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Oh, You Know How Women Can Be

May 7, 2020

This is tale of two. . .times. Okay, maybe cities, too. The first story takes place in Orem, Utah. The second in Logan, Utah or pretty much anywhere.

This is Rodney. You told Susan you wanted to speak to a man?

Yes. Thanks. I’m not sexist or anything. I’ve just found that men understand these things better, don’t you think?

. . .

Unfortunately for me and fortunately or him, my company didn’t allow me to say what I think. What do you do when “The customer is always right” runs into “The customer is a bigoted or racist jerk”?

Today, we have more options. But, my call happened in the dark ages of the 1980s. I was working for WordPerfect Corporation. I wasn’t actually a phone agent. I was an escalation agent for gateway products. And the customer had a question about our email client.

Susan, who had originally taken the call was one of our most experienced email agents. She was great at her job. Her manager, Maggie was also good at troubleshooting our email server.

You know who wasn’t good at troubleshooting our email server?

That’s, right. Me. I was focused on an entirely different product. But, because I could sing bass and not soprano, suddenly in the eyes of Joe Customer, I was going to be able to help him better than Susan, Maggie, or any of the other agents on her team. One of those agents happened to be my lovely wife. Anyone of those agents, all of whom happened to be women, would have been able to help Joe better than I did.

Instead of telling him what I thought, I simply gritted my teeth, put on the “customer smile” and continued our phone call.

How can I help you sir?

Technology is not an area that attracts a lot of women. It was not unusual during my time at Microsoft to sit in meetings where men outnumbered women by two or three to one.

When I ran RESMARK, a small software startup, we had a single female programmer and 10 male programmers. (And Mika was a fantastic coder.)

Women have made progress in business, but still are outnumbered at every level of management. My dear mother was a very successful business women. She founded and later sold both a million dollar CPA firm and a multi-million dollar investment firm. That was the woman who raised me.

My lovely wife was a better programmer than me in college and later a better technical trainer than I was. She often made more money than I did as well.

And Joe Customer wants me to agree with him that “women just don’t get it”? Not a chance.

My son is a customer support agent for an appliance company. He can work from anywhere if he has a good enough network connection and his laptop. And still, 30 years after Joe Customer embarrassed himself on the phone with me, my son said that he still calls in.

Not so much with my calls since I focus on vacuum cleaners, but the agents that take calls on things like dishwashers? Yeah, the women occasionally get someone who insists on talking to a man.

I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. Those men do themselves and the women in their lives a disservice.

During my call all those years ago, I really wasn’t qualified to answer Joe’s questions. So, throughout the entire call, Susan sat right at my elbow prompting me what questions to ask and what answers to give.

If he had only known.

Stay safe.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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