Skip to comments.(Vanity) PhoneHassle; or, To Serve Man
Posted on 08/07/2005 9:56:54 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
Recently, I had an end-of-day conversation with my wife concerning how her day had gone. She explained that she had spent an infuriating hour on the phone with an (unnamed here) telephone company, trying to get information out of them about a new promotional rate for long-distance calling.
It was like pulling teeth. My wife had initially called the (toll free for your convenience) number from the TV screen, and was first confronted with a maze of bewildering and contradictory instructions. ("Child-proof messaging," she called it.) When she finally did reach a human at the other end, the operator was courteous as always, but also absolutely committed to both
a) signing us up for the new program
b) telling us absolutely nothing about it
My wife, who used to work in a state legislature, settled down for a long siege of the position. Every time she thought she was beginning to make progress, something happened which cost her all of the hard-gained ground she had earned. Once she was put on hold. Finally, the wall cracked.(I suspect the operator had realized all the time with my wife was threatening his hourly sales quota.) The plan really did give the advertised TV rates, but only during nighttime hours. Calls made during daylightyou know, when other people are awake--were up to five times the cost of the advertised rate. Pressing her advantage, my wife inquired gently what plan the operator personally had (being an employee of the long-distance company in question.) The rueful reply: "Well, really, I guess the same one you have right now."
All of this has made me aware of a new trend--not just with phone companies, but with businesses in general. The big push now seems to be "serving the consumer" or "value-added services." The pitch is always some variation on the theme, "Are you tired of the disrespect your current company is giving you? Switch to us, and we'll show you how much better we can be." It sounds very good. But, invariably, the process of changing is even more annoying than being maltreated by your first company's customer service representatives. Expect at least one lost billing cycle (with a computer-generated threatening notice of OVERDUE PAYMENT--if payment has been mailed kindly disregard this statement), and an average of 1 hour of telephone tag to get things straightened out. This is customer service?
And then there is the business of the unsolicited mass mailings which seem to swarm uncontrollably like killer bees, the moment you have signed on the dotted line. I still don't know how using a phone service is connected with car insurance (well, OK, if you talk on your cellphone while driving). But DEFINITELY not time-sharing, or frequent-flyer miles.
Finally, however, I think I have mastered the rhetoric. It is not that the company is "serving the customer" in the sense of customer service; it is that you and I, the customer, are being served...as the main course. (This brings to mind the old episode of The Twilight Zone with the title To Serve Man.) Perhaps if we give them marketing indigestion if we begin to make it as difficult for them to maltreat us as they make it for us to switch services--they will begin to take notice.
What really happened?
1- gas prices remained the same, then went higher & higher.
2- immediately after "deregulation" passed, we were deluged with up to a dozen telemarketing calls a day, badgering us to "switch providers."
Not one- not a single caller, ever, in weeks and months of this barrage, could tell us what their service charged for gas.
The best a very few could do was offer a toll-free number to call for pricing information.
Since none of these annoyers could quote us a price ( this is basic salesmanship- whatcha got, and whatcha charging? ) we refused to talk beyond that point, over & over & over.
An aside? A year later, virtually all these new providers had ceased operations in the state.
I have found that a speaker phone is great for when you are put on hold, go to speaker, turn it up, turn the radio back on and continue surfing the net.
Keep a small note book with all the service tag, customer service number, incident stuff they are going to ask for at least ten times. when asked for these numbers repeat them S L O W L Y, ask them to spell their name and employee number. Ask them for a direct call back number.
Settle in knowing that it is going to take a while, (coffee and pretzels) I spent 5 hours dealing with Verizon re: an area code change, (And a software change that they would not admit was the real problem) Took a while but got a new phone out of them.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.