March 15, 2008
Phone hate

I confess, I had no idea so many people hated talking on the phone like this. It's a little weird for me, because much of my professional career has involved phone work - tech support for a software company, followed by help desk work elsewhere; I'd say about half my career has been dependent on the phone, with the rest still using it heavily. Needless to say, if I felt this way, I'd be in the wrong line of work. While I can honestly say there have been occasions where the last thing in the world I wanted to do was answer another call, I've never developed any loathing of it.

There really is no replacement for the phone in the IT support business. Sure, an email with a screen shot can be effective. I have colleagues who use chat heavily for certain tasks. With various remote-desktop-sharing technologies, you as the support person can often do most of the work for the customer, without really needing their involvement at all. But I find that in general, a question emailed to me by a customer or colleague often requires several followups, and not infrequently an ultimate phone call, to resolve because they don't know what information is relevant for me to be able to answer them. The most effective way for me to extract that information is a phone call, where I can be sure they understand what I'm asking them for and I can guide them through whatever steps they need to take to give it to me. This sort of thing can be done by email, but not without a lot more effort.

Obviously, your mileage may vary. For another perspective, let me tell you a story about my mother-in-law, who for years was the office manager and legal secretary to my father-in-law, who is a recently retired attorney here in Houston. Some years back, when they were first getting Internet access installed in the office (which is to say, they got a modem), I showed Sharon some goverment forms online that she could download and submit. I told her that doing it that way meant she wouldn't have to spend so much time on the phone. She looked at me with big eyes, and said in all sincerity "But I like to talk on the phone!" I couldn't argue with that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 15, 2008 to Society and cultcha