November 9, 2009

Raymund Krauleidis

Translated from the German by Sabine Winter

Business as usual:

»Well, I actually wanted to speak with Mr. Müller in Controlling but since I have you on the line now ...«
»CSShhh... Mr. Schmoltke, I can barely hear you at the... CSShhh...moment. REALLY bad connection here! CSShhh...«
»On a corded landline phone?«
Crap! Some bookkeepers are smarter than you would imagine, I think to myself throwing the receiver back on the cradle ...

Unfortunately, ever since our IT department uploaded the new phone software this morning, everything has changed. I'm not saying that things were always good the way they used to be before – but at least one could count on a functioning Caller ID. And on the fact that – aside from human failure – phone calls would naturally end up at the extension that was actually being called.

The newly released software, however, comes with some revolutionary and surprising features. For example, a »random function« for incoming and outgoing calls. This feature ensures that after dialing a number some random phone at the company rings at will (whereas the number that was actually dialed is being disregarded in that random selection).

Another new feature is the »phone trick mode« that magically connects two or more people over the phone without either one of them having even intended to call anybody. Compared to this, a lacking Caller ID ranks more among the less spectacular improvements.

The respective prior intranet notification read: »In the event of any unexpected complications during the day of the transition, you may reach us at extension -2001.«

So I grab the receiver and decide to inform my colleagues in IT about their flawed work and the related frustration on my side. With my eyes closed I dial some random four-digit number in no particular order hoping that Madame Fortune will be on my side, more than she was during last week's lottery – although it is likely that the odds are equally comparable ...

At first, I end up in an ongoing three-way conference call between the gentlemen Kleinmann, Dworschak and Müller, who are trying to determine who has actually called whom and why.
To my huge surprise, the second attempt gets me on the line with no less than our CEO in person. Disguising my voice I briefly sing my favorite part of the song »Killing in the Name« by Rage Against the Machine (the one that starts with »F*ck you ...«) to him and eventually end the call with the words »It's Schmoltke, from Bookkeeping.«

A phone ringing on my desk gets in the way of my third attempt. This time, I answer the call using the name of my boss. Already hearing terrible curses coming from the other end of the line, I contemplate that IT could actually permanently remove the Caller ID. »I am going to inform the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection! And the Consumer Protection Agency! And Amnesty International!«

It quickly turns out that the dubious caller is a dissatisfied customer complaining about allegedly having received an email from us containing a file with our complete customer data (including banking and credit card information). I reckon that calls for the Hotline were now coming in on my line.
»Are you aware that other people would pay a pretty penny for this?! And you? You are bitching about receiving it for free! Somehow that seems kind of ungrateful«, I try to calm him down and give him some advice as to posting the file on eBay.

»I would like to speak with your CEO, please«, the voice on the other end of the line proclaims. Surely the customer only wants to tell the CEO about my exemplary and helpful performance.
»One moment, I'll connect you«, I ask the disagreeable caller putting him on polyphonic sound hold while curiously wondering who the caller coming in under the CEO's number on the second line might be.

»Koslowski, Cafeteria ...«, some unmotivated voice mumbles into my ear after the eighth ringing tone.
»There's a caller for you on the line ...«, I inform my colleague in the Cafeteria and try to transfer the call. Which, as a matter of fact, works ...

Of course, everybody was already aware of the customer data incident. Our IT Department had accidentally mailed the file to over 10,000 customers – as an attachment to our Newsletter. Admittedly, this is pretty inconvenient for customers. After all, the large circulation will most likely tend to have a negative impact on profit realizations via eBay.
In his initial reaction, however, the CEO had decided to first of all do what we are sufficiently known for doing anyhow, namely nothing.
»Not a single soul reads that Newsletter anyway!«, was his convinced reaction as to the impact of our digital customer relation instrument.

»Ring, ring«, I hear my phone calling for attention again.
Just not another customer, please!
»Hi Frank, it's me«, a person of the female sex frantically chirps before I can even say »beep«, »I did the test. You're gonna be a Daddy! And if you don't show up in my office within the next two minutes, I am going to tell your wife in person!«
Feeling a little overwhelmed, I say »beep« and hang up.

About time to call it a day ...

The very next morning, the chaos eventually reaches its peak. The new software had indeed managed to connect our entire staff in one gigantic telephone conference. And while one would occasionally think that our employees don't have much left to talk about, conversations to rarely heard before extents evolve. Vulgarly, for the most part.

Accumulated aggressions surface with various levels of intensity. While Mr. Schmoltke from Bookkeeping uses extremely moderate manners trying to find out who had told his Mom about his secret visits to the smoking section (for a change, it wasn't me – really!), a certain »Frank« complains about his interpersonal problems with two representatives of the female sex in a slightly more impetuous way (sound bite: »Which damn asshole ...«). Meanwhile the CEO claims that a so-called »Schmolke or something like that« had singingly dubbed him m@*#erf%cker. I've always known that it's best not to tangle with bookkeepers ...

Following the individual conversation threads among the steadily mounting chaos of voices requires a huge amount of concentration. In turn, one can find out a lot of interesting personal details about some colleagues ...

But as more and more customers also start adding their two cents to the ongoing discussions, it gets a little too cumbersome for me. Shaking my head over the deepening discords among our staff I hang up and devote my attention to a seemingly less fault-prone communication channel. In particular, my email program, which just now indicates the receipt of a new message:

From: IT
Sent: November 2 10:24 a.m.
To: All Staff
Subject: Software Update


Since we did not receive a single call at our ad hoc emergency number, which we had specifically set up for that occasion, we assume that the transition to our new telephone software has been carried out to your complete satisfaction.

We will start implementing a similar update of our email servers throughout the day.

In the event of any unexpected complications during the day of the transition, you may reach us via email at »«.

By the way: The customer data incident did not happen accidentally ...

With warm regards,
Your truly devoted colleague
HAL 9000
Serial number 3

P.S. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of err...

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  8. Jahresrückblick 2009

Wo sind die vielen anderen Kolumnen der wahnsinnigen Büroreihe »Business as usual« von Raymund Krauleidis hin?
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