Saturday, March 10, 2012

Editorial Rant ~ If you'd like to scream, press 9

When we’re older we’ll complain about our feet. For now, we talk about what’s afoot.
One lunchtime was filled with intricate plans that Google is hatching to consolidate our online dossiers to better serve its advertisers. I wanted to look up the plans on the Internet, but then I wondered if that would only make things worse.
Another lunchtime (conversation) bemoaned a downtown bank’s shortened lobby hours, proclaimed on the still-locked door at 9:55 a.m.: “New Hours. Same Great Service.” I wondered two things as I waited those five minutes for the doors to open.
Will that Great Service spread over fewer hours be even Greater? And what hope is there for any of us when even bankers no longer keep bankers’ hours?
But a lunch last week asked the meta-question: “When did businesses stop trying to please me?”
My friend had just received a new credit card in the mail, and the billing cycle ends near the start of each month.
“I’m sure they know that people tend to pay their bills on the first, so if I send a check on the first, it’ll be late every month. They’ll change my billing cycle to whatever I want, but it’s one more phone call.”
He’s savvy and he’ll make that call, but how many others don’t — and then rack up late fees as a result?
I first noticed during the Clinton years that companies no longer expected competence from their employees. Compassion for frustrated customers had become a suitable substitute. Somebody must have figured out is was cheaper to teach workers to apologize than to give them the training and authority to do their jobs well.
When I went to school, students who wanted to be wealthy had really only two choices: law or medicine. Banking wasn’t on the list. In the 1990s, investment banking suddenly became a lucrative career. But how?
Computers began to add new pathways to wealth. Making a small amount of money over and over had been tedious and time-consuming. Just ask any owner of a coin laundry.
Computers changed the equation. A tiny task can be repeated a million times in an instant. Day traders comb the stock exchanges, trolling for tiny anomalies. They might buy a stock and sell it again on the same day and make millions.
My friend’s credit card company is doing the same. They send introductory packets to thousands of new customers every day. They know how many will ask for a change in their billing cycle. They know how likely their profits will rise on those who don’t. They can run those numbers. In this way, they know something you don’t know. They know how many of their customers are just like you.
Google or Facebook may know more about me than I’d like to believe. Target recently made the news by figuring out from buying patterns that a teenager was pregnant, sending her maternity clothing coupons before her father had been told.
A single customer no longer stands for every other customer. Now, the reverse is true. Broad patterns of customer preferences can be modeled and tested, reliably predicting what you want or what you’ll stand for.
All this talk of who stands for what is making my feet hurt.
Don Kahle

Love the bankers hours comment. The philosophy too of Same Great Service-- cheating customers on available hours & calling it "great". 
I'll add to the list of discontent automated phone systems. Oh the hell it brings into our lives. 
Sometimes the initial menu has several different categories. If you are lucky, the option you want will be in the first few, but other times you have to slog through to option #7, worse is if none of the offerings are what you want, but they don't offer anything else- like "press 8 if you'd like to speak with a human". Some systems will respond if you punch "O" & it will take you to a person, but some companies were on to that tactic, so if you choose "O", it will reprimand you "that is not a valid option". 
I particularly hate the interactive versions that want you to respond with words. Like you will somehow think you are talking with a person, because you are conversing with a robotic voice. A higher level of annoyance, but it sort of works when it is a Yes or No answer. After that it can devolve into the abys, after several rounds of questions, you respond again, and the robo voice says " I do not understand your answer". Game over. 
Some evil mastermind cooked this up, you've lost several minutes of your life you will never get back, and now it is telling you, essentially- it is all for naught. Some of these systems will respond to (yelling) the words "Customer Service.", even though it has not been presented as an option. It has been programmed to recognize you are probably an angry human who is not going to  go along with this automated "service'" charade. 
Then there are the numbers games...please enter your 16 digit number, followed by the pound sign. After you do your finger acrobatics, and if you are lucky, eventually, you are speaking with an actual human - the first thing they ask you is to repeat the number you already punched in. If they have to transfer the call, the next operator will grill you for the same info, by now you are thinking, damn, I just want one question answered, and this is taking 1/2 the frigging day.

The oxymoronic award goes to those who require you to enter a password. If  you are calling for password assistance, you're screwed. The robo voice will escalate, I did not hear your response... or a kind of rude toned Are you still there? No! I'm already gone off to look for another company. 
A new trend, in an ever increasing level of annoyance, is to send follow up e mails for you to give feedback. I had a multiple issue situation w the phone company. The outside line was static-y & needed repair, we thought the router died & needed tech assistance, we wanted to change to a less expensive plan for the exact same service. The sales lady misquoted the price (even after I said this price includes taxes & fees?), and she added their voicemail, which overrode our home VM system, so callers would get a "this voicemail system is not yet activated" message. Good thing our friends said WTF w the weird message, or we would have had no idea. 
Never mind that when she asked what code access # we wanted to use for their voicemail system, I told her very clearly "we do not want your voicemail service", She partially activated it anyway.
Fixing this issue took 8 calls. The first call said I must call again the next day during business hours (no e mail or way for them to communicate amongst themselves?), but she would change it to not kick in till 8 rings in the meantime. Did not happen.
 The first guy said it will be done w/i 2 hours. 3 hours later the next person said done by 5 pm.... (5 hours later). The next person said don't know why they told me that, it can take up to 24 hours. When my head was about to explode, I asked to speak to a supervisor. "you're not going to like this answer" said the clerk. In order to speak with a supervisor, I need to pass on your information, and they will respond within 48 hours. This was a Thursday. 
Let me guess, they are not in on weekends, right?
Yes Ma'am- not here on weekends. Have one contact me anyway. OK (never happened). 
I try to forget all the rest. Eventually they got it together. The service repair guy deserves a raise, he showed up the next day, on time, worked on the line for 25 minutes & got it done. The sales clerk who pretty much got everything wrong, should be fired or on probation. Oh yes, Century Link bought out Qwest & things have not been the same. For all their super fast, high tech, 4G, rule the world propaganda.... a person could die waiting for one supervisor to return a call. I' d give them a piece of my mind, but robots don't care. I did have fun filling out one of the 4 feedback e mails they sent me.  I used honest words like "Hellish" & spoke for the need to have options to speak with a human. I consolidated all my thoughts into responding to 1 feedback solicitation.
They are probably very happy that I did not fill them all out- if anyone even reads them, they will surmise I was not a happy camper regarding robotic customer service. 

Venescia? This is Ernestine... I think the phone company has pissed off their customers so much, they are going to send a burly serviceman to our office! (snort!) The next really angry customer to call will be ditched into that newfangled robotic voice system hell. That'll teach them not to mess with ME!


CenturyLink Help Team said...


Sounds like you've had quite the ordeal with our services. Very sorry to see that we dropped the ball.

If there's anything I can personally look into for you, or if you're still needing some help then please don't hesitate to send an email.

Thank you for the great read.

@Centurylinkhelp Team

Fran said...

Doug.... did not expect Century Link to show up on my blog, but honestly....
fix my billing because I was misquoted a rate, and get some options for real humans on your voicemail menu.

Getting Centurylink to shut off the CL voicemail I specifically told the clerk I did not want was quite hellish.

I already sent in the automated e mail response with thumbs up & down for the numerous staff I spoke with.

Oh & that have a supervisor return your call-- still never happened.... 10 days later!