Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Customer Service: Information Systems Style

Here in Information Systems, we like to go on and on about how important customer service is. What we mean, of course, is that customers are a royal pain in the ass and our jobs would be much easier without them. All users want to do is find ways to fuck up our systems anyway. Better if they got nothing but paper reports, like back in the good ol' days. Now most of those I work with try to over-come this attitude and actually help make our customers' jobs easier/faster/more accurate/whatever. However, some people just don't seem to get it.

Take the person in charge of the hospital's e-mail system. She simply refuses to believe that the e-mail system is for the use of everyone with a valid e-mail account. Instead, she firmly believes that it is her system to do with as she sees fit. If she allows an e-mail through the filters, well, count yourself lucky. If she doesn't, tough shit. Your e-mail will simply disappear without a trace. According to this individual, if you don't get an e-mail, just call the help desk, have them open a ticket and assign it to her. Then, when she has time, she will go through the deleted e-mails, read yours and determine if it is appropriate for you to receive. Protests that, because there is no notification that an e-mail has been sent to the bit bucket, it is impossible to know when an e-mail has not made it through, fall on deaf ears.

All that as a lead-in to this, which I sent to a few co-workers. This version has been edited to remove the identities of innocent by-standers and make it slightly more intelligible to the non-geek.

If I Treated My Customers the Way She Does
(A play in one act)

CFO: We need intercompany accounting set up between Subsidiary A and Subsidiary B.

Me: Why?

CFO: Um, so we can enter invoices in SubA and cross-charge to SubB.

Me: Why? What are you trying to accomplish?

CFO: I'm trying to eliminate manual journal entries that the accountants have to make every month.

Me: Why are you making journal entries? Why don't you just enter the invoices in the correct subsidiary?

CFO: Sometimes a single invoice needs to be spread over multiple subsidiaries.

Me: Why not hand-calculate the split and enter the invoice as two separate invoices in the proper subsidiary?

CFO: Because a) that would play havoc with our cash management, and b) that is a ton of extra work.

Me: You should contact the vendor and have them reissue the invoice as two separate invoices.

CFO: Why would our vendor go to all that extra work just so you don't have to do your job?

Me: (spoken in a loud, high-pitched, nasal voice) Don't you realize how busy I am? Do you have any idea how much work that is to set that up, then re-set it up a half-dozen times because I screwed the pooch on the first six attempts? Why are you trying to wreck my system anyway? I can't just do whatever you ask; you have to bring this to the weekly IS meeting and have it assigned to the project office, then they will assign it a priority and put it in my work queue. I think I have an opening in January. 2008.

CFO: How much time will it take you to do this once you start working on it?

Me: Less time than I've spent arguing with you about how I'm too busy to do it. But that's not the point! If I bypass the system to do this favor for you, then the next person, then the next person, and the next and the next, do you know what the result would be?

CFO: Satisfied customers?

Me: (grabbing a spork and waving it around frantically) AAAAAAEEEEAEEEAAAAAAEEEE!!!!

CFO: Um, never mind....


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