The Death of Customer Service

August 31, 2005

Mood: A bit tired, but OK.
Music: Alech Taadi, Khaled.
Game: World of Warcraft, Planetside, Auto Assault Beta, Dungeon Siege II.
Book: The Battle of Mogadishu, Eds. Eversmann and Schilling.
Muffin: Raspberry-Sweet Plum.
Punchline: Nope.

This all started yesterday. Not the actual death…which has been happening for years and years. But the final straw which made me realize that we, as a country, are doomed.

Yesterday, my mother called me (as she does every night or so…because she’s my mom, and my mom does that.) She felt the need to explain how she’d had a bad day on the phone.

My mom is recently retired. Like about a week and a half ago, she retired. She is now in the process of moving down to Florida.

She is trying to get insurance for the new apartment she’s moving into.

She called an insurance company that’s across the street from where she’s moving, and since her current insurance carrier was carried by that company, she figured it’d all be OK. So she calls them up and says that she needs a policy, and she’s already got a policy for her current apartment with the carrier, so could they take care of it?

The lady goes on with all these crazy questions about whether or not my mother’s been convicted of arson, and proceeds to get a list and value of EVERYTHING my mother owns. My mother asks if they could just get all that information from her current policy with her carrier. The lady says that the company has to ask these questions. My mother sighs and continues for 20 minutes. Then, she asks, “Is your new apartment within 10 miles of a fire station?” My mother pauses. “When you look out your window, you see my apartment, right?” “Yes.” “Am I within 10 miles of a fire station?” “Well, yes.” “If you KNOW where my new apartment is, and you know the area better than me, why would you ask me this question?” “Well, I have to ask you.”

This was the point where my mother pretty much decided to find another insurance company.

Her day continued with the people from the cable company coming in to change her cable box from analog to digital, because now, apparently in Manhattan in her building, you need to be digital.

The cable guy came, disconnected her analog box, for some reason could not complete the conversion, and left her a new digital box which is not hooked up. So, in effect, the guy came, removed her working analog box, replaced it with a non-working digital box, then, unceremoniously he left. No cable service for my mom.

She promptly called the cable company, and told them what happened, and the lady on the other end of the phone said that they could schedule someone for Saturday. My mother just about lost it, and instead asked for the name of the President of the company, to which the lady replied that she didn’t know. My mother said something to the effect of “You work for a company, and you have no idea who the president is? I’ll wait here while you find out. It shouldn’t be hard.” The lady goes away and comes back and gives my mother the name of the President, and follows it with a snarky “but I don’t have a phone number for him.” My mother responds that it couldn’t be that hard to find that out, seeing as Time-Warner is a fairly large company.

My mother calls the administrative offices of Time-Warner, gets an automated attendant, and enters the President’s name. She gets right through to the President’s assistant, and proceeds to tell her what happened. The assistant understands, and routes the call to a woman. It’s about 4:30pm at this point. The lady listens to the problem, does some following up, and finally says “Well, I’ve left some messages, but it’s 4:30pm, and I leave at 5pm, so I don’t expect to get back to you tonight, but I’ll call you tomorrow to follow up.”

This entire process has taken hours at this point, my mother is without cable when she had perfectly working cable that morning, which some cable guy came in and managed to screw that up, then left, leaving my mother to figure out how to somehow get that rectified. After all that, even after speaking to someone who may, or may not, be able to help her, presumably someone fairly senior at that, that person can’t fix a problem her company caused, because it’s almost 5pm.

As of right now, I haven’t spoken to my mom to see what the outcome has been…but I’m guessing things were probably equally as frustrating this morning…if she even called back.

Then, this morning, my homie ‘Phyxie blogged that even though Moto GP 3 came out yesterday, he does not yet have a copy. Knowing ‘Phyxie, this is about as insane a statement that could be made. Aside from the wife, I’d say nothing more impacts ‘Phyxie’s life than his motorcycle, going very fast on said motorcycle, and when he’s not doing that, simulating being on said motorcycle.

He doesn’t have a copy, you see, because when he went to EBGames, the lady behind the counter said that she was the only one in the store, and so she couldn’t unpack them. The game was IN the store. ‘Phyxie was in the store. The lady, presumably, was taking money for merchandise, because that’s what stores like that do. But she couldn’t take the time to walk in the back, make a quick note, and sell him a copy of the game he’s been lusting after for weeks. Then she topped it off by saying “Come back tomorrow, or better yet, Thursday.”

THURSDAY? Is this lady aware of the fact that videogamers don’t wait two days after release for a game? That he COULD just go home, order it online, and get it next day? No, of course she’s not aware. She has no idea. She’s working in a job she knows nothing about, and she couldn’t care less about whether or not ‘Phyxie will ever come back to that store.

Here’s my problem. The entirety of the United States has moved to a service economy. The problem with that is that it implies that everyone works in service. Naturally, not everyone is suited to work in service. Some people would be better off making cars. Or growing wheat. Or digging ditches. Or rebuilding New Orleans. But since many of those jobs are no longer available, they’re instead sitting on phones in insurance companies, doing complaints at a cable company, or working behind a register at a game shop. They’re not suited to the task, they never wanted to do the job, but they need to work.

They have no desire to be there, and have no pride in their job. They don’t care if you’re happy, or satisfied. They don’t care if their company does well…it doesn’t relate to their success. These people do their job every day, not caring whether or not they’re doing a good job. When you stop caring about doing a good job, in a service industry, or any industry, probably, you’re guaranteed to fail.

And we deal with these people every day.

America has no concept of service. And Americans are generally not gracious enough to accept good service, because they feel it’s owed to them, and never expect it. Then, because they treat people so poorly, service people get annoyed, just reinforcing their completely ambivalent attitude towards their job. If they can’t make anyone happy anyway, why try?

This is only getting worse.

Today, try to be as positive as you can while you work. Focus on doing a good job, and CARE about whether or not your customer, be they internal or external, is satisfied with your performance.

It won’t change the world…but it might change your outlook.


Busy busy.

August 30, 2005

Mood: Pretty good.
Music: Nothing.
Game: World of Warcraft, Planetside, Auto Assault Beta, Dungeon Siege II.
Book: None.
Muffin: Peach-Mango Bran.
Punchline: Nope.

Truthfully, I’m not much in the mood for writing, as I’ve been running around all day just doing general day-to-day operations stuff, like getting computers fixed, upgrading network capabilities, getting panels built, and working on processes and documentation for project that are going on here.

My gaming has been fun, but non-descript, for the most part. That is, nothing really to rant about. I’ve been less inclined to deal with drama, instead, just playing my game and going my way. Which I think is probably a good thing.

I think I’ll play some WoW tonight, then jump in DSII…although I almost certainly just get some Planetside in tonight….

I’ll write something better tomorrow, when I’m more in the mood.

That does it.

August 25, 2005

Mood: Pretty good.
Music: Life’s What You Make It, Talk Talk.
Game: World of Warcraft, Planetside, Auto Assault Beta, Dungeon Siege II.
Book: None.
Muffin: Strawberry-Peach
Punchline: Nope.

Last night, I and the fellas from ijsmp had a CoD match for TWL.

I, who was having some mightily tasty sushi at Blue Ribbon Sushi with my friend Jenai, ended up heading home early so that I could make match time with a little time beforehand to warm up.

Got on our server and started warming up. By five minutes to matchtime, we were short two players.

At matchtime, one more guy showed up, but his voice comms were fucked and he had to reinstall. One guy never showed up, but through scrambling and such, we managed to get another guy to agree to play last minute.

It was exactly then that I decided I was done with this game, and playing it competitively.

When I sign up for something, I agree to be there, at the given time, ready to do what I say I’m going to. I don’t make excuses. I’ve made a committment to friends that they can rely on me, and I would be insulted if they ever said to me “We can’t trust that you’ll be there for us.” But for some reason, my mentality in regards to this doesn’t seem to be filtering down to the rest of the guys.

Maybe it’s because we’re an online clan, most of whom have never met in person. Maybe it’s because it’s summer, and frankly, playing video games in the summer is much harder than in the winter. Maybe it’s because “it’s just a game” so they don’t feel pressed upon to actually deliver on their game committments.

I have no idea. I do know that online or not, these guys are my friends…and when I commit that I’ll be somewhere to help with something, I’m there. I know that I’ve bailed on dinner plans before, or going out on a weekend or something. But no one’s ever said “I’m relying on you to be somewhere” and I’ve not shown up.

In any case, I’m not interested in competing any more. If it’s so unimportant to them, I’m certainly not going to give up my already limited gaming time to waste it sitting around hoping people show up, then throw myself into a game with a bunch of guys who weren’t ready to play. Not talking about practice…just talking about mentally being ready to compete.

I’m not bitter about it…it’s just what it is. But I’m certainly not going to be the guy who forces us to keep our committments to each other. No time to be a babysitter. And I’m not going to pick up the slack.

Just picked up Dungeon Siege II, though. The first game I’ve purchased in a VERY long time. I’m looking forward to getting home and installing it. On Sunday, I’m supposed to be playing with Smitty, Jeho, and Firethorn…we’ll see if that happens…but I sure would like it to.

Entry 200.

August 23, 2005

Mood: Tired.
Music: How Soon Is Now, Love Spit Love.
Game: World of Warcraft, Planetside, Call of Duty, Auto Assault Beta.
Book: None.
Muffin: I had a croissant. They were out of muffins(!?).
Punchline: Nope.

This is my 200th entry into my blog. That’s a lot of writing.

OK…the migration went pretty well overall. I can state that I know how to migrate an NT4 Domain to a W2003 Domain for the most part.

Things to keep in mind:

– NETBIOS must be activated on the 2003 box.
– You need to create a trust relationship between the two domains (at least during migration.)
– The DHCP server(s) must point to the 2003 box’s DNS to resolve the Domain routing, then recursively hunt further upstream for other DNS resolution.
– The ADMT 2.0 tool is invaluable. Migrate the users, and all attached groups by using the User Migration Wizard. Prune the groups you no longer need. Useful tip: Adjust the password settings policy BEFORE migrating the users…or you might find yourself with a whole bunch of random passwords on the new domain. Oops.
– Each machine needs to now be joined to the new domain. Each machine must have the domain admin account added to their users/groups. Check that the internal firewall of each machine is shut off, or it will prevent the RPC ninjas from migrating the machine properly. Lastly, ensure that you know the name of the machine.
– Use the Computer Migration Wizard to move the machine over from the old domain to the new one, copying all security settings to the new domain. It should move the machine into the AD immediately, and take anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes for the Migration Agents to move the data from the old profiles to the new profiles. The wizard will tell you when the machine is migrated. If all went well, the machine will reboot on its own.
– Log in under the new Domain with the logon and password as specified. It should take a moment or two, then log on as if you were connected to the old domain.
– Note: Mail passwords, saved web passwords, and cookie/session data seems to not get migrated. You’ll need to launch outlook and re-enter the mail passwords of the individuals. Nothing you can do about the web stuff. It DOES move bookmarks. Not cookies.

That’s pretty much it. Once all the machines are moved from the old Domain, you can take down the old server, remove the trust relationship, and remove any DNS pointers you added. You SHOULD be able to shut off NETBIOS at this point if you want, and if you aren’t running any machines with OSs older than W2000. Of course, there’s no harm it leaving it on, I don’t think.

So, I have two machines left, and I can take down the old server. And then…the Bastard Operator from Hell lives again….

Tomorrow’s the day.

August 18, 2005

Mood: Focused. And nervous.
Music: Sabotage, Beastie Boys.
Game: World of Warcraft, Planetside, Call of Duty, Auto Assault Beta.
Book: None.
Muffin: None.
Punchline: Nope.

I am working from home right now.

I am doing that because I am reading and searching for any hints, tips, steps, or words of advice on migrating an NT4.0 domain to a Windows Server 2003 AD domain.

Tomorrow at 2pm, I will be taking down the servers, and running dcpromo on the Windows 2003 Server.

I expect to have to create DNS entries in my DNS server, recreate all user accounts, and recreate the security model IF things don’t go well.

If I am not careful, I could, in theory, lock myself out of every server in the network. This would be the worst case scenario. Rebuilding both servers from backups does not appeal to me.

If everything goes well, I will create a new domain in a new forest, migrate over the user names and passwords and security model, and take down the old server. This has a very small chance of working the way I expect it.

The way I EXPECT things to go is:
– I run dcpromo, create the AD on the 2003 server, configure some DNS goodies, and the new domain will exist. At this time, no one will be able to log in to the file server.
– I will recreate groups and a few accounts on the 2003 server.
– I will attempt to migrate my laptop to the new domain, and note the process that allows me to be a part of the new domain, yet lets me keep my machine local profile intact.
– If and when this works, I will recreate the security hierarchy on the 2003 server.
– I will then recreate all the user accounts (using a new name structure…NT only allowed 8 character logons….)
– Then I will spend the rest of the night creating the trust relationship between the new server and the client machines, of which there are about 50 of them.

If all goes well, I will probably NOT have to work this weekend. If things go poorly, I could very well be spending my entire weekend in a server room.

The problem, as you probably could guess, is that there is absolutely no information on doing this migration safely or properly. The reason for this is, aside from the fact that it’s Microsoft, that I suspect that Microsoft prevents putting any really detailed documentation on the web because they want you to shell out thousands of bucks for the MCSE courses, and/or buy hundred-dollar step by step books.

You might make the argument that IF this is so important, Glenn, buy the fucking books, and/or take the course. To which I can only reply: I don’t have time for that. The PDC is definitely on its last legs, I am constantly rebooting it just to get it to do the simplest of tasks. Hardware-wise, the machine is SIX years old, and hasn’t been turned off for more than 10 minutes since it was built. (Aside from the blackout….) Software-wise, the machine hasn’t been properly cleaned and patched for years…since before I got there. (As a rule, I don’t go patching servers I didn’t build. Who the fuck KNOWS what they’ve got running in there.) And since the entire office was running off that server up until a few weeks ago, there was no good way to check it out.

So I’m basically pretending I’ve had a catastrophic failure, and need to rebuild from scratch.

All the data is moved, including the accounting database and virus servers. All that’s left is the user/security database….

So I’m home scouring the web looking for any small bit of advice that will save me tens of hours of recovery. Because if I were at work, I’d never be able to sit still for more than twenty minutes without being interrupted.

So wish me luck tomorrow.

Or I’ll see you in a week.


August 17, 2005

Mood: OK.
Music: Nothing.
Game: World of Warcraft, Planetside, Call of Duty, Auto Assault Beta.
Book: None.
Muffin: Raspberry-Peach.
Punchline: Nope.

Just don’t feel like writing today.

I DO feel like going home, flipping on the air conditioner, and playing some World of Warcraft…get that Priest rollin’….

Maybe I’ll write something pithy tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve attached an article I wrote years ago for an online gaming site that’s now largely defunct.

Why should those economies make any more sense than ours?

August 15, 2005

Mood: Just blah.
Music: Paint It Black, Rolling Stones
Game: World of Warcraft, Planetside, Call of Duty, Auto Assault Beta.
Book: None.
Muffin: Raspberry-Mango.
Punchline: None…frankly, I probably should remove this line. I mean, no one tells any jokes any more.

On the way to work this morning, in the stupor-haze that is my morning commute, seeing as I wasn’t able to pick up my free morning paper, I ended up sitting there with my eyes closed, thinking about MMO economies.

Yes, I know. Some people just sleep, or think about vacations, or people-watch, or read. I think about games. So I’m a bit pre-occupied with games. You’ll get over it.

Anyway, to jump right into it, the fundamental reason why the economies in MMOs suck boils down to just one thing: An infinite influx of cash and goods without a forced outflow of cash and goods.

This probably seems pretty obvious…and game designers throw a nod in that direction by providing something affectionately known as “cash-sinks” in to drain cash from the economy. These sinks, such as item repair, travel fees, training fees, all help to remove cash from the economy, and slow inevitable inflation.

For ease of discussion, we should name the pieces and sides. Any cash or item belonging to a player is considered “player-side.” Any cash or item in the world (including with vendors, “mobs” (or monsters), or on the ground/in chests to be found, for example) are considered “world-side.”

“Cash” is raw currency, whether it be gold, credits, bills, or small rocks used to purchase goods and/or services. “Items” are persistent objects. They can be weapons, armor, clothing, mounts, food, or any other object that remains in world indefinitely.

If you’ve played an MMO for any length of time, you know the problem. You can go out into the world for an indefinite period of time, and kill the same group of monsters indefinitely, and the monsters will keep “respawning” and, of course, each monster you kill has more cash and items. Doesn’t matter how many you kill, there’s always more.

When the government prints more money and just puts it into the economy, inflation occurs. The same thing happens here. The more cash that enters the economy, the higher prices run…until starting characters end up being priced out of any reasonable market.

So, to combat that, game designers make it so that NPC vendors will always sell base goods for a given amount…making it so that players cannot set a price ridiculously high…which they will if an NPC vendor cannot undercut them. Then you have the other factor…items are in such plentiful supply, they sell for ridiculously low numbers. So now, cash is worthless, and there’s a million things to buy…you’ve effectively made it so cash management is pointless. You’ve reduced the game to a level-grind.

Yes, there will always be rare items that are ludicrously expensive…because there isn’t a huge number of them, and because NPCs can’t acquire or sell them. So those items are priced according to the inflationary cash unit.

When you throw trade skills in the mix, players can create items, adding still more items into that pool, and further devaluing the price of items…often to the point of making it such that it actually costs more to make the item than you could get by selling it. As added comedy value, the items used to create player-made items often increase in value, as levelling in crafting is often valued by players, so that you can make more money by selling raw materials (dropped or found in the world) than you can from the fabricated items.

Again, this is merely a function of an infinite influx of items/resources into the game world without sufficient drain.

Now, this is a game. Players require constant reward in order to keep playing…even if they have to work for that reward. They need better weapons, armor, spells, goodies to keep them playing. So you can’t just limit the drop of everything…they need rewards.

So how do you balance the economy such that the influx of cash matches the outflow? Cash sinks are ALWAYS seen for what they are. They’re cash sinks…which only forces players to grind cash to deal with them, which accelerates the decline of the economy. Even if they’re painted to look like part of the game world, they still smack of a game mechanic.

I have a solution to this. I’ll explain it some time…but hopefully I can take this idea and turn it into a white paper, a talk at a conference, or perhaps even a beta game system to sell to an MMO….

And THAT would be a good job.