don't pay for unemployment insurances, given that our job is sponsored by exactly this money. For some reason this got me thinking... this was literally the only reason she called. Boy, she's bored, isn't she?“
Colleague gesticulates he needs „IT-Support“ from me. I tell him to put the client on speaker:
Colleague: „So our expert is on the line. Could you repeat the question?“
Customer: „Well. I have an error line that says 'Upload attempt failed. Error in line 29, <then reading out about thirty digits'. I never seen that and I manage our IT department for about ten years now. Any ideas?“
Gecko: „Right. Close the browser. Open it again. Try again.“
Customer goes silent.
Customer: „You're kidding, right?“
Customer goes silent, you hear clicking.
Customer: „It works. You know your stuff. There really is no spoon.“
Customer hangs up.
Customer: „I found this occupational title: cub reporter. That's something with horses, right?“
Boss comes in, sees me and the IT guy working on the Access Database, coding some VBA to automize the export data into some excel on another machine in the intranet. He looks at us and puts down the papers with our statistical report of last week.
Boss: „You know fellas, I need that in corporate design colours.“
We glare at him for half a minute.
Boss: „The corporate colours are like...“ and stops.
We stare some more without moving at all.
Boss looks at the VBA code.
Colleague: „Well maybe I come back with two cans of red bull, chocolate and chips and ask again.“
Customer. „I'm having IT problems. Your homepage said you offer IT-Courses, so I was looking for...“
IT-Colleague interrupts with a stern voice: „This is not the IT-Help you are looking for.“
Customer with a monotone voice: „This is not the IT-Help I was looking for. Please go on and have a nice day.“
Anyway, typed for too long. On a different note: No phone or mail for the next weeks unless I want to. Looking for the Paul Hunter Classic and the second bw.de Snooker Fantasy Real Life session!