An Off-Topic Venting

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As I sit here at my desk, taking a short break from the insanity that is today, I realize how tightly my shoulders are up around my neck, how hard and fast my pulse is and that my tongue is glued firmly to the top of my mouth. Until I made my veggie burger, I hadn’t even gotten up to pee in the last 5 hours.

There’s no point to this post – it’s just me, rambling and (probably) whining.

I work at a web host support desk – we provide support, servers and connectivity for websites. My particular team handles all of our biggest clients. This is a tiny subset of the entire client base, about 300 customers. A significant portion of those 300 customers never, ever call or write in with problems. Their stuff is stable and it works.

No one ever calls in just to say hi, naturally – whenever the phone rings or a new trouble ticket appears, someone is having a very bad day. I’m the sort of person who wants to save the world, preferrably immediately, so I try very hard to make their day better. In the course of that process, I develop pretty close relationships with my “frequent fliers,” the people I talk to nearly every day, sometimes several times per day. A few just have to say, “Hey Erin, it’s Mat/John/whatever first name,” and I recognize them before they even finish their sentence. I like having this kind of familiarity with my customers – it’s more interesting and rewarding than talking to complete strangers time after time.

The biggest customers tend to be very kind and patient 99% of the time. Even if their problems vex me to no end, and I groan when I see the name, I like the people themselves. So I bust ass for them, I get emotionally involved with their issues, I feel their stress and anxiety and when I can’t solve the problem myself, I ask other people to get involved and make whatever issue my customer has a priority.

This is perhaps unfair, because they all have other things to do, too, but I figure for our highest-paying customers, it’s the right thing.

At any rate, it’s not good for my health or my stress levels to get so up close and personal with these folks – but it’s what I do. I make unconscious choices to do it all day long, and some conscious ones, too.

Take today. One of our somewhat large customers is giving away 5 very attractive prizes on her site. Her husband is the techie, and called in about 30 minutes before they announced the giveaway to tell me what they were doing. Thirty minutes is not enough time for capacity planning at all, but in this case, everything looked fat and happy, running well under 50% capacity – good to go, right?

Fifteen minutes after the Tweet went out, everything died in a horrific, epic fire. The response to the post was insane. Their two load-balanced front end servers went from fine-fine-fine-fine to being on their knees before anyone could save them. The customers, needless to say, were unamused. I fired up our hardware team and they got the RAM doubled in less than 20 minutes, but that’s 20 minutes of downtime after a huge announcement and people probably gave up trying in annoyance.

The husband remained calm and patient, but reported the customer herself was completely sideways. I understand her reaction; I’d be pissed, too. While there was no way for me to predict what sort of traffic would come flooding, crashing into their servers, I and my company are the available targets most logical to her. We have her servers here, her servers went down, surely it must be our fault.

As a palliative, I gave them the extra 8GB of RAM for free, which helped ease her ire, but damn – it pains me when my customers aren’t working, and especially when they are down and not loving our company (and me.)

I admire the techs who are able to let such things roll off their backs calmly, maintaining a healthy distance. They don’t get all worked up and stressed out someone’s site isn’t working; they stay calm, and they fix the problem as best they can. If they can’t get it fixed right away, their blood pressure doesn’t go up.

I wish I could do that… sometimes.

I’m empathic – I pick up on other peoples’ feelings pretty keenly, and these people and their feelings are fairly important to me. While I don’t want to sacrifice that, I do need to find some kind of a healthy balance, a point at which I still care, but don’t let it get me tied up in knots.

I’m not at all sure where that would be.


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2 responses to An Off-Topic Venting

  1. Yeah, we always get blamed, no matter how dumb somebody was.

    Me: “the attacker logged in with account username and password”
    Them: “UNPOSSIBLE! server is unsecurity”
    Me: *sigh*

  2. Elle Clark

    I understand completely! I do the same with my patients, although I only usually get to see them 2 times at most. I know some techs. who go on without emotion about the people they deal with. But I tend to wonder at what point do you lose being human when you don’t feel something for others!

    The balance is difficult if not impossible. I have to remind myself on difficult nights that the alternative is not who I am. You do care. This is a positive trait! And I am not sure if there is a way to be who you are and non-chalant toward your customers! I am not sure if you meditate but for me it helps me come back from stress! It’s a tough situation!

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