“Mr. Veedle, you are dealing with the telephone company. We are omnipotent. Omnipotent. That’s potent with an omni in front of it.”
— Lily Tomlin
July 14th, 2002 I got a call yesterday at 8AM.
I don’t like getting calls at 8AM at work or at home. Obviously, there’s nothing I can do about the work calls but the home calls, I’d like to think that this is an open invitation to be rude. Normally, I will vent my displeasure at the calling party unless they are family or a very, very, very, dear friend. And even then, the calling party should prepare him or herself for the slew of foggy insults headed his or her way.
Of course, there is always the emergency as well. The question is how do you define, emergency. I have a simple rule of thumb. Unless the first sentence in their mouth has any of the following words, it’s not an emergency: Heart attack, stroke, death, fire, flood, earthquake, famine, hospital, accident, blood donor, murder, or crazed psycho. Any phone call, answered by me after the hour of 10PM or before 8AM at home, better have one of those words. It’s a hard and fast rule I have. There’s a time for phone conversation and there’s a time for sleeping and relaxing.
As a commuter to New York, I regularly get up at 5AM, sleep in the bus for an hour, then get to work by 7AM. My mind becomes fully awake at around 8:05 and that’s after coffee. So, if I get a business call before 8AM and you are asking me to be an expert at something, you will be sorely disappointed. I am functional at 8:05. I am brilliantly intelligent at 8:30 after my second cup of coffee. I’ll even smile. But don’t call me before I am aware.
In any event, I got a call, yesterday (Saturday) at 8AM. This is a death sentence to the dialer. In my old age, I find that the experience of sleep is a wonderful thing. On top of ordinary morning anger this was a full Allegra morning. My head felt like it had been borrowed to go 9 rounds with Mohammed Ali.* I could hear snails crawl. I had that dry foggy lint-like feeling that usually only comes with the worst of hangovers. At 7AM, I went downstairs, because it was cooler, and I could sleep better in the easy chair. And finally, when the Advil and the Allegra started to work, I fell asleep again.
Mggrmmphr. Rssgrmrgrpf. Fgrnashle. Whothefrgcallsonasatday. Kill. Death. Disembowel.
The caller ID read “OUT OF AREA”. I’ve been answering these calls to let our telemarketer zapper do its job. But who knows who this could have been. Usually, this meant that it was either a relative who had no concept of time difference or a telemarketer or my father-in-law. A telemarketer would get no less than a painful death even if I had to hunt them down to the ends of the earth to do it. If it was my father-in-law, it would be the same thing only quicker, because I knew where he lived.
“Hello? Is Sherri there?”
No recognition as to the male voice. Polite so far. I figured that I should stay cool right now and said, “She’s not available at the moment, who may I say is calling?”
Skip polite at this point. “I’m her husband. Who, the f%#k, is this?” If it was a telemarketer at this point or a credit card company, New Jersey Law says no calls before 9AM. The abuse train has left the gate.
“It’s HRS calling in regards to her last bill. Can I talk to her?” Stirring from upstairs, my wife was up.
“Who is it?” She whispered.
“HRS**,” I didn’t whisper.
After a volley of, “Tell them this,” and “Tell them that.” I handed her the phone. My morning’s patience exhausted, I went back to my chair. I caught bits of “You can’t call before nine,”, “What do you mean I’m wrong?” and other arguments. My wife seems to be getting these calls now. I usually nip them in the bud by saying, “Let me check my records and call you back.” I’ll get a name and an extension to the now poor victim who will get the brunt of my fully awake abuse.
I don’t like telemarketers or collection agents that can not and will not help me out. HRS is among the worst. Normally, they are wrong. I had a volley with HRS going for approximately 4 months on a bill that was paid on time but they insisted I was late. One of the good things about paying bills through a debt counselor is that they keep records and can fight them. Other than that, they suck and I highly recommend that you never go with one. They are breeding a new brand of stupidity for collection agents. It seems to be a job prerequisite to be clueless and uncooperative with the client nowadays.
With HRS, I allow exactly two minutes of polite conversation before going straight to the jugular. As they claim to not have a supervisor you can speak to, you have literally nothing to lose by being impolite if provoked. Especially, when you know you are right and that they will do nothing to rectify the situation. And believe me, they will do nothing to rectify the situation. They only call for one reason it seems, to harass you. If you are convinced you’ve already done the right thing and they aren’t listening. Let’em have it. It won’t do any good, but you will feel much better for it. After all, you attempted to speak with a manager or supervisor, they wouldn’t do anything. They only want to hear one thing and if you don’t have that answer – screw’em.
Today’s customer service representatives are the lowest common denominator. Lately, they have been stupid, nasty, and uncooperative. And why shouldn’t they be? They’ve called 800 people that day just like you. And 800 times, they’ve met with the same response – people screaming at them. They get low pay and high abuse. What kind of person does that make? During my tenure at my company’s technology service center, I got abused by professional abusers with something at stake. When their PC’s went down, they were losing millions. So, I understood when they called my mother the worst names imaginable. I understood when they called me a worthless sack of pus. I understood when they said they were going to come over and shoot me. It wasn’t me, it was the situation.
The difference was: I knew I was going to help them, if I could. That was my job. I was part of a HELP DESK. It is implied that I help them. So – I did. On the average, I’d help 100 people a day. If I couldn’t help them, I forwarded them to someone who could.
There are the good companies that sweep their firm of bad representatives. A couple of weeks ago, my wife got a call from Chase Bank in reference to one of our cars. My wife made a payment by phone and did not get a confirmation number from the service. She didn’t know if she paid or not. With the miracle of the Internet, she checked our account online and saw that the payment was taken out. Technology is a wonderful thing.
Sometime later, I got a call*** from the Chase Bank collection’s department. She made the mistake of telling me that the call would be recorded for quality assurance. Once again, I had to do the volley between my wife and the phone before I handed it to her.**** I heard half of the conversation. It went something like this:
“I have my bank statement saying you withdrew the money… What do you mean you want to know when to expect payment…. Listen, you have a record of me paying you. Why are you calling me?….If I’ve already paid you, why do want me to pay you again?… Can I speak with someone?…. Why not?… Why are you calling me this late if you can’t help me?”
So my wife called Chase the next day and they were able to rectify the situation. They saw that the error was theirs and not ours. But that’s not the end.
I answered the phone a couple of night’s later.¥ It was a supervisor from Chase Customer Service in their billing department. The very first sentence that came from my mouth was, “We straightened this out already!” I put him on the phone with my wife. This is what I get for jumping down people’s throats too soon.
He called to apologize.
After they reviewed the taped conversation, they were calling to tell us that they were going to take action against the representative who would not help my wife. He said that he was available at that time and they had some problems with that woman. He also added that if she had any other problems with the account to call him directly and he gave his extension. That’s good customer service.
With the latest trend of going to third world countries for customer support, it’s nice to know that some companies still have some amount of Quality Service to protect. And this is home grown quality care, not the imported stuff that’s not as good. Labor in India and Latin America may be cheaper but there still is a price to pay nonetheless. Once again, be leery of any company that freely admits the concept of offshore development for customer support. That usually means they are paying someone with low living expenses low rates in favor of employing someone from here.
Charming, aren’t they?
It’s nice to know you are going to deal with someone who has no clue of what it’s like to be living here and how things work. This is the reason why I prefer to do all of my customer service bitching in e-mail. It’s a lot more thought out and a letter of complaint will get read, especially if you attach a read/receipt to the letter.
I did that once with Sears.
I was trying to get my Kenmore vacuum fixed. While waiting on the phone for literally 20 minutes for someone at the Newport Center Sears branch, my patience ran out. With the phone settled on my shoulder, I started my bitch letter. I mentioned exactly what I was doing as I was composing the letter and finished it before anyone answered the phone. I stated as it was 11AM and as no one appeared to be at the store to answer the phone. I asked them if I could have a job as I like to sleep late and those business hours would definitely accommodate that. I also stated that with each ring of the phone, I grew angrier and angrier, knowing that my problem was not getting resolved. It was all written up in MS Word. I checked it for grammar and spelling errors. I then went to the Sears home page (www.sears.com), to their comments and opinions page, and pasted the letter in the text box.
I got a call from Chicago two days later at work. The VP in charge of customer service called me and apologized profusely about call truncation and automatic call distribution. I, who worked customer service at one point and at that time did reporting for my company, saw it as a load of BS, but nevertheless, I was happy my letter got to the right place upstairs.
This is something you should remember in the future. An e-mail letter of complaint is much more effective than screaming at a mindless automaton.
Someone may actually listen.
* – For the slackers who don’t know or didn’t see the Will Smith movie, Mohammed Ali, was the three time world boxing champ. He was unbelievable to watch and to me is legend to this day.
** – Household Retail Services, often the company credit cards go to when their company no longer exists and they still wish to collect their money.
*** – Why do I always have to answer the phone?
**** – A pet peeve of mine. If the two people who have knowledge and details of a situation are in the same room or can be put together to talk to each other. I will put them together rather than act as an interpreter.
¥ – WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO ANSWER THE PHONE!!!!!