Part two in a series. Part one is here.
My phone company, The Phone Company (TPC)*, has a whole bunch of customer service numbers. They have the latest in voice recognition technology. It asks you to speak your phone number and asks for the last four digits of your social security number and repeats it all back to you in a nice pleasant voice. It works well if you want to find out how much money you owe them. That’s what customer service is all about, right? But if you speak the magic word “representative” then you get put on hold. There is a really neat song that loops without any perceptible break and you get to listen to it over and over again. I think one time I counted 78 loops before I gave up.
Now my phone company, TPC, was all over my neighborhood recently digging holes and burying fiber optic cable everywhere. So eventually they got around to calling me to offer a great new deal on fiber optic service. This would replace my DSL and they would be glad to schedule a “free” installation. So I called them to ask some questions about the service. After listening to the song about three or four hundred times over the course of a few days I finally did not ever get to speak to a representative. But I was able to answer most of my questions by searching the web while waiting and reading about other people’s experiences.
So I put a call into the line for ordering fiber optic. I spoke my phone number and social security to the cool voice recognition system so it could look me up. Then on to the music!. Naturally when it comes to taking an order I hardly got to hear the song loop more than ten or fifteen times. After repeating my phone number and the last four digits of my social security to the human, I set up an installation date, which I was told would take four hours, maybe more. And at that point my telephone service would become fiber optic as well, and of course I was going to lose the ability to have DSL forever.
I made sure to ask them if the date was definitive. This was especially important to me because I was setting my own deadlines for switching web hosting and making sure email was forwarded, etc., etc. They told me it would be installed that day. Then they gave me an automated phone call two days before asking me to be prepared. Then another one day before. Then the day of installation the technician called to say he would be arriving in ten minutes. At precisely nine my DSL line was disconnected. Ten minutes later he was standing outside my house, scratching his head and looking at all the nice colored lines of paint they had used to decorate my lawn.
“Where’s the drop?”, he asked. “Huh?” I deftly replied. “The drop from the box across the street. Someone should have been here to install it.” Says he.
So he goes for coffee and I put another call into customer service, give my phone number and last four to the computer and listen to the infinitely looping song while on what seems like infinite hold. Now the yellow pages lists the number as customer service. But I suspect that the phone company does not have any department called “Customer Service” on their organization chart. Probably they have a “Complaint Resolution” department which tires to resolve complaints or an “Issue Tracking” department whose job it is to track issues. But I don’t think any of these people actually ever opened a dictionary and looked up the definition of the word “service”.
The customer service “representative” asked me for my phone number and last four again. But despite the job title she couldn’t represent. So I had to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor told me that it would be highly improbable that a line would be dropped today but she was not certain without checking further. She also couldn’t help me with restoring my DSL service since that was another part of the organization chart. She would get back to me with more information. In short, I wasted my time, but probably was entered into their computer somewhere. The same one that kept asking for my phone and last four of my social security, and the same computer that was run by salespeople who were absolutely certain that I would have my fiber optic installed that day.
Meanwhile I took matters into my own hands. Thanks to Caller ID I called the number from which the technician had called me. That turned out to be the local depot where service trucks were dispatched. The guy there gave me the cell number of the woman who was in charge of doing service drops in my area. She was surprised to actually talk to a customer, but explained to me that the service drop could not be done because they were waiting on permits from the city to dig under the street. (For weeks they had been digging all over my neighborhood and now they need a permit?) She was sure that it would be done soon, but not today. And the day the drop went in, the fiber optic technician would be back at my house to complete the installation. From her I got the number of the DSL people and called and placed a reconnect order for my DSL for the interim. I was able to do all this without once giving out my phone number or last four digits of my social security. Don’t you just hate it when the system breaks down?
A few hours later the customer service supervisor called to tell me not to worry, she was still on the case and would have information for me soon. I told her what was going on. Now that’s service.
Part 3 is here.