No power for over one million people in
Seattle and outlying areas.
Few to no phones.
Cell phones could only be used for emergency calls,
if at all.
911 had busy signals for days on end.
Innumerable people without heat and water.
Limited or no fuel - gas stations closed or with two
hour waiting lines.
Flooding, downed trees and power lines blocking
roads, side streets and major arterials. In many
cases leaving residents stranded with no way to
get food and supplies.
Seattle Times could not print newspapers - no power for the
Temperatures ranging from 20-30 degrees.
Police and firefighters were going door to door evacuating
In some cities the water was over chest deep.
People were evacuated from
their homes and many stranded. They said this could
some locations only the roofs of homes and farms
could be seen in
the high waters.
The snow was some of the
heaviest seen in years and temperatures were in the twenties. People
left their cars alongside the roads and walked home, sometimes over 10 miles
in the freezing cold. Seattle isn't prepared for these sorts of
Seattle didn't want to stop with
just a snow storm but went from floods to snow and
then wind that was beyond anything that has hit the
Northwest in decades. The winds were
60-75 miles per hour with gusts of 110.
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wheel semi-trucks were driving on residential side
streets to get to stores to deliver necessary food
and other supplies. Rescue
vehicles were going around picking up people who needed
to have dialysis or other medical conditions. Main
arterials were blocked and they used any avenue they
could to get supplies delivered and reach people in
didn't have power for nine days and no phone,
internet or cable for 15 days.
The warmest we got our house was 48 degrees inside with
the average temperature around 40. You could see
your breath inside the house!
Communication: Most people's connection to the disaster was an AM radio station, KOMO 1000.
set up a
neighbor-to-neighbor helpline 7 /
24. Total strangers
were opening their homes to others to offer a warm place
to sleep. Schools, churches, and community centers
opened their doors so people could have a warm place to
go. It was amazing what this station's call center
members did for the community.
Patience wears thin: When
people called in to KOMO and complained about the Puget Sound
Energy (PSE) Call Center I almost lost it. They
were angry because they couldn't reach a live
Consider that over one million people were without power
and how many people were calling. They would demand to know when they would
get their power on and say the call center should be
able to tell them and reach a "live" person. Give me a break!
Providing staffing and technology to handle this sort of
call volume with only a couple days notice is
was a period of time when the winds were at hurricane
speeds and they asked all utility workers to be on
standby. There was too much risk of losing lives. It is understandable that
people want to know
estimated times to get their utilities back but they should appreciate that the
call centers were doing everything they could with
limited resources and often no information.
People complained if they got a busy signal calling
People were calling 911 to find out when the power was
going to be on in their area and using 911 for other
non-emergencies. And they wondered why the lines
towers were down and lines were so
jammed that most cell phones
didn't work either. The cell phone call centers were getting
an insurgence of calls.
told us they were routing calls to Canada and other
local centers to respond to calls.
Restoring power: PSE
had on its property 50 additional crews (double what is
normally on the property for day-to-day work). Others
were on the way. At the beginning of the restoration
efforts, more than 185 two- and four-person crews were
mobilized to begin the repairs. By Wednesday, December
20, a total of 500 crews, or 2,000 people, from as far
away as Kansas, Utah, Missouri, Southern California and
British Columbia were making progress restoring power,
repairing transmission lines, re-energizing substations
and going from neighborhood to neighborhood restoring
you imagine the pressure on the call center people, help
SWAT centers to communicate and coordinate all of these
efforts? These service and support people should
be commended for their work efforts.
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Management Under These Conditions
these storms stressful? YES! Was it hard to cope
at times. ABSOLUTELY! Did people become
difficult? YES! You get pretty grouchy - you're cold, have little to no access
to warm food, can't sleep well, have limited
information, and it makes you
irritable. And I was certainly one of those who
was getting irritable near the end.
It takes some pretty extraordinary people to be on the
end of the service and support lines. Every
company with a call center and a help desk had to deal
with severe conditions, stressed and short-tempered
customers, high call volumes and too few staff - so what
do you do in times like this?
Accept the situation for what it is. You
can't change the consequences of the storm, but you
can help others in dealing with the situation.
Your skills in compassion and empathy are essential
here. Patience becomes one of your greatest
Do the best you can with the tools and resources
available and always be truthful to the callers. If you
can't give an actual estimated up time - suggest
they go someplace warm and get a drink, calm down,
and call back in a couple of days. (Just kidding.) Actually,
answering callers questions openly, honestly and
explaining why you can or can't
and what you can do
for them goes a long ways. Just be truthful.
A little humor helps too.
We called one of our providers and the rep said that no outages had been
reported in our area and they needed to schedule a
service call. We knew this wasn't possible.
When we called back two other times, we got a
different answer from each representative. It
turns out the information was in the database and
there were 300 people with an outage. The reps
may not have been trained how to use their resources
properly and were simply sharing their best guess.
I would have rather had a more truthful answer than
Forgive yourself if
you make a mistake - we all make mistakes under times of
duress. No one is perfect and if you beat
yourself up for the way you handled a call you
won't feel good and it could flow
over to the next caller who is likely already
irritable too. Reassure yourself and offer
encouragement to your peers on what a good job they
are doing. Time and again give yourself
Avoid thinking negative thoughts
about others. Understand the callers
situation and be companionate and empathetic.
When all else fails, put them on hold and scream, then pick up the
call again in that kind voice you always use with
we know, they are reaching out to for reassurance
A tool to gain composure and patience I use is to imagine the caller as
a parent or grandparent and think how they would
want to be treated. Try pretending you are speaking
to your grandparent. It's easier
to be more understanding if you put things into a
context that makes you relate to the caller more
Offer a kind word,
share a smile, or deliver a hot chocolate or coffee
to someone in the office - boss, peer,
subordinate, janitor, security guard, or anyone that
looks like they need some kindness or a smile put on
their face. Try to leave your callers feeling
better than before they called. Humor and
empathy both work well to get these results.
things to think about in a disaster
Was getting to work an
issue? What would you do next time?
Basic needs: Food,
water, heat, plumbing, etc. How can you be sure you
have enough supplies for you and your family
to last xx number of days?
Lost wages because of a
"Act of God" disaster an issue? Don't forget the
long term effect of it.
Was your home damaged?
The building where you work destroyed?
Did you lose any data
because of power outages? Even little things like
this can be important.
Do you work from home?
Were your files backed up?
If you are a virtual
rep did you have phone service and Internet access?
What can you do to insure you are available to the
Did you plan for a
disaster like this and if so was it enough? Was
there enough warning?
Did your company plan
for this sort of disaster? Are there remote
locations that calls can be overflowed to and if so
do the reps in the other locations have access to
your customer's profiles and other necessary
Does your company
outsource it's support and if so how did they handle
it? Did it hurt your companies image if they didn't?
Were they prepared to handle the calls and did they
understand your customers expectations?
Do you really know what
it's like to be in a situation similar to Seattle's
Wind-Rain-Floods-Snow-Ice, Hurricane Katrina or
Colorado's recent massive snow storms?
Police have to watch for vandals and deal with
accidents, traffic, and maintain law and order.
Fire departments have to deal with water freezing or
lack of water, fires from electricity lines being
down and igniting houses or trees and emergency
health care situations.
Army/National Guard may be called in to assist in
many facets but may not be able to get to everyone
Remember to only use the 911 system when you are
truly in a life threatening situation.
never know what sort of disaster will hit and some you
would least suspect (Austin
shuts downtown after dead birds discovered - January
be done better in situations like these? Absolutely!
But no matter how bad things are, those on the frontline
answering the phones should be appreciated for their
incredible work efforts and commitment to the customers.
As I have always said, the help desk and call centers
are indispensable corporate assets!
Thank you for
being one of our subscribers. Our goal is
to help you to make 2007 a great year. Please write to me with any questions or
observations and I will get back to you as quickly as I
can. We would love to hear some of your stories too.
I wish you a wonderful year in
High Tech High Touch Solutions
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TELE-SEMINARS & EVENTS (top)
This section lists random tele-seminars,
events and other applicable educational
opportunities. Vendor product and services
promotional events will only be listed for those who
are sponsors of our conferences.
High Tech High Touch
Solutions is now offering
presented by speakers of our upcoming conferences.
Our first featured speaker is Peggy Gritt, someone
who knows how to load a session full of immediate
Peggy Gritt, Founder of
the VoIP Institute, presents:
"Mitigating Business Risks with VoIP"
Date: February 1st, 2007
Time: 10:00 (pacific time) / 1:00
Call in number: (563)
843-5600 access code 724326#
Please RSVP: Simply email
to say you will be joining us. There
are a very limited number of lines and this session
will fill up fast.
The first 100 people who RSVP
and call-in will receive a copy of my personal 750
weblinks of incredible resources, a $197 value.
You must attend the call to receive the special offer.
What you'll learn:
Get ready to do an about face on
your current thinking about VoIP. The VoIP Institute's
founder, Peggy Gritt, will give a refreshing presentation
on VoIP and the standard Session Initiation Protocol
(SIP). She will cover how SIP and VoIP are more
reliable, offer greater disaster recovery options and
are possibly MORE secure than your previous voice
The presentation will be aimed at
all levels and offer technical and business level advice
for these important VoIP design considerations. Ms.
Gritt has 17 years background in voice and data
convergence and has spoken to groups worldwide regarding
multi-channel contact center, VoIP and SIP technologies.
Meet our speaker:
Peggy Gritt has over 17 years
experience in the multi-channel contact center and VoIP
technologies – she spent ten years launching products at
Interactive Intelligence including the first
multi-channel ACD system in 97 and the first
software-based IP PBX in 2002.
Peggy has spoken to groups
internationally and has traveled to over 20 countries
meeting with and presenting to businesses and contact
centers. As founder and CEO of the VoIP Institute, she
is focused on accurate and educational information for
the user of VoIP technology. She provides workshops on
requirements planning, security, and VoIP technology
basics for professionals. Her focus on the user
experience means a non-biased look at the state of the
technology, deployment types and the effects on your
section includes various seminars, meetings, special
offers, etc. from non-profit associations applicable
to our industry.
Free Salary Survey from
Association of Support Professionals
Are your tech support salaries in
line with current industry standards? To help provide
you with data to answer this critical question, the
Association of Support Professionals (ASP) conducts an
annual support salary survey that provides the
industry's most detailed look at support compensation
The ASP survey, to be published in
February, supplies comparative salary benchmarks by job
title (seven categories), company size, product price,
and employee skill level. We invite you to help with
this project by filling out this brief questionnaire. In
return, we'll send you a complimentary copy of the final
report as soon as it's published.
As always, individual survey
responses will be kept strictly confidential.
You can fill out the survey online
like to review last year's survey, incidentally, a free
copy is available on the ASP web site
Many thanks for your help!
Association of Support
Mark your calendars now for the
9th Annual Help Desk Professionals Conference
October 22-24, 2007 in Phoenix
Arizona at the incredible Pointe South Mountain Resort
Register now and save $300.
JOB OPENINGS & JOB
Seattle, Washington: Director of Support
Manage call center managers as Director of Support for
company that provides integrated services and support to
the wireless industry. Base comp is in the $95K plus
range, with bonus plan and benefits.
The support organization has grown
substantially and requires a full-time steward to meet
the needs of clients. The Director of Support will
provide direction, coaching and support to call center
managers at multiple locations. The Director will be
charged with the following responsibilities: managing
all aspects of staff performance; defining internal
metrics to measure support effectiveness and customer
satisfaction; ensuring clients' KPIs are met across
multiple business lines; identifying opportunities for
operational improvements; and working closely with
individual managers on optimizing center performance.
The Director will be charged with the following KPIs:
revenue growth, profitability across multiple lines of
business, quality of service for customers and employee
This position calls for a seasoned
professional with 8+ years of call center experience at
the management level and 2-5 years at the director
level. The role requires experience and success in
managing managers and a firm understanding of financial
call center metrics. Telecom or wireless experience would be
a plus as would experience in "for profit" support or
managing "cost center" call centers along with running a
tight shift and meeting financial metrics. A background
in growing smaller centers into larger ones would be an
asset. Managing multiple call types or lines of business
is preferable. Strong leadership ability coupled with a
"can-do" attitude. Confident and decisive in nature.
Contact: Mona Valdok by email at
or call 206-652-1509 and tell her you read about the
position in eSharings.
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