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Saturday, February 18, 2012

I just want to serve five terabytes

I've become convinced that most of $company's failings are simply customer service matters. When I think about their "brand", I think lots of nerdy or geeky technical kung-fu, but rarely do I equate them and "good customer service".

I'm talking about the kind of service where you check into a hotel and they pre-populate your room with some item you requested on your last two visits to the chain. Maybe they bring a shoe polish machine or a hair dryer if the room doesn't normally have them. This is the kind of service which is just people looking out for other people. Customer service problems are at the core of the "I just want to serve some trivial amount of data" scenario. All of those systems may make it possible to serve that data, but they sure don't make it easy. I will now make a grand attempt to connect one to the other.

I submit that it's difficult to serve that data because there's no part of that company which aims to provide that as a service. If there was some team in charge of doing exactly that, then two things might happen. First, people who want to actually serve the mythical data would just go to them and ask them to do it.

Second, that team would run face-first into the wall of crazy which comes from the company's internal systems, and that would make something else happen: they would innovate. At least, they would innovate unless they are a bunch of banana-peeling monkeys who like doing things by rote forever, in which case they need to be "managed out" and replaced. Anyone sensible in such a job would quickly arrange helper scripts, programs, or entirely new systems to make their job easier.

By way of comparison, the "serve lots of data" requester just wants to get that task to happen. They probably won't be in that space long enough to improve the ecosystem.

Long story short, if you want to make things better, designate people who exist only to provide that thing as a service. Put them in the path of pain from those systems, and give them reasons to fix it. Then slowly increase the quality demands you make of them. Don't let them sit still.

Disclaimer: I used to work customer service, talking to real front-line customers on the phone and in tickets, and liked it. Also, I did it after many years of doing the BOFH thing. So there.