Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Free steak dinner at HappyTech

At HappyTech I do tech support for a software product used by the auto industry. The product is such shite that we lost half the customers who signed up in the first year. Our boss called a meeting some time ago and told us in order to survive we had to become an outward facing, sales-oriented call center. Of course we bristled as we're all, to varying degrees, experienced in software support and did not sign on for a sales gig. But it was that or look for another job.

The software is far from an easy sell. It's buggy and user-unfriendly and the word spread quickly on industry message boards. The customer base is limited and most are already in long-term contracts with our vastly superior competitors. These are the minor deterrents, but the real barrier to sales is the ├╝ber-slack environment in our office. As with any assignment we have been given, I was the only employee who took any initiative. Even with me making the lion's share of sales calls, pretty soon every potential customer in the country had been contacted and we were back to having nothing to do. Layoffs seem imminent despite periodic assurances to the contrary.

Various schemes for revitalizing our business have been proposed by our office manager, who is bipolar and kind of unstable but very ambitious when she's in her manic phase. The usual cycle is this: she proposes a grandiose plan to incentify sales and convinces everyone this will save our jobs, then corporate either shoots it down or defangs it to whatever level that keeps them from having to spend a cent. The latest scheme was to offer cash bonuses to the the regional Big Three reps who kept our product in a certain percentage of their dealerships and cash bonuses to the people in our office who sold the most subscriptions. This had the potential to secure the product a decent market share, but once corporate had effectively neutered the proposal we were left with a scheme that rewarded us with some measly gift certificates and a celebratory barbecue where the losing sales team would have to grill steaks for the winners.

My "team" won all three months of the sales challenge. Essentially I won singlehandedly as the guy they partnered me with joined in the middle of the project and I did all the heavy lifting. He and I scored Blockbuster Video gift cards for June and Outback Steakhouse cards for July. Today was the big barbecue so the mood here is light and jovial. The running gag has been that we got to eat a meal prepared by two people who never, ever cook. It wasn't bad at all though, and even though I had to sit at my desk and eat it looking at the same losers I see for eight hours every day, who can complain about a free steak dinner?

The boss said just to shut off the phones for a couple of hours so we can enjoy our steaks. At a help desk, people. Now that's customer service! Trained apes could do a better job of running a business. I'm outta here as soon as I can find another job. This place is truly circling the drain.

Now playing: Shelby Lynne - Leavin'