Money and value

So, one of my earlier jobs in my career was for a company called Support System Developers, Inc. They were engaged in a contract with Canon in which they got paid per phone call to answer Canon’s 800 number.

Now, we were given some incredibly bad advice to give to customers. First of all, we were to respond to the first phone call, pretty much invariably, with a suggestion that the customer’s printer cable was at fault – that they needed to find one that actually had the IEEE definition for a bidirectional printer cable printed on the label. Generally, this was not the problem. This might have actually applied to 1% of all print problems, if that – but it was a chance to get the customer off the phone and get more sheckels in SSDI’s coffers.

We were paid a bonus if we could get the customer off the phone quickly. Now, generally problems would break down into cases where the customer was being a complete dumbass – a large portion of the calls were for people who didn’t pull the orange tab off the print head before inserting the cart in their printer – and trickier problems such as the BJC-610 which needed a complicated alignment process run if certain events had occurred to the printer.

This would be a example of money destroying value. Many of these people would wait on hold for a hour, a hour and a half to talk to us, and we’d give them deliberately wrong answers (well, we weren’t TOLD to give them wrong answers, but the book clearly hadn’t been optimized for giving them right ones) so they’d call back several times, so this company could make more money.

I eventaully quit, citing ethical reasons. They didn’t like me much anyway, I tended to give answers not in the book (but that mysteriously worked), I often wore jeans with holes in the knees and other ‘inappropriate’ clothing – I have to imagine they were glad to see me go. But I’d point at this company as a sign of the problem – when you optimize for dollars at the cost of actual people getting stuff done value, you’re hurting us all. And I suspect a lot of companies.. advertisers perhaps most of all.. of doing this.

It is worth noting that my supervisor, before I quit, had told me “You are so much better than this place. You should look for a better job.”

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