A Day In The Life of a Directory Assistance Operator

A Day In The Life of a Directory Assistance Operator
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YouTube of the talk

A talk given at the H2K2 Hackers On Planet Earth 2002 Conference See the YouTube video
by Richard Cheshire, Based on the Telco's Are Idiots article in 2600 Magazine

The Cheshire Catalyst

Every other year, 2600 Magazine, (The Hacker's Quarterly) puts on it's HOPE (Hackers On Planet Earth) Conference in New York City. As a "Friend Of The Firm" I go up, help out, and usually give a talk or two, and speak on a couple of panels.

The H2K2 Confernce in 2002 was no exception. As you'll recall in my Telco's Are Idiots article, I was pretty exasperated with the database at my Day Job as a DA (Directory Assistence) Operator. I figured I may as well use the forum I've got to get the word out to some Telcos (Verizon in particular) that they needed to do some work, and let the Good Data propagate up to the National Directory where I work.

I've got to tell you that as a topic for a hackers convention, I thought it was a pretty lame subject, however Emmanuel Goldstein (publisher of 2600, and host of the conference) thought it was great! For one thing, it was a telephone topic, and 2600 started life a a Phone Phreak magazine, after all. Not only that, but the audience loved it!

Furthermore, it accomplished its mission - to embarrass the heck out of the Telcos to get some action on an item I couldn't control from my call center. Pac Bell started showing up in our listings just as my article in 2600 Magazine hit my mailbox. Verizon started getting their listings together about two weeks after my talk in New York City (about the time it takes for a Change to propagate up from the local directory to the national book). Will I ever get credit for accomplishing this task? No. Do I care? I really only care that it was done! I know that I'm the one that accomplished it. I don't care that people won't believe me when I tell them that I got it done. It got done.

Here are my notes from the talk:

A Day In The Life of a Directory Assistance Operator

by Richard Cheshire, The Cheshire Catalyst

Hear the talk in MP3 Format

    Day to Day Operations
  • "What city and listings, please"
  • Give 'em what they want - NOT what they ask for
    • They ask for the courthouse, give 'em the county clerk. Few counties actually have a listing marked "courthouse"
    • They ask for the airport, ask 'em which airline.
    • They ask for the Unemployment office, but in some states it's the Workforce Commission.
  • Would you like to try the Toll Free number? Perhaps they could help you."
    • "toll free", NOT "800 numbers"
    • Toll free area codes include 800, 888, 877, 866, and 855 with more on the way

    Messages for others
  • Deadbeat Dads: Your kid is trying to find you on Christmas. CALL THEM!
    • Go to 7-Eleven, buy a $5 phone card so the Ex can't trace you with Caller-ID, and call the kid.
    • Every Christmas I have to break a kid's heart and tell them that Dad is unlisted.
  • TDD Operators: Telecommunications Device for the Deaf: Collect as much information as you can before you set up the call to us.
      I don't know about TDD Operators, but our call center rates us on ACHT (Average Call Handling Time), and the faster we clear a call, the more calls we can handle. "Productivity" means a low ACHT.
  • Small Towns: If you're too small to have your own police force, kick in the couple of bucks a month to list the local Sheriff's department under the word "Police".
    • People from out of town can't call you to look in on elderly Aunt Millie who isn't answering her phone and may be dead or dying.
  • Big Cities: Get your cops to list "Police, Non-Emergency" in big, bold letters in the local phone book.
    • Some cities have so many departments, we can't find the main listing
  • Transit Companies: Plainly list your Route and Schedule information under "BUS" or "TRANSIT". It's great you've got a funny acronym, but DA operators don't live in your town anymore.
    • Especially mark it if it doesn't end in one or more Zeros. (718-217-LIRR (5477))
  • We want the word INFO, thought we're taught to use the word MAIN.
    • Just have a number marked "GENERAL INFO", just as Sears does for nearly all it's listings across the country
    • I can put in "Sears Gen" and show all the Sears stores for an area. Just "Sears" shows all the departments, and clogs up my screen with unwanted listings.
  • Department Store Managers, Take a survey of your customers
    • How do they ask Directory Assistance for you? GET LISTED THAT WAY!
    • If your sign out front says "Super K", why do you still only list yourself as "K-Mart"?

    Bad Examples
  • RS Strauss Auto Parts
  • Strauss Auto Parts
    • If they ask for RS Strauss Auto Parts, we look for it that way as "RS Strauss". We give a "Not Found" report when it's right there as Strauss Auto Parts

    Lines that get me out of trouble
  • I don't show a seperate directory for that town, is there another nearby city?
  • Please dial 00, say 'Operator', and that Operator can help you Test the line.
    • Since deregulation, 0 is your local operator
    • 00 is your Long Distance operator
    • Find Out Your Long Distance Carrier: 700-555-4141
    • Find Out Your "Local Toll Carrier": NPA-555-4141
        NPA: Numbering Plan Area, or Area Code. Replace NPA in the above number with your own Area Code.

    Why I Hate Copyright/Trademark Lawyers when searching company names
  • Public Storage Warehouse
  • The Mens Wearhouse
  • The Music Wherehouse

  • Verizon
  • Verizon Wireless
  • Verizon Customer Service
  • Verizon Business Repair
    • Telcos are the worst companies to find. They spun off their Directory publishing companies and haven't figured out to get Listed in the White Pages so people calling DA can find them.
  • Telco Listings Required:
    • Residential Billing (Local Number)
    • Residential Billing (Toll free from out-of-town)
    • Business Billing (Local)
    • Business Billing (Out-of-town)
  • Funny exchanges that only work from within a state are not good! Out of town callers want a local number to bypass the toll free runaround - they don't understand they're going to reach the same call center no matter what.

    Area Codes
  • When you get a new Area code, Tell People!
  • Companies: Put your Area Code on your trucks
  • Put your area code on your signs - even if you don't have 10 digit dialling.
    • tourists take your number off your truck or sign, and try to call you when they get home - if they've got the right area code

  • Restaurants: Put "Restaurant" in your listing,or be sure your telco is aware to make Resturant a "Keyword" on the listing.
    • When a caller says "I want that Italian Restaurant on Main St", I can't find something listed as just "Adolfo's". "Adolfo's Italian Restaurant" I can find.
    • It doesn't have to be on your sign, but it needs to be in your listing.
  • Radio Stations: Are you KISS 105 FM? then LIST it!
    • List your Call Letters
    • List your frequency
    • List your logo
  • TV Stations
    • List your Call Letters
    • List your channel number
    • List your Network Affilliation
  • Broadcast Stations: Are you on a State Line? List in BOTH STATES

    Dealing With Telemarketers
  • "Can you hold on a minute, please?"
  • When you hear the incesent "BEEP BEEP BEEP" of a phone off the hook, you can go back and hang up the reciever.

CheshireCatalyst.Com | Cheshire@2600.com

Wondering why there are a couple of differences in the File Name of this particular web page? Just take a look in the Address Bar of your browser. This file is DIRECT.HTM

Not only is it in all UPPER CASE, but it ends in the file extention "HTM" instead of my usual "html". That's because this file started ife in my Radio Shack Model-100 laptop computer. The laptop is 1985 technology, runs for 20 hours on 4 AA batteries, and you just can't kill the thing!

It has a built in text editor that will edit ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) characters - and all a Web Page is after all, is ASCII text. It instructs the Web Browser on how to display the page. I can type in where images go, without the need to see the pictures on the computer (which was impossible on this machine - it's ASCII only)

Since the code was written by Microsoft (and in fact, includes the last code actually worked on by Bill Gates himself), it conforms to the old Microsoft standards. I made the decision that the File Name for this one would remain in ancient DOS (Disk Operating System) format.

This web page is part of my book "Of Course They're Secrets, They're In the Manual". Visit my Web Site to order a copy.

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