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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Being told Linux is unsupported at a Linux support company

I've been in a situation where I was expected to give the best customer support possible on a continuous basis, but couldn't expect that from the people who supported the support techs. Here we were, doing heavy lifting to support all sorts of Linux stuff at a company which had been created on the very notion of doing that and doing it well, and we couldn't get people to take care of us properly.

One such event happened after I had been doing this for a couple of years. One Monday morning, I logged into the company web mail and found that all of my filters had disappeared. They had done some kind of upgrade over the weekend to the mail server and had obviously forgotten to re-enable something.

I put in an internal helpdesk ticket advising them of this with a request to fix it so I could get my filters working again. For my trouble, I was rewarded with a phone call from some unknown internal ticket monkey. They wanted to know "which computer number I was on", and "what password I use to log into it".

This was just amazing. First of all, my computer had no number. It started life as barely more than a pile of parts on my first day of work. I suspect it had been recycled from old customer parts and once had been a server for someone else. It was running a simple install of Slackware that I had loaded myself, and I sure wasn't going to tell this joker what "my password" was.

So, I told this person "I'm running Linux", and was then informed that "... we don't support Linux, but I'll forward this to one of the engineers in case they have something they can try". Yes, at a company which had been created around Linux web hosting, you were out of luck if you reported a server-side issue just because you were running Linux as a client.

Basically, the same ISP hell which faced every person running something other than Windows back in the '90s was alive and well inside this company's IT department many years later. It's a wonder anything worked.

I guess I was lucky since the ticket did eventually find its way to the right people and they took care of it, but it sure looked like it would be a lost cause. It was an indication of where things were going: just enough to keep stuff running without really understanding any of it.

For those who have read through some of my older posts, the post-it note incident happened within a couple of days of this particular e-mail anomaly.

It's one thing to go to great lengths to keep customers happy. Now imagine doing that while simultaneously walking a tightrope because your own internal services aren't any good.

Have you ever been on a phone call with someone in customer support who "blames the computer"? Sometimes, it's not them making excuses. Sometimes it's just because their internal support systems are terrible but they can't tell you the truth because it would mean the end of their job.