Deciphering Customer Service Responses

Today I called the alarm company my Sweetie and I use at our apartment. More than a decade ago, the apartment got broken into not once but twice within a year (the police speculated it was the same criminal/s) so, in response to those break-ins – and to feel safer – I signed up for an alarm service. I never wanted to feel “unsafe” again…

Thief-Break-In-RobberyI have to admit, the alarm service did/does give me a feeling of security (I have requested an armed response) and, overall, the service has been good. That said, about every eighteen months or so, my quarterly rate “creeps up” four or five dollars. In fact, the same service that I signed up for a decade or so ago now costs me $112.00/quarter, compared to the $79.00/quarter it cost me when I signed up. That is an increase of 42% over the original contract price – yet I’m in the same apartment, I have the same service, so I have to ask,

Why?

How can a company justify a rate increase of over 40% over a decade? I mean, I do not MAKE 40% more than I did a decade ago (not even close, BTW!) So why the increased cost? I was determined to find out the justification for these additional charges, so I called my “security monitoring provider” and spoke with a lovely CSR (customer service rep) named Viki (I know she spells it that way because I asked her name before the call ended).

calling

CSR: “Thanking you for calling G******* Alarm, this is Viki, do you have an emergency?”

Me: “No, Viki – at least not in the traditional sense. No, I have a question about my bill.”

CSR: “Great! How can I help you with that?”

Me: “I see my bill went up since last quarter – can you tell me why?”

CSR: “We had a rate increase effective July 2014, which is reflected on this billing statement.”

This is when I shifted into what I like to call “Two-Year-Old” mode.

Me: “A rate increase? WHY?”

CSR: “Periodically we have rate increase adjustments and that is what is reflected on your billing statement.”

Me: “OK, I get that you had a rate increase – but WHY?”

CSR: “Why what, Sir?”

Me: “WHY must I pay a rate increase? My apartment is no larger, there has been no change in service or equipment, so WHY the increased cost?”

CSR (obviously a little rattled): “Sir, may I put you on hold for a moment while I check?”

Me: “Of course.”

About two and half minutes pass – I imagine Viki grabbing a quick smoke, running to buy a fresh Mountain Dew, and she’s back…

CSR: “Sir? Thank you for holding while I checked into your billing charges. I did verify that there was a rate increase July 1st, which is reflected on this billing statement.”

Me (now pissy and slightly frustrated): “Yes, Viki, you explained that before you put me on hold. My question is, WHY is there a rate increase? What justifies your company arbitrarily charging me more for what seems to me to be the exact same service. WHY?”

CSR: “Sir? I will have to check into that and get back with you. Is blah-blah-blah the best number to reach you at?”

And with that, the call was terminated. Viki was on to the next customer. She will never call me back.

I spent 3.5 years in high school studying Latin. A HUGE part of my studies involved doing translations – translating Latin into English. Allow me to attempt to translate this for conversation for you…

When a CSR says, “We had a rate increase adjustment,” what that means in English is “We are a big company that can charge whatever we want for the same service. You have few options so suck it up or leave.”

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I co-own a small business. My business partner and I bend over backwards every day, just to SURVIVE, let alone THRIVE. It galls me when companies like this one just raise their rates because “they can.” Jerks.

And, He’s Back Up…

I swear, sometimes I wonder what The Universe is up to… I mean, I think I have shared with you all something my Mom always used to say:

“Timmy, The Universe will never give you more than you can handle.”

OK, my Mom used to say God but I prefer The Universe. So yeah, The Universe will never give me more than I can handle… How about once in a while, just a little less? I mean, is it my destiny/challenge in life to always be “going” at 110%+?

I often feel a lot like this guy – and not because we both have red hair and similar hairlines –

BozoJust like Bozo above, I “bounce back up” after every hit but, Sweet Jesus, could I maybe go a day without a hit? Don’t get me wrong – I am not suicidal or ready to “Go Postal” (my apologies to any postal workers reading this post – I know that is an ouch-y term) but really, life and people are starting to really piss me off.

For example, today I went shopping at a local independent grocery chain (not Dave’s – the other one, M**rc’s). So – probably my fault since I wasn’t paying close attention – I got home and discovered I was missing two boxes of tissues. I also couldn’t find my receipt. Ugh. But I know I bought them because I labored over the box patterns before I threw them in the cart.  Anyway, I called the store and spoke first with some worthless young lady who seemed more interested in anything other than my missing Kleenex. However, after being on hold for about five minutes, she came back on the line, asked me to “…identify the brand and quantity”which I did – then she told me to bring my receipt in and I could pick them up.

Super convenient, right?

When I explained to her AGAIN that I did not have my receipt (I think it was in the bag with the tissues), she placed me on hold and then a man came on the line. I had to explain the whole situation to him again, at which point he said, “Well, it’s hard to prove you bought them without a receipt.” At which point, I lost my patience and said, “Look, if I were trying to SCREW M**rc’s, do you think I would choose to do it with two frickin’ boxes of Kleenex?” I mean, all I wanted was two boxes of these, which I BOUGHT:

puffs

In fact, that is the pattern on one of the boxes I bought. The way this store acted, you would have thought I was going after a truckload of these:

Gold barNow, of course it seems silly to get so riled up over like $4 but DAMMIT!, I paid for those tissues and the lame ass cashier failed to not only make sure I had all my bags, she also forgot to give me my receipt. In frustration, I told the guy to “Screw it!” and hung up on him. I know – really mature…

I guess if I had one wish, I would wish that people would all start treating each other with a little more respect and courtesy, and that all people took their jobs as seriously as I take mine. (OK, I guess that is technically two wishes but whatever). It only takes a second to treat someone with kindness and compassion. This store will no longer be held in the same regard by me, and that is a shame. If their cashier had worried less about text messaging her friends and more about doing the job she gets paid to do, I would be happier today…

 

 

 

The Excruciating Pain of TWC

I have just about had it with Time Warner Cable. Had. It.timewarner1

Martin and I have been struggling for weeks MONTHS with never-ending problems like –

  • Recorded programs “disappearing” from our program queue.
  • Programs NOT being recording when they are clearly “highlighted” and entered to BE recorded.
  • Sound vanishing as we move from live TV to recorded programs, and vice versa.
  • A deafening, high-pitched shrill SCREAMING from the TV as we move (again) from live TV to recorded programming, and vice versa.
  • A non-responsive remote control (and believe me, we have changed the batteries several times…)

So I scheduled a TWC service technician to come today to solve our problems.

I bet you can guess where this is going already…

The appointment was scheduled between 9A and 10A, with a call the hour before to confirm the appointment. At 8:30A, I called Time Warner Cable (TWC) to check the progress of our service call and confirm the appointment.  The lady thanked me for the call and confirmed that my service call was scheduled today for between 10A and 11A – what?!?!?! When I said that I had scheduled the original appointment window for an hour earlier and I had been up, dressed and waiting for the confirmation call since 7:45A, she apologized and said she could “…see where my appointment time had been changed yesterday but could not see why.”

GRRRR Number One!

Anyway, the tech guy (Lamarr) arrived at 10:16A – not so late – and I met him at the door. He was NOT carrying a replacement DVR box, as I had requested, but he said it was “No problem…” for him to get one, if needed.

GRRRR Number Two!

So, he comes in, listens to my litany of complaints, then goes about his work. I am not a “hover-er” so I let him work in peace (although I am listening from the very next room).  I hear him call TWC, explain the he did not bring in his laptop – apparently something he needed – and ask whomever he was speaking with to check X, Y and Z. Long story short, the box we had had never been “properly coded” into the system, which explained this and that problem away. Seems to me that, after probably a dozen previous calls and a previous service call by ANOTHER tech that maybe TWC could have figured that out but maybe I expect too much. Anyhow, Lamarr seemed so excited and a wee bit smug, explaining to me that now my remote would do everything and adjust the volume and blah-blah-blah.

He also warned me that, to ensure the best results from my DVR, Martin and I needed to keep our recorded programs at 50% – or less! – of machine capacity. When I asked why that was necessary, he just tossed out that TV’s are advancing technology-wise faster than the DVR boxes are, and hi-def and spectrum banding load and “bzzzzzzzzzzzzz….” Like I even understand any of THAT mumbo-jumbo.

So, after that lecture about what was wrong and how he had “fixed” everything, Lamarr proudly turned off the TV and turned it back on to show me how everything worked.

It didn’t. No sound, no picture…

GRRRR Number Three!

FINALLY, Lamarr conceded and announced we needed a NEW DVR (duh!) and he went down, got one – and his laptop – came back upstairs and a few minutes later, everything was up and running again.

I hope; we’ll see.

Every month, when I send TWC our monthly payment of almost $130.00, I feel like this:

Baby throws money out the window.

I always like the BS sign off scripts whenever you call utility companies – cable, gas, electricity, whatever. You know the one –  “We realize you have a choice when selecting a cable service provider and we thank you for choosing Time Warner Cable.” Thing is? That’s a lie – I DON’T have a choice.

I live in a building that will not allow DISH or DirectTV, so it’s the old TWC or nothing. Sure, I could get Netflix or something and stream TV – huh? Jesus, I can barely work my iPhone well enough to pick up my voice mail messages so I doubt my “steaming abilities” would be world-class.

This is what I suggest to TWC, and ALL utility companies:

  1. Stop raping us with your monthly fees. Look, I get it – you have increasing costs but guess what? SO DO WE – us, the little guys, consumers, your subscribers. Cut us a break.
  2. Maybe you can train your customer service reps to LISTEN to your clients. Every company has a FAQ script; that’s great. But if you would maybe listen to us when we call in before you ramble off some rote response, a lot of time and aggravation would be saved by ALL parties involved.
  3. Finally, how about a THANK YOU every now and then? I pay TWC over $1500.00 a year for their pretty-much average service. In my business, if I delivered average service I’d go out of business. In my business, I reward clients that spend that amount of money with me in a calendar year – they get a handwritten thank you card at the very least. How about a free weekend of HBO, Cinemax or Starz or sometime?

I’m happy that, at least for now, our cable “issues” seem to be resolved. As I said, we’ll see. I do, however, hope that the consumer service industry will one day very soon start to focus a little less on profit and a LOT more on client retention. In the long run, I think it would save companies millions.

Be warned, TWC, and know I am serious. U-Verse is starting to look better and better to me every day…

24,901

24,901. That number represents the circumference of the earth in miles. 24,901. To put that in an understandable perspective,if you were to drive your car around the Earth at the equator (and yes, even over the oceans), it would take you almost 17 days driving at roughly 62 MPH, 24 hours a day to complete that journey. Yet, even given those mind-boggling figures, I am constantly amazed at just how very small the world can actually be at times… Take today…

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Today I called AT&T to make an adjustment to our home phone service and pay a bill. After a brief wait, I was connected to a lovely lady named Donna Johnson, a woman I’m guessing to be slightly older than me.  She also has a distinctly Southern accent. Anyway, she was super helpful and very friendly so I commented on her accent. With a “smile” in her voice she volunteered that she lives in Ashland, Kentucky. I complimented her on her twang and shared with her that my mother’s family is from Louisville, Tennessee.  She asked why I didn’t have an accent and I told her I had grown up in Ohio in a tiny speck of a town I was sure she had never heard of…

“Not Shelby?” she asked.

What the heck???

Turns out Donna Johnson’s grandparents are originally from Shelby, Ohio and lived on Sherman Avenue.  Donna’s parents actually lived outside of Ashland, Ohio (we joked about how she lives in Ashland, Kentucky now) but she had been born in Shelby Memorial Hospital.

I was also born at Shelby Memorial Hospital.

ImageImageDonna was a super nice lady and we spoke much longer than we probably should have. I feel bad for the person trapped in the caller queue behind me who was probably advised of a “Wait time of less than one minute…” before being assisted by a customer service agent. Donna and I chatted for more than ten minutes…

I almost felt a little sad when Donna asked me if there “Was anything else she could assist me with today?” and if “…she had answered all my questions.”  For the ten minutes we had been talking, the world had seemed very small and comfortable to me. I was talking with someone who shared my background and origin. I guess the big takeaway of this whole experience for me was the reminder that on some level, we ALL share a common bond/human experience that is sometimes forgotten and/or overlooked. In Donna’s case, that bond was a tiny, sleepy town in Richland County, the “Fun Center of Ohio.”

That phone call was a blessing for me today – and I swear every part of this story is true.

In an expansion of the thought above, about how we all share a common experience, as I was basking in the cool weirdness of the moment, sad to say goodbye to Donna, she brought it all home when she said: “Thank you for being a valued AT&T customer. We know you have a choice when selecting a long distance service provider and we are thankful for your business.”  Then came the common experience moment – work – when she said in her adorable twang, “And Tim, if you would ever like to consider switching to U-Verse, please call me” and gave me her number and extension.

You know, Donna, I currently have no immediate plans of switching my cable/internet provider but, if I ever DO switch to U-Verse, I will give you a call… Promise…

Does CSR stand for Customer Service Rep or consistently slow response time?

It has been an EXHAUSTING week at work, not because of the volume of business but because of the daily, snowballing frustration I have had with customer services reps’ unfulfilled promises and never-returned “return” phone calls.  Can it really be all that hard?

ImageI get it – no one wants to deliver bad, or even disappointing news, but delivering no news is even worse.  And while I understand that I am probably not the ONLY person with an issue or problem to solve, well, of course I feel I should be treated that way!  I formerly worked for a very large – global, in fact – corporation that is essentially a family-owned business doing probably hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business a year.  Do you know the very first thing we were taught as part of our corporate training?

“Under-promise and over-deliver.”

I acknowledge that the world is different place now than it was ten or twenty years ago, in many ways better, but in some ways much worse.  That said, I still believe that there are a few universal, elementary business practices that take little time and cost virtually nothing:

  • Smile BEFORE you answer a phone call.  I never really believed this but people CAN hear a smile in your voice.  Listen – you’ll hear it, too.
  • RETURN PHONE CALLS. AND EMAILS. IN A TIMELY MANNER. ‘Nuff said!
  • Be as sincere as possible and express empathy, NOT sympathy.  I don’t really care that you are sorry that my whatever is back-ordered for yet another six weeks but when you say that you can understand my frustration, I am putty in your hands…
  • Say “please” and “thank you.”  And throw in a “Sir” or “Ma’am” every now and then.  It makes you appear polished and educated.  Maybe even British!

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I am sure that all my “issues” will work out in time but it is daunting to try so hard to not only do my job but another person’s, too.  (Insert long, slow exhale here…)  The good news?

I have the next three days off.  YEAH!!!  Oh, and before I go, I better not forget to turn on my “Out of Office” voice mail message – no one likes to be left hanging…