Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Customer Service in the 21st Century

My daughter Jessica reports I received a phone bill from Cingular. "That's strange. I thought I paid everything before leaving." She gave me all the details and I called the phone company.

After navigating an automated system, I was finally connected to a customer service agent, somewhere in the World. After fifteen minutes of searching, unable to find my account, I let her go. It was too difficult trying to search for a solution with someone you can't even understand. I asked the agent,

"Where are you located?"

"At the Customer Service Center."

"Where's that?"

(Long pause)

"India."

"Oh." (Of course!)

I tried again later. Maybe another agent could find my account. I was relieved when I reached "Destiny." Her pronounced southern accent was genuine. But Destiny was having trouble finding the account as well.

She put me on hold and sought help from a supervisor.

"I'm going to transfer you to Steven Davis. He is going to take care of you."

I thanked her for the effort.

"Steven" came on the line, and he was incomprehensible.

"Where are you located, Steven?"

(Pause)

“I’m not allowed to give that information.”

“It’s a secret where you’re located?”

“It’s against company policy”

“You’re in India, aren’t you?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I’m not allowed to give that information.”

Okay, let him take a shot at it, I thought. But Steven gave up after a while. In the end, he suggested “just wait until you get a call from collections, then you can explain it to them.”

"Great. Thanks, Steven."

A call from "Frank's" to advise me the bike was ready. Jeff and I walked around the block to pick up his '97 Honda Prelude which had been undergoing its state inspection. We then stopped at the "Bagel Café" downtown for coffee and a bagel.

Jeff took me to "Frank’s". They replaced the fuel pump under warranty. That should take care of the fuel gauge problem.

We tended to some domestic duties today, Jeff cutting the lawns, while I did a bit of hedge trimming and weeding.

As we had discussed, Jeff took the mud guard off his motorcycle so that I could use it. "Frank's" will then replace his under warranty (when they finally get one. There are apparently only two in the country.) He also gave me a special oil cap removal tool, which "Frank's" will also replace.

Before I could mount the guard, I realized there was a broken bolt that had to be extracted. Called Lester at "Frank's" and explained the situation.

"Can you do it if I bring it right over?"

“I’ll take a look at it as soon as you get here.”

My Aerostich suit was hanging out to dry, so I borrowed Jeff's “Joe Rocket” mesh jacket (which I found to be very nice in this warm weather) and drove over to catch Lester before day's end.

Lester, without saying a word, took the bike into his shop and worked on that bolt, even though it was now after working hours. He noticed my sidestand was binding, so he crawled under the bike and lubed it up. No charge for any of this, and he refused my offer of a tip. Old fashioned customer service.

Back at the house, Jeff’s friend Dave came by. He was on his way to do some dirt riding on his KLR 650. I think he was hoping we might join him, since we have these beefy dual sport bikes now (which we abhor getting dirty.) Dave talked about his trip to California. He rented an R1150GS in San Diego and drove all around the state. He wants to do it again and asked if Jeff wanted to go the next time. Perhaps.

A can of "Progresso" split pea soup for dinner; we're eating less now that we’re “home”.

Watching a bit of TV (pretty unusual for me since I haven't had TV at home for much of the past 25 years), I'm so amazed by all the homicide and crime shows. Are our lives so dull these days that we need this stimulation, this artificial danger? I think it's unprecedented in its all-pervasiveness.

Worked on the blog later. I continued to get a good wireless signal in the upper northeast corner of his house, so that's where I worked. Jeff got into proof-reading on his computer downstairs. He kept coming upstairs with comments and corrections.

I heard the loud bark of a dog downstairs and went to investigate. It was “Kaya”, a big black Labrador come to beg for a treat. Jeff loves the big dogs (not the "rat dogs"). He brought Kaya inside and gave him three or four "Milk Bones" before sending him on his way down the street. Pretty cute.

I don't want to move on until the entire backlog of journal entries is complete.

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