Thursday, May 28, 2009

Salesmen and Tech Support (aka a Conspiracy against Efficiency)

I was going to write about why I chose the name "Bittersweet Fountain" today, but something happened at work that put everything from my mind. And this is certainly not the first time its happened. Because you don't know I'll first explain what I do. I am a Georgia Tech student who co-ops for a large organization that shall go nameless (not sure about regulations and procedures about blogging about my work exactly. Will have to clarify in the future). A co-op for those of you who don't know is sort of like a repeat intern. I go to school a semester, work a semester, school a semester, work a semester, etc etc. It makes it take longer to graduate, but it makes for great experience.

Anyway, at my job I'm treated like a real design engineer, which is what I am. I design fluid systems for a new project. Part of my work as a designer is talking to vendors. I need their products to build the stuff I'm building. Recently I've been looking for a differential pressure gauge. I know the company I want to buy it from. I know what model I want. But the company is giving me the standard problem every engineer faces: salesmen and tech support.

First off I want you to know I have nothing but love for salesmen and tech support. My dad sold boxes once. It's a well...clean job, but someone has to do it. This post is not about me hating on the people who are in these two honorable trades. This is about me wanting to talk to someone who speaks my language, aka an engineer.

I'm sure there are very knowledgeable salespeople in the world. I am sure there is a guy in Tech support who knows more about differential pressure gauges than the guy who invented them. However, that's never the person I get when I call a vendor. My conversation usually goes like this.

Salesperson: Hello, you've reached Pressure Gauges unlimited. This is Mary.

Me: Hi Mary. My name is Bittersweet Fountain and I'm with this major organization. I need to talk to the product engineer of your 7 series differential gauge.

Sales: I'll connect you to Tech Support.

Notice the great way the salesperson handled the problem. This is not sarcasm at all. The salesperson knew they could not help me and connected me to someone they thought good. I appreciate this. Two thumbs up for Ms. Mary Salesperson, my hypothetical salesmen.

After a few minutes of happy music a Tech Support guy picks up the phone.

Tech: Hello, this is Steve.

Me: Hello, my name is Bittersweet Fountain and I'm with a major organization. I need to talk to the product engineer of your 7 series differential guage.

Tech: We can't connect you to the engineers. Maybe I can help you.

Me: *pause* OK. I need your cutsheets for the 7 series differential pressure gauge.

Tech: What do you mean by cut sheets? CAD drawings? Have you looked at our website?

This is the point where I want to just hang up because I know no one can help me. First, he didn't know what I meant by cut sheets, but I'll give him a break on that. Cut sheets can have many meanings. Second, he doubted that I haven't already scoured every facet of the website. Of course, I have. I'm an engineer. We're not known for being social butterflies (accuracy of this assumption to be studied at a later date). Do you really think I would call if I had not already found your website lacking the information? Really?

In the defense of my poor invented Tech Support named Steve, I'm sure there are engineers who don't bother checking the website for drawings. I'm sure its why he asked. But, Steve, we wouldn't be wasting each others' time if you would just connect me to your engineering department. Then everyone would be happy. Bob, the designer of your gauge, and I could talk shop and discuss the pros and cons of dial versus digital gauges until we're all satisfied and you could be helping someone who didn't check the website.

In conclusion, I would like to propose that every vendor have an extra contact on their contacts page. Under your sales phone number and emails you should list a number for engineers who want to talk to engineers. Trust me. It would make all of our work 10 times more efficient.

But then I'm assuming people want the world to work efficiently. That's a blog for another day.

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