Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Other End of the Line

A friend of mine recently posted a very funny blog about dealing with the phone company. It doesn’t seem to matter what continent you’re on, the phone company is always The Phone Company.

But the cluelessness isn't limited to one end of the line.

I should know. I spent many years working for one. The following is a faithful recollection of a call I received while working there. I doubt I’ll ever forget it. The names have been changed, etc.

Me: Thank you for calling Qwest Communications. My name is Danny. How can I help you?

Customer: Now listen up Danny. My name is Joe Strocek, and I’m a snowbird from Erie, Pennsylvania. I was told that a technician needs to come out to start up my service, but there’s just no way that needs to happen. There’s been service there before.

Me: Okay. Let me take a look at the address. Where did you want to set-up your service?

(Customer gives me the address of a popular RV park in Phoenix. I run a facility check and it comes up as ‘technician visit required’.)

Me: Okay Joe. I checked the address, and it’s coming up as one that requires a visit.

Customer: Now don’t tell me that Danny. That’s not what I want to hear.

Me: I know it’s frustrating. But at…

Customer: Look. I spent thirty-seven years working for a utility in Pennsylvania. I know when a technician needs to come out, and when they don’t. And a technician doesn’t need to come out here, Danny. Now what are you going to do about this?

Me: Let me double-check with Tech, and I’ll be back to you as soon as I can. Can you hold for a sec?

Customer: Sure.

(I call our facility technicians in Phoenix, and get a status report on the availability of lines at the RV park the customer is moving to. A technician does indeed need to go out and bring a line to the CO for this address.)

Me: Joe?

Customer: Yep.

Me: Thanks for holding. I called our office in Phoenix, and we definitely need to send a technician out to get your service up and running. I wish I could tell you differently, but we need to bring a line to your box. Are there any extenuating health conditions that would allow me to make this a priority install?

Customer: Now look here, Danny. I know you have a switch there by your desk. Will you please just flip the dang thing so my wife and I can have our phone service?

Me: Joe, we’re a for-profit company. Believe me, if we could start billing you now we would. But we can’t.

Customer: I know this game. Okay? Now will you PLEASE just flip the damn switch?

Me: Joe, this is what I have in my cubicle: a computer, a bunch of binders and manuals, some pens, a cup of coffee and a scratch pad of paper. That’s all. No switch—I promise.


(I'd already spent over ten minutes on this call, and it was going nowhere. It was obvious that only a technician visit and the subsequent sound of dial tone was going to convince Joe. Which is why I said...)

Me: Okay. It’s flipped.

Customer: Thank you! (click.)

I left extensive notes on the account explaining the conversation and what had (and had not) been confirmed, but never checked back to see when ol’ Joe got his telephone service.

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