How (not to) deal with technological problems.

Have you ever had to deal with a ‘help desk’ for a technical issue?

If you have, you’ve probably dealt with what I call a “Script Monkey”. A Script Monkey sits in a cubicle all day long, hooked to a phone. Their job is to deal with people who are having issues with their devices, or their Internet connection, or some other technological problem. Their tool for doing this is…The Script.

The Script is a set of instructions handed down from On High (meaning from someone who actually might know something about the system/device the Script Monkey is dealing with) that walks the hapless user/caller through a series of steps that should solve a certain problem with the device/system.

The Script will typically have several scenarios listed, the most common problems that caller will have, and by walking the user through these steps, the Script Monkey can often solve a problem…without understanding a single thing about what they’re doing.

You see, Script Monkeys are usually paid as little as possible. They don’t need a technical degree, or even even to be terribly ‘tech-savvy’, they simply need to march through The Script and Solve The Problem.

Unfortunately, The Problem isn’t always in The Script. Take my dealings with a Virgin Mobile Script Monkey, for example of how badly such an approach can go….

When I switched to a ‘smart’ phone, my shopping requirements were simple: I needed good coverage, a cheap device, and a cheap plan. I had had a ‘dumb’ phone from another carrier, but their reputation for supporting ‘smart’ phones wasn’t terribly good at that point (and the phones they supported were, frankly, crappy). So after looking at all the different devices on sale as ‘pay-as-you-go’, I chose a Virgin Mobile device, The monthly cost wasn’t terribly high, and the service coverage was decent, but the clincher was the price of the device: about a third less than the next cheapest handset.

Once I was connected, I had few complains. My calls/texts went through, and I (usually) had service when I needed it, so on the whole I was satisfied. But when I bought the phone, it was keyed to a specific data plan…and that was my Achilles Heel. After a couple of years of service, Virgin decided they would no longer support said plan and gave users the option of changing to a different plan, or buying a new handset. Not having the money to spare to buy a new phone, I opted for Plan A. I shouldda knowd betta……………..

To get a new plan and get it activated, one must deal with a Script Monkey. Script Monkey has a set of steps that they walk through once the customer has made up their mind about which plan they desire. Step 1 is to cancel the old plan. Simple, right? Step 2 is to activate the new account connected to the old device…which means telling the device that it no longer is connected through the old plan and doing a partial reset so it can connect to the new plan. Step 3 should be to make sure everything before has worked and, if it has, to give the customer a mindless congratulations and send them on their merry way.

You note I prefaced Step 3 with “should be”. That’s because in my case, when they got to Step 2, my device did the disconnect from the old plan, started the partial reset…and froze. It came to the point where it was attempting to start all the different services offered, and that’s where everything crashed-and-burned. It went no further, even after a half-hour wait…and here is where the problem of with using Script Monkeys came to the fore. Upon being told that the phone was frozen, Script Monkeys (yes, I dealt with more than one of them) first instruction was to tell me to go to the Settings screen on the phone. HELLLOOOO!!!! What part of “It’s frozen.” do you not understand? First Script Monkey kept trying to tell me I should still be able to get to the Settings screen. When I made it abundantly clear that this was impossible, he passed me off to Script Monkey #2…who proceeded to tell me to do the same thing! I will admit, Script Monkey #2 at least had an idea of what had gone wrong: my phone normally connects to my home wifi network, and to do the sort of reset Virgin Mobile needed to do on my phone, the phone needed to be connected directly to their network. But he was convinced that I could somehow persuade my frozen phone to give me access to it’s commands so I could disconnect it from my home network.

Once I knew what the problem was, the solution was simple: leave the house and walk far enough away that the phone could no longer connect with my home wifi. It was a solution Script Monkey could have suggested to me fairly early on…if he’d known enough about such things. As it was, I ended up having to ‘read between the lines’ and solve the problem by myself.

The phone? Yeah, after a few stuttering tries, it connected up to the new plan and worked fine. It’s got some ‘features’ I do not like…especially the ‘premium’ voice mail service that looks to be a subscription-based service that gains me nothing while making the operation of taking a voice mail more difficult. But yeah, it works now…no thanks to Script Monkeys. Because if a problem isn’t in The Script, then Script Monkey might as well be sailing in the area of the old sea charts where they’d write “Here be monsters”. I’d hope that companies like Virgin Mobile would think about such problems and hire people who at least had an inkling of how their system/devices work…but people like that don’t do minimum-wage. So we, the customer, will continue to be stuck dealing with people who are trying to fix our problems while knowing little more about them than we do.

Ain’t greed grand?

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