Posted by: A Mom w/Fears | March 4, 2008

Please Hold

Guest Blogger – Hubby (Applause!)

The story of my life! 
Please Hold…


As I reflect on the last couple of weeks chugging away as an IT consultant, I am trying to figure out something.  How can I bill my vendors for the time that I have to sit on hold.  You see, in my business, my clients (the people who give me money and pay my bills) expect that when they need me, they will be able to get me, as they should and they do.  But, for some reason, the people who I send money to don’t see things the same way.  In the last couple of weeks, I have spent more than 8 hours of my time on hold or being transferred all over the world (or at least all over the middle east).  One example is a 2 ½ hour call last week to HP.  My laptop broke and I had to send it in to warranty repair.  Now that they have it, they can not seem to give me any kind of firm date on when it will be fixed. (They have had it for a month now).  I decided to pick up the phone and give them a ring to get some kind of real status update.  In this process, I was transferred to 13, yes THIRTEEN, different people and had to overcome a language barrier with each and every one of them.  I spoke to Bob, Ralph, Joe, Shelly etc…  Yet they all had heavy Eastern Indian and Eastern European accents and could only give me the same canned responses to my questions.  Each one of them needed my case number, my name, my phone number, my email address etc. Each one of them asked what I needed and then told me that they would have to transfer me to another department.  Eventually, I was disconnected after a long hold period on my 13th transfer.  I am beginning to think that the strategy of companies who are outsourcing customer service is to transfer the customer x-number of times, then eventually disconnect them in hopes that they are so frustrated that they will not call back.  I have been caught in transfer then disconnect loops in the last week by no fewer than six companies.  HP (twice), AT&T Wireless, Qwest, Gateway, Dell, DirecTV, Sears and my local cable company.  I have had to talk with people over seas with HP, AT&T, Dell, DirecTV, and even Sears when I called to get my dishwasher fixed.  For those of you who don’t know, most of the larger companies who are not outsourcing overseas are still outsourcing their customer service domestically.  AT&T for instance uses outsourced call centers so the people who are helping you are not really AT&T employees and still do not have a vested interest in your satisfaction.  They are paid to take care of the customer with the least amount of cost possible to the vendor (AT&T in this case).

All of these companies get money from me on a regular basis, they even expect their money in a timely fashion, not a day late, or we hit you with penalties.  Yet they don’t see their way fit to offer any kind of real customer care.  Nothing is more frustrating as a network administrator then to have someone on the other end of the phone reading off canned responses telling me to do simple things to a computer (all of which I have already exhausted) and not listening to me when I tell them that I know what the problem is and why,  and what piece of hardware has failed, and why it needs replaced.  Or for an Internet service provider telling me to check my outlook settings when I know that the real problem is that their mail server is down.  I could go on and on.


This brings me to my next question…  Who is on the “take” at JD Power and Associates (That company who rates customer satisfaction).  At least three of the companies listed above boast that they have the JD Power and Associates award for excellent customer satisfaction.  Apparently, JD Power has not called me, or a number of other people in my shoes.  How can companies who so blatantly disregard the customer’s needs get any kind of award whatsoever?  One guy at HP even said, “that is what happens when you by a cheap laptop”.  I can assure you it was, and laptops are NOT cheap.

Can I bill JD Power for my time on hold, since they have recommended that we do business with these companies?  Can I bill HP, Dell, Qwest, Etc for my time on hold?  Can I bill anyone for my time or as a customer is my time just not worth a darn? I think that the latter is probably the case because as long as we are forced to do business with all of these companies who have a strong hold on the market place, we will have to play by their rules.  Pay their prices, deal with their crappy customer service, pay their bills on their terms and if you don’t like it, tough!  They’ll shut off your phone, shut off your cable, shut off your TV, not fix your broken computer etc.  I often wonder what would happen if I sent an invoice with my cell phone bill or my cable bill instead of a check.

Now, I am one who is always looking for a better way to do things and in this case, there is a small bit of a silver lining. Something which I am using more and more and is proving to work somewhat for me.  On-line chat customer care…  If not for on-line chat customer support, my 8 hours would probably be more like 20 hours.  I have found with a few companies that many of the things that I have to deal with can be done through on line chat customer care, this is saving me lots of time as I can keep working and answering my phone, while “Joe” in Timbuktu searches for his canned responses to send me, this way I can also not let my frustration show quite as much to the person on the other end of the line.  It often proves to be a pleasant experience.  If you haven’t tried on-line chat for customer support, it is a decent alternative.  Unfortunately enough though, the calls I had to make in the last couple weeks were ALL on things that could not be done on line.

At the end of the day, I think that we are going to have to accept that true customer service is no longer.  We can keep doing business with the “little guy” and the local guy as much as possible, but unfortunately, with the cost of infrastructure and some of the monopolies out there, especially in telecommunications and electronics, that is just not possible.

Have fun and happy “Holding”.  You gotta love listening to the same music loop over and over and the same lady telling you that your call is important over and over!!

(Thanks Hubby, for coming to hang with us and share your frustrations, I know you’re not the only one!!)


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