Customer Service; Why I am mad before we start talking…

Back in the early ’90s, as part of my interest in phone systems and BBSs, friends and I looked at creating our own voice mail system. Back in the day, voice mail was still a developing technology. It wasn’t just about calling a number and leaving a message if no one answered. Hackers and phreaks used voice mail for diverting (via their outdial features), trading information (hijacking legit voice mail), and setting up their own hacker voice mail systems with menu systems that led to current information about phone hacking information. These systems could understand DTMF and had fairly simple, if not deep menu systems.

Jump to today with elaborate phone support systems that tie into databases, transfer calls across continents within seconds, and offer a variety of features. From 1993 to 2013, that gives 20 years of advancement and innovation. When a current support system has issues, it pisses me off. I get that today’s systems are more advanced, but we were already doing some of that functionality as a hobby 20 years ago. Largely, the issue is the standard Quality Assurance (QA) issue; the company does not test the system from the customer perspective.

To illustrate this, and to explain why I am frequently pissed off beyond words by the time the nice support representative says “hello”, I will use CenturyLink tech support (800-247-7285) as an example. While there are variations between support lines, this one is indicative of the problems that routinely set me off.

The Call

Welcome to Centurylink… For English please stay on the line… [Spanish]… pause

What happened to giving native speakers a ‘1’ to bypass this? Don’t make me wait for a secondary language message.

I have your phone number as… (identify my #) … one moment while i retrieve your account

The first time I enter my phone number. From here, the system accesses my account and has all of my information. They provide my phone service, long distance, and Internet connection.

Next, I am given options and select ‘Internet Repair’.

I have your account information… please hold while I evaluate your service… there doesn’t appear to be any open repair tickets. If you can’t connect to the Internet, press 1.

Next, it gives me an option to perform some automated tests via the voice prompt system, or I can choose a representative, which I do.

Please enter your phone number where you can be reached.

The second time I have to enter my phone number. I am glad systems ask for a call-back number in case of disconnection, but the phone company knows my number.

You can quickly chat online from a computer with a representative by using

I just selected “Internet Repair”, and the first advice they give me is a web site I can’t access because I have no Internet service.

Your account information is confidential and protected by law. Advise our agent if you prefer we don’t use it to market the products OR repair service. This has no effect on the service or offers we’ll provide.

What does this mean exactly? That if I don’t want them to “market the products” to me, then I also don’t get my service repaired? Yet, it has no effect on the service they will provide? This level of double-speak is infuriating.

While on hold waiting for a representative…

There is no limit to what you can do with high-speed internet from Century Link. Imagine an Internet up to 40 megabytes, now they can be yours…

Seriously? Not only am I calling because my service isn’t working, you taunt me with this? For the lat 10 years, I have had 7mb service with a whopping 0.8mb upload speed. Every six months, I call and ask if they can offer faster. When CenturyLink put up billboards advertising up to 40mb two miles from my place, they still did not offer it. Years later, when a friend that lives 100 yards from me can get it, I still can’t. I have asked for a business connection and offered to pay more, still nothing.

After several minutes and the repeated frustrations above, you finally come on the line. You greet yourself, then promptly ask me for my name, phone number (third time), billing address, and last four of my social security number.

That, is why I am always mad when I speak to you.

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