Customer service, my eye!!!

Before I get started on what is no doubt going to be a fairly unpleasant rant, let me just say that I used to work in a call center. In fact, I even later worked there as a lowly supervisor (the one you eventually demand to talk to when your needs are not being met.) So I've been trained inside and out on how to handle customer service needs, how to resolve and troubleshoot issues, and how to talk to an irate customer.

Today, I was that irate customer. It didn't start out that way. I called, having put off the inevitable call, to cancel a service I have not been using for weeks and which I have not been satisfied with for, oh....., ever. So finally I made the time to make the call. Since you can't cancel online. You can do everything else, of course, but not cancel. That's because they want to throw the big guns at you. The person on the other end of the line who is supposed to manage your objections. So I called.

And pushed all the appropriate buttons that finally got me to a place I envision as being in the far, dark corner of the voice response unit. Push 2 if I want to cancel my service. As if on cue, I got a fast busy signal. I swear I wish I were making this up. I'm just not a very good liar. So I called back. This time I pressed 1 so I'd get someone who was just going to mostly cancel my service. I told him I'd had trouble getting through, apologized for not having followed the directions to a T, and asked if he could help me. Of course he could! And in a very friendly tone, he told me he'd be placing me on hold to transfer me to someone who would help me immediately. Darrell was his name; I suspect Darrell was just thrilled he wasn't going to have to help me. I thought I was talking nicely, sweetly to him, even then, but I'm sure a sliver of irritation had crept in. La la la, le le le, I'm singing along to the hold music, hearing the taletale click of transfers through this and that routing service, and wouldn't you know it, nothing. I'm completely cut off.

Breathe. Melody, you know that the person who picks up the phone on the other end will not be at fault. She's merely trying to make her house payment by coming in every day talking to people, taking their troubles on to fix. So I breathed. Twice and deeply. Then I explained to Candice that I really, really needed to not be disconnected, and I'm really sorry I have to cancel my service and I know they don't want me to, but it just has to be done. She was very, very nice. And asked why, and seemed to think my answer was reasonable, and typed and asked questions, and typed some more. Then declared, "Now I'm not going to disconnect you. And I don't want you to hang up. But I have to call another department." La la la, le le le...hold music until finally, The Big Gun was on the phone. Maya wanted to know why I was going to cancel my service. Maybe I dug my own grave when I mentioned to her that I'd already told Candice. Probably my own stinkin' fault.

When I explained why I am canceling, she syrupily asked if I'd ever thought to transfer the service to a friend or family member and gift it over to them. Excuse me? I don't want to pay you people for another day's non-service and now you want me to pay for someone else? I didn't say it that way. Really, I didn't. And she said, "Oh no, you aren't obligated to pay anything. Here's how it works." I refrained from explaining to Maya that I really, really REALLY don't want to know how it works. I just want them to stop taking money out of my bank account. Immediately if not sooner. When she was finished, I gently said, "Maya, will you please just cancel my account?" She said, "Of course. But you're going to be charged a $41 disconnect fee."

I think that's when I lost it. Must have been. "You are telling me that....." and I told her what I heard what she was saying. I don't think I used the fluid, eloquent sentence structure you're taught to use when you're learning about healthy conflict resolution. I told her that while I know it's not remotely her fault, I want her to understand that I paid the bills I was supposed to be credited several months ago after a really, really horrible lack of service on her company's part. Frankly it was because I could not sit through 45 more minutes of hold, wait, question, transfer, hold music, dead hold, I'll call you back, did you try this....etc. and so if time is money it's cheaper to just let it go every now and then. And I didn't complain too loudly when they charged me $12 to downgrade my plan to the cheaper one which, in essence, got them the same price I was trying to downgrade from in the first place.

It's not Maya's fault. And she breathed audibly and let me know about it. Even told me how many times I've called, said she's not calling me a liar but.... and there's nothing she can do. If I had called to handle those issues before, she might be able to help me.... And I let her have it again. Back and forth we went, and finally after I explained that I'd like to know what MY recourse is....I can't exactly charge THEM when they take MY time to get them to offer the kind of service they promise in all those commercials and ads you see on advertisement-sponsored websites.

Maya breathed again. A little steam escaped and burned my ear. "Here's what I can do. I can suspend your service for three months which will get you over the one-year service mark. That way you're released from the obligation you agreed to (venom dripping) when you first signed up for, since the year being up takes care of that. Then you can call and cancel then. What about that? It's really a very fair offer."

Dead silence. For a long time.

Which I finally broke. "I won't get a bill and all I have to do is call back in 3 months to cancel?" She sighed. "That's right." Me, begrudgingly, "Okay." And then she pours out this litany of all the services I'm agreeing to, how my account is still active, I can still use it anytime I want. I cut her off. "I won't be using it. Remember, I explianed that I don't even have..." She stopped me, "I A M O B L I G A T E D T O E X P L A I N T O Y O U..."

And here's my favorite part. Maya took that moment to explain to me that if we'll just take the time in the middle of our busy schedules to call and handle things when they occur, they can be much better managed. And while she really, really does understand my frustration, there's a lesson in this for me. EXCUSE MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE? I gotta' tell you, there was not a day, a chapter, a SENTENCE devoted to "getting the last word when you're smugly certain the customer is a slacker and you can show her the error of her ways" in a single one of those customer service classes I took. I know it was 12 years ago. I still would remember. It's something you wouldn't forget. It would have been the most popular part of the class. She went on to explain to me how even when we have to hold for 30 minutes, how would they know our service wasn't good if we don't wait long enough for them to tell us? It's not like they check their account database and see if all their customers are using the service regularly. I only told her once more, really, I promise, that I did tell them. And tell them again. And that I did wait on hold, and wait for my calls to be returned and for credit to be applied.

We hung up on a sickly sweet note, wishing each other a great day and all that drips of dishonesty.

I really quite dislike that this conversation occurred at all. I have nasty thoughts in my heart for a woman I don't even know. And I know it's not her fault that I had a bad experience with her company and that she's obligated to try and keep me as a customer, no matter what.

This makes me wonder what services could I really, really do without? I mean, really? How many account numbers am I responsible for? How many passwords, monthly charges, logins, service charges? How much technology and here-to-make-your-life-easier advancements does one person really and truly need?

A lot, apparently. And I'm done. Returning to the filing and organizing and other work that has to be done before I can finish this packing. You see how I'm really not getting very far along with the actual packing, don't you? But I will. Soon. And you'll be the first to know. After Maya, maybe...