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February, 2009

  1. Calling to the Beginnings

    February 25, 2009 by Ryan

    First of all, the company that I work for asks its employees to print this line on their personal websites. Since I do like to work for them, and don’t want to make the boss mad in any way, this is what they want me to say:

    “The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the strategies or opinions of any other person or organization that I am affiliated with”

    It wasn’t very funny or exciting to read, but at least I have now done my duty.

    With that out of the way – I work at a customer support call center for a dental software company. Though I started in the trenches taking calls and answering technical support questions, I don’t get the opportunity to do that much any more. My job duties have shifted to more of an interal employee training role, which I have enjoyed very much. And then my job duties again shifted so that I additionally present webinar training to customers once or twice a week. And though that has been a stretch, I am enjoying that role now too. But in these new roles, I have always remained aware that the further distant I allow myself to go from my “roots” and “beginnings,” the more the memories and practical knowledge gained from experiences will fade away.

    So when the other day there was a spike in call volume, and I happened to have some unstructured time, I jumped in and took a couple calls. Although I could handle the more advanced calls, I placed myself in the queue to receive the same level of calls that the newer employees are set to take – I wanted to experience what they are experiencing, and try to regain a perspective of hearing what they hear, searching the knowledge base tools as they do, and logging the call notes into the database in the same manor as they do.

    The first call was from an office manager who had entered in a large insurance check that day, and the total amount of the check was not matching the amount showing on the end of day report. This stemmed from a fairly common situation where the insurance carrier had sent the office a check paying for several different patient’s claims, so the office personnel had to split the check up among the patients and designate which specific claims were being paid and by how much. She was having a difficult time tracking down where a mistake had been made in entering these amounts and on what patient(s) they had errored. I assisted her with exploring a couple of different reporting options until we found a way that sorted the patient names alphabetically, the same as what the insurance’s explaination of benefits listed. From there, she went on her way to hunt down the problem.

    The second call was apparently misdirected by the operator, because the type of call belonged to a different technician level than the beginner line that I was answering. In this call, the doctor himself was on the phone (that always used to really intimidate me when the doctor personally would call). He had an ongoing (and yet unresolved) and apparently intermintant issue where his staff had been attempting to print patient’s periodontal examinations, but the print preview would show the charting measurements briefly, then those measurements would disappear, leaving a blank form. Printing would only print the blank form as well. There were previous calls made and they thought they had resolved it at one time by updating to the latest software patch, but the problem had returned. For a moment, I felt in over my head on this one, believing this was going to be a lengthy call and possibly need some research and follow-up attention. I could find no documentation as I searched the knowledge base, and the doctor had not either as he had searched the online version. We tried several things to pin point the problem, but it remained a universal problem – happening on all computers, any patient, with real data or sample data. I made some desperate grabs for ideas, and finally came across a knowledge base article that spoke of the perio charts printing blank (but did not mention the print preview symptoms). We tried the very simple solution there, and it turned out to be the answer. Both of us felt a little silly that we had hit all the big ideas and missed the very simple and easy idea. I edited the article to include additional keywords, so that someone else searching for the same issue, using similar search language as we had, would find this answer easier.

    Point of it is, it was a great experience for me to get back into the “entry level” and take those couple of calls. I remembered the emotions that I had once felt as a new employee – anxiety, desperation, overwheling awash as I balanced the call handling with the call logging with the knowledgbase searching. I felt the satisfaction of resolving the issues! And I felt the sense of pride when I tried to go a little above the normal and offer something “extra” to both customers – in both cases I entered requests to the developers to add or change features that would have made the worl flow flow smoother for both of these callers. It is a concept known as the “three o’clock parade” concept, which I try to leave with each new employee.

    By then, the call spike had subsided. I logged off my phone, now a half hour past the time I had intended to go home (another common feature of the call center that I had forgotten). I had enjoyed a good experience. One that I hope to do a little more often, to keep myself “in practice” and help me keep my skills sharp and empathy higher.

  2. Our Newest Addition

    February 24, 2009 by Ryan

    We are pleased to introduce the newest members of our family, Meeko and Nemo.

    Swim'in in the Bowl

    Swim'in in the Bowl

    Their young caretaker has this to say about them: “I am very glad to have them join our family. They have a good time. I feed them every night. I’m so proud of them. They like their new home. They are so happy to stay in it. They don’t know what to do because when they were first inside of their tank, at the pet store, they liked it there because there was more fish. When they came home, they felt much more happier. They like me and they like each other.”

  3. Mormon Messages

    February 21, 2009 by Ryan

    YouTube has something worth watching now. Check out the “Mormon Messages” channel on YouTube here! These feature short inspirational videos about gospel topics.

  4. Does the Stimulus plan provide me an Aspirin?

    February 21, 2009 by Ryan

    Alright, let me get this out of my system.

    I was so mad yesterday that I yelled back at the radio. I was sitting alone in my car, and the windows were rolled up, so I don’t think I disturbed anyone else. And my shouting didn’t really make me feel much better. But here is what happened.

    I heard President Obama talking about the trillion dollar spending bill. The radio played parts of his speech to the United States Conference of Mayors. I have some quoted below and a link to all of it here, if you are interested. I’ll highlight the parts that I recall the radio repeating…

    So I want to be clear about this: We cannot tolerate business as usual — not in Washington, not in our state capitols, not in America’s cities and towns. We will use the new tools that the recovery act gives us to watch the taxpayers’ money with more rigor and transparency than ever. (Applause.) If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it and put a stop to it.

    And I want everybody here to be on notice that if a local government does the same [waste that money], I will call them out on it and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it. We have asked for the unprecedented trust of the American people to deal boldly with the greatest economic crisis we’ve seen in decades and the privilege of investing unprecedented amounts of their hard-earned money to address this crisis. And with that comes unprecedented obligations to spend that money wisely — free from politics and free from personal agendas.

    On this, I will not compromise or tolerate any shortcuts. The American people are looking to us, each of you, as well as myself and Joe and others in our administration, for leadership, and it’s up to us to reward their faith.

    I yelled back, “Then start with the congress and yourself, not the mayors!” It’s do what I say, not what I did.

    Alright, yes, for the factual record, I know that the bill is actually only $787 billion, as if that is supposed to make me feel any better about it. And if I could trust a word of what the president just said, I could agree with being fiscally responsible and trustworthy and accountable to the taxpayers and blaa blaa blaa. I just frankly don’t believe him.

    If he meant any of that, he already would have held the line with the congress. The ‘‘American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009’’ is loaded up with wasteful spending and personal pork projects. It was ramrodded through Congress and I don’t believe it will help.

    Even my own Senator, Bob Bennett, Republican-Utah, publicly said ‘Oh, No! I won’t vote for that bill! No, I’m opposed to it!’ while privately, he had $50 billion inserted for loans to the nuclear industry. Oh, he justified it. After he was caught adding his $50 billion, he said, ““It is not a bailout for the nuclear industry….  It is a method of attracting private capital into…” Z Z Z Z Z Z Z z z z z z. Keep talking. I see only one thing. You saw a bill that you knew would pass without your vote, and you saw a chance to slip your own little $50 billion project into it. I believe that is called “Having your cake and eating it too.” Reminds me of another principles of reality (like the one that goes ‘Spending more money will not reduce your debt”). If you were opposed to this, and the cost and the intent, why did you contribute to it? Why not come above board and propose your own single bill of legislation for your project? You are just playing the political game. And I know that the other 99 Senators were to some extent playing the same games. And I’m getting sick of it.

    And where does this spending spree end? In that same speech, President Obama promises that “this plan doesn’t mark the end of what we’ll do together. It marks the beginning. My administration has outlined plans to stabilize, repair and reform our banking system, to get credit flowing to families and businesses, to stem the spread of foreclosures and keep families in their homes.” Oh, goody, more to look forward too! Can’t wait! Here, let me get out my checkbook for you!

    Really, I ask again: When does this spending end? Will it be when the government eventually nationalizes all the banks and controlls all the money? And by virtue of that, they control all the loans? Gee wiz, I look forward to going to my bank branch then, if it is ran as efficiently as the Driver’s License division, or even the United States Postal Service. Won’t that be grand! Can’t wait to apply for a home loan then!

    All sarcasm aside, these are scary times. You cannot rack up a deficit and expect to print more money to get out of it. Nor can you continue to spend money that you do not have to try to reduce the same deficit. It just doesn’t work.

    Perhaps somewhere in the 407 pages of that bill, they thought to purchase me an aspirin for the headache this creates?

  5. What to do for a 50th Anniversary?

    February 17, 2009 by Glorajean

    I need ideas. My parents are going to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary in just a few months. We should probably have thought of this sooner. I’m not sure what most people do, but it is a great occasion and we should probably do something. How do you celebrate such an event?

    Going to Disneyland is already covered – they have a trip planned a couple weeks after the actual date. But for the real date, for extended family and friends to say congratulations, what should we do?

    Dinner at a restaurant (an all-you-can-eat buffet like Golden Corral)?

    A reception at the local church house?

    They won’t read this website, so go ahead and leave ideas in the comments!