15 July 2009

Customer Disservice

What do you get when you take customer service, subtract the service and ignore the customer?

I recently had one of those customer service experiences that had little to do with customers and nothing to do with service. We are about two months into our first experience with limited (15 GB/month) high-speed internet service. Since we have only had unlimited usage before, I had no idea how much we would need. The cable company representative said the average household doesn’t go above 15, and since it is an extra fee for more I decided to start there.

After the first full month and several phone calls to figure out how to track our usage, I found out we had used 81 GB in a month. Not to worry – we could continue at this rate for only an extra $100/month. Ouch. That was not going to work. Even if I had to pay some sort of early cancellation fee it would be cheaper to try and find a service provider offering unlimited usage. I found one (Verizon), but at a speed of about 1/3 what we are currently getting. However, I figured it was better to have a slower connection and be able to use what we need.

So, I gave Verizon a call. The Verizon rep. (I’ll call him Gary) took about five minutes to collect my name, phone number, email address, home address, sock size and political affiliation just to tell me what services they had to offer in my area (the same services I found online in about one minute using only my home address). He confirmed that it was unlimited service, but said it had to be bundled with a home phone line. Normally this would not have surprised me except for the fact that their web page said they had the bundled service available or the option to get only internet for a slightly increased price over what you would pay with an existing Verizon phone line. When I brought this to Gary’s attention, he conceded that they did in fact offer the stand-alone service, but it wasn’t a good option since it used packet switching technology. Perhaps this explanation would have thwarted the unwary layman, but for the technologically informed, we know this is how the internet itself is structured. Hence, bundled or not it uses packet switching.

I didn’t want to be on the phone longer than necessary, so I decided to give Gary a free pass on this one. I explained that I did not need the phone line since I used Voice over Internet Provider (VoIP) and had already prepaid for two years of service. Consequently, the internet only option came out cheaper. He queried how much a month I was spending on the VoIP – I told him, reminding him that I had already prepaid. He countered telling me that for only a few more dollars a month I could get the bundled service from Verizon to include home phone line and internet service.

Now it all made sense, all I had to do was pay more money for an unnecessary service and my life would be complete. Was this guy formerly a televangelist or did he only speak telemarketer? Since I didn’t need to be saved that particular morning, I decided to let that one slide too and moved on to the more important subject at hand. He had quoted a price for the internet service about $15 more a month that that listed online. Had I misread something? I asked Gary (you’d think I would have know better). He assured me that over the phone they had the best pricing available. Did he even hear me? How then did he explain the pricing discrepancy? He didn’t. He simply said that I could contact my local Verizon branch but it would probably cost me a little bit more if I took that route.

Now don’t take me for one of those “the customer is always right” cultists, but I do believe that customer service should involve some measure of human dignity and common sense. Please do not treat me like a misinformed Californian tourist asking a prepubescent convenience store clerk which highway will get me to Hawaii quickest. But if you do, be forewarned I have a blog, and am not afraid to use it! Someday someone somewhere just might read about your incompetence. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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