Angus: Customer service?

serviceFor business partners, there are some certifications that are required in order to sell Power Systems. The current two that I need are: 973 – IBM Certified Specialist – Power Systems Sales for IBM i Operating System and 974 – IBM Certified Specialist – Power Systems Technical Support for IBM i Operating System. I passed the 973 two weeks ago, and missed the 974 by a little. Yesterday, the deadline looming for the certification, I attempted again. While I improved my score with all the study, I did not manage to pass the test. In the past, information about tape solutions does not fit in my head, and the test managed to include way too many of those questions. Of course, while we only sell Power Systems 520s, the test requires you to know all about the entire product line – is there some way I can be certified to be a technical expert on the 520 only?

During my study, I was appalled at the horrible inconsistency in IBM’s documentation. If we are up to date, the platform includes Power Systems hardware, and the operating system IBM i – the current version being 6.1. The previous release of the OS was i5/OS at V5R4 and the previous generation of servers were System i. IBM, having changed the platform, forgot to change the references to the platform. It is easy to tell when the old manual was copied into the new manual. Take, for example, the IBM Power 520 and Power 550 (POWER6) System Builder, in which the following references can be found (and not just in the trademark section):

  • V6R1
  • V5.4
  • i5/OS
  • OS/400
  • eServer
  • iSeries
  • pSeries
  • System i
  • System p
  • AS/400
  • AS/400e
  • RS/6000
  • S/38

Ouch! Sure, some of the references are correctly referring to a specific feature available for a previous generation server or OS, but this is NOT the Power Systems and previous versions System Builder. All throughout the training material I reviewed and the entire IBM online reference library, there is an unbelievable amount of out of date and incorrect information relating to something as simple as the names. If IBM were to understand customer service, let alone marketing, this would have been a number one priority for them. Customer service example number 1 – fail.

An interesting requirement of certification is that you cannot take the same test within 24 hours of failing. This meant the second test was unable to be scheduled online. The testing facility told me to come in, and they would handle it from there. I arrived, we attempted to schedule me, and learned of the other requirement that got in my way – a test cannot be taken more than twice within a 30 day period. This is good, since it can combat some of the test thievery that is happening on the web (wow!), but it does nothing to help me meet my deadline. Should I have known about this? Of course. And, buried somewhere in all the information about the certification process, I am sure this is available. Somewhere. Given that it is a rather important requirement, it might have been possible for this to be listed in a more important location, rather than finding out that you cannot take the test after arriving to the test location. Customer service example number 2 – fail.

The ironic part of finding out about this last hurdle was that the testing facility I attended was actually closed today. When I turned up, the testing room was dark, however the receptionist was waiting for me. Since they had committed to me on the phone yesterday that I could turn up today and schedule the test, they kept their word and opened the office just for me. They made the effort, only to be rewarded with a denial to test me. Customer service example number 3 – pass.

I find customer service to be about keeping your word, thanking you for your business, and treating you – the customer – as important. And, of course, the same applies to each of us when we deal with customers. While it is difficult to impress upon the IBM bureaucracy the importance of, how a simple thing as a name can make a difference, and how communication can make a difference, it is more important for our dealings every day with our ‘customers’ to provide service.

Get to it..

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