Today I picked up a few donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts through the drive-thru, and they messed up my order.

Even after correcting it at the window, there was still a mistake but I had already driven off and it wasn’t worth turning around to go back, yet it reminded me of that classic argument against raising the minimum wage that goes something like – “If you can’t even get my fast food order right, why in the world should you get paid $15/hour?!”

I spent some time pondering this during my drive, and here’s what I came up with…

First and foremost is simply that everyone makes mistakes at their job, with many being a lot more serious than overlooking the occasional chocolate-frosted donut. I work with databases and statistics for my day job and there are plenty of instances where a number gets transposed or a query is missing a clause that produces inaccurate results, yet the immediate reaction isn’t typically that I don’t deserve to be paid a living wage for my work because I’m just so stupid.

Because that’s what the minimum wage is intended to be – a livable standard for what employers are required to pay their workers for an honest day’s work. And while you can argue that frying donuts and the like are minimally valued skills, tell that to the corporations that make billions of dollars each year off of those workers’ efforts.

Along those same lines, though, I got to thinking about what causes people to make mistakes at work and I would bet my missing chocolate donut that understaffing plays a significant factor because anytime that I go to a fast food restaurant, the employees seem to be running around like crazy between all of the various tasks that they need to cover. In fact, never having worked fast food myself, it consistently shocks me to see that the same person taking orders is the same person filling drinks, taking money, and rounding up your order from the various stations, too.

Think about it – most fast food restaurants have a separate window first to pay at, but instead more often than not there’s just a sign posted telling you to move to the next window.

Clearly it was the original intention to have two separate roles, yet at some point in fast food land they decided to consolidate the work onto a single person … but I’ll bet they didn’t also consolidate the pay between those two jobs in turn!

It’s really the same thing we see happening in almost every industry – workers being expected to do more work with less time and resources – and yet service industry workers seem to be given a harder time over slipping up when there’s literally too many things on their plate to get every order exactly right.

So ultimately I think that the two issues here are completely separate – if an employee doesn’t consistently perform, it could be that the person just isn’t paying attention OR it could be that the work is being mismanaged and the workers aren’t being setup to succeed in the first place. In a way, is it really fair to hold the worker responsible for a wrong order when they were also being barked at to get the restroom cleaned and take care of the people at the counter and don’t forget to take their 15-minute break while they’re at it because the boss ain’t paying no overtime?!

The minimum wage angle, on the other hand, to me is really simple – if your employees can’t make ends meet on what you’re paying them, you’re not paying them enough, and if you can’t afford to pay them any more, then your business model is flawed and you shouldn’t be in business.

Separate issues, and as an aside I also tend to think that if we were a bit nicer to fast food workers in general, they might be more likely to get our orders right than shouting for their termination because our iced coffee got made with skim milk instead of 2% like we’d shouted into the unintelligible speaker box 90 seconds ago. 😛

Last week I wrote a fairly extensive editorial on my thoughts about United dragging Dr. David Dao off one of their flights from a human rights & basic dignity standpoint, however after reading some comments on Facebook today, I’d like to touch on what I’m going to call the customer service side of this whole mess.

The comments in question were a post by Mike Rowe – a guy whose thoughts I enjoy reading, though I happen to agree with part of what he said this time. The gist of it being concern that in the fourth or fifth apology from United CEO Oscar Munoz, they’ve essentially made it ok for customers to ignore when the crew of an airplane tells them to do something…

“But in the process of finding him blameless, he suggested that millions of passengers are under no obligation to follow a direct command from United employees. And that’s a hell of a lot more disturbing than a beat-down in the main cabin.”

Mike goes on to say that we don’t have a right to fly because we can always be removed for being beligerant or too big to fit in one seat or whatever reason the airline decides to use … and for most of those scenarios I would agree. If you’re drunk or disruptive, then sure – off you go. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll even land the plane before kicking you out the door, but it’s that any reason deemed necessary where I take some exception because remember here that in this particular case, Dr. Dao was assaulted because United needed his seat to fly their own employees to another airport for work the next day.

And I don’t think that’s right.

Yes, I get that airlines run on thin margins, and that they overbook because there’s an average number of people who don’t show up for their flights as scheduled and the airline doesn’t make any money if those seats otherwise fly empty, but just like those United employees had someplace to be, so did their customer … their paying customer, and in accordance with taking his money in exchange for a plane ticket, it’s the airline’s responsibility to transport him to his destination as agreed.

And sure, it’s true that in its 47-page Contract of Carriage, United reserves its right to deny boarding to any customer it wants if nobody else volunteers when they end up on the inconvenient side of this overbooking teeter totter that they play … but does that make it right???

Those four employees had to get to work the next day to ensure that United’s planes were able to fly on schedule.

But so did the doctor who had patients to see the next day.

Just as overbooking is a relatively common thing in the airline industry, so is employees transferring from one airport to another – the idea that they don’t have a better handle on this issue and that it results in kicking paying customers off of their flights is the real travesty here!

So to Mike’s comment citing that we need order on our airplanes because they’re not democracies, they’re a place to follow orders, I would challenge that it’s the airlines who should lead this responsibility by providing stellar customer service, not the passengers who need to suck it up and accept whatever treatment they’re given because everyone has places to go and flight attendants have a thankless job.

In any other industry, if a business took a customer’s money and then refused to give them the service that they’d purchased, they’d face a day in court because that’s the entire reason said relationship exists between business and consumer … but because of the perceived safety concern, air travel has become an industry where consumers are left little to no actual protections after the airlines and the TSA have taken their own liberties from passengers just trying to travel in their own country and pay good money for the trip.

Last week we watched a guy get beaten because he didn’t want to leave the plane that he was scheduled to fly.

If I sell milk for a living and I sell you a gallon of milk, I can’t just show up at your house later on that evening and demand the gallon back because one of my truck drivers is thirsty and needs a drink so that he can complete his route healthy and refreshed tonight.

That’s my problem for not having enough milk in the first place, and to think that my customers should have to compromise for my own shortsightedness when they’re probably thirsty and want some milk to go with their cookies, too, is bad business.

And that’s why we have consumer protections in place to ensure that customers actually get the goods and services that they pay for.

Americans shouldn’t need a lawyer to review the 47-page contract that comes with their plane ticket in order to make sure that they’ll actually get from A to B like they’re expecting.

Banking Made Easy-ish

March 30, 2016 1:44am
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So I thought I’d write a little about this because it ultimately took up a bit more of my day than I was really expecting, but in the end I’m still feeling pretty positive about the whole situation so I kind of wanted to share… 😉

I’ve written a few times in the past about my personal banking and my position on the matter continues to evolve, ironically to the point where now I’m actually more or less content with the same place that drew from me much ire only two years ago! And honestly, it’s really not so much the bank changing their ways as it is me changing my perspective on their ways, so let’s dive into it.

If I had to pinpoint one single idea that defined my personal banking relationship these days, I’d have to say that it’s in acknowledging that to a trillion dollar bank, I personally represent a very, very … very small fish in a very, very very big pond.

That’s all there is to it, and so despite issues with my finances being all-encompassing for me, I’ve found that it’s important to put things in perspective that if I want to argue with these guys over a few percentage points of interest or some late payment fees, there’s simply no real reason for them to care. As a financial institution, they exist much more for my benefit than I do for theirs … and that’s a tough one to swallow when “The customer is always right!” is your mantra, but remember, we’re trying to find compromise (and peace!) here…

I came to this realization over about the last month as I’ve been working to migrate a couple of stock accounts over to a brokerage account with Wells Fargo because they’re not a ton of money – maybe $5,000 total – but to a brokerage managing customers with portfolios containing literally millions of dollars, my little nest egg is pretty much a single fish egg sitting beside a dinosaur egg … and that’s ok because they’re still willing to work with me – they’ve got specific tiers within their reps to do so (e.g. call center vs. dedicated advisors, etc…).

This is good for me because it allows me the opportunity to invest, and to keep my investments easy to manage along with the rest of my banking at Wells Fargo, whereas I could technically spread out my accounts between an assortment of discount brokerages and credit unions that individually might handle each account a little better in their own way, but for me at this point, I’m willing to sacrifice a few dollars a trade or a tenth of a percentage point of interest in exchange for my time and my sanity.

I think it’s easy to get into that mindset when we’re customers that we’re the most important customer that XYZ Corporation has and so they should bend over backwards to make us happy, but let’s be honest – that usually isn’t the case. I recall a time many years ago when Sprint made headlines for “firing high-maintenance customers” so that they could focus on the rest, and even though it probably filled twenty-something me with all sorts of angst and rage, looking back – and having worked in a call center since myself – I can kind of see where they were coming from because really, you can only take so many complaints before you can’t help but say, “If we’re such an awful cell phone provider, then why are you still here???”

So that being said, I guess you could say that I’m trying to be more conscious of my place in the world, if you will … which isn’t to say that I devalue my position to these kinds of companies, but maybe just that I’m not the only customer they have and that they need to make money, too – even if their executives get paid ridiculous bonuses that just make me want to throw their late fees right out the window!

With that in mind, if I look at my personal finances – the places where big banks earn money from me are really pretty limited:

  1. Mortgage Interest – the BIG nut, thousands of dollars/year
  2. Credit Card / Loan Interest – not nearly as huge as my mortgage, hundreds of dollars/year
  3. Brokerage Account – even if I do a handful of trades, maybe tens of dollars/year
  4. Deposit Accounts – almost nothing, especially if I meet my minimums and don’t overdraft, less than a hundred dollars/year

When you consider that my needs to interact with the bank is completely inverse to how they actually profit from me, it kind of helps to put into perspective why people feel like their banks don’t really care about them … because they don’t need to. You don’t make millions of dollars for shareholders by spending 90% of your focus on 10% of your profit-generating customers – it’s just the sad reality of how business works. And again, the lens that I’m trying to look at this all through isn’t that I shouldn’t waste my time with them because they don’t need me, but more so that there are some great things they can do for me if I play my cards right, but that I also have to remember where I fit into their puzzle because if I’m not kind and don’t know what to expect from them in advance, there’s not much more incentive for them to really go above and beyond for me.

In all of my investment research fun that I’ve done over the last month, I came across this forum thread where the poster was complaining about a brokerage because in his eyes they were rude to him after he asked for some advice and then after deciding to transfer some of his money elsewhere, the bank transferred his account from a dedicated advisor back to simply using their call center as his primary point of contact.

Now from his perspective, $30,000 was a lot of money and he’d been with them for over a decade, so just handing his account off to a lesser rep felt like some sort of travesty … but in reality? That advisor probably spent more preparing that single, unused recommendation than his years of $100 annual fees in one swoop.

So not only with banking, but with many of the people who I find myself interacting with these days, I’m trying to put myself more in their shoes of how *I* fit into the relationship we share before I let myself get too bent out of shape over something that rubs me the wrong way. Should that cast member at Disney World have been more helpful when ApplePay wouldn’t work at their kiosk? How about the doctor’s office that screwed up my prescription refill and then blamed it on the pharmacy when I called them out on it?

In any of these scenarios, I’m not necessarily willing to walk away from Disney or my doctor or Wells Fargo, so as much as I’d like to rant and rave and get the attention of their CEOs for times when I feel like I’ve been slighted, sometimes … sometimes … it’s just easier to take a deep breath and let one slide for the greater good because if there’s one thing I’ve been learning a lot lately as I get older, it’s that time spent arguing with customer service is almost never worthwhile. 😕

A Verizon FiOS Upgrade Update … of Sorts

November 18, 2015 2:36pm
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So here we are, 10 days after my rant about issues with getting my FiOS Internet speed upgrade.

The good news is, I’m officially running at the 150 Mbps that I originally wanted … sometimes.

The bad news is, I’m not super crazy about what I had to go through to get it.

Here’s a quick timeline…

  • 10/23 – Found upgrade options missing online; no luck with support via phone or Twitter.
  • 10/29 – Sent an e-mail pressing further, response back that it was a mgt. decision.
  • 11/12 – Sent an e-mail to Verizon’s head over FiOS, got a response from his office in a matter of hours
  • 11/13 – Spoke on phone with exec. customer support who overrode issue and scheduled my upgrade
  • 11/16 – Tech came out, did install

It turns out that the final version of the story that I was given is that Verizon ran out of equipment nationwide, so in the meantime they decided to limit this particular upgrade to new customers until they were able to get their hardware issue under control. I didn’t ask if it was related to next year’s sale to Frontier because I wouldn’t blow a lot of money on equipment if I was selling the business soon, but it frankly wouldn’t surprise me…

Anyways, the gentleman from the VP’s office was very polite and offered to honor my upgrade by first submitting an order to upgrade me to 300 Mbps to get my order through the system, then coming in afterwards to back it down to the 150 Mbps that I actually wanted. And I did get my router included, though there was a one-time $150 install fee which I was honestly fine with at this point.

The install itself went super smooth – better than most, in fact – because instead of running a new ethernet line through the attic from the ONT to my router, he was able to make use of an existing line that ran to a smart panel in my closet where the router now resides anyways, so all in all we were probably done in about two hours. Speed tests were a little bit of a pain just because only my server is currently hardwired and it doesn’t have Flash installed which 99% of the speed tests require, but we worked it out nonetheless…

speedtest300 speedtest150

It was definitely hard to say goodbye to that 300 Mbps, though in no way can I justify another $90 on top of what I’m paying already, plus in reality I did find that the places I normally download from couldn’t push more than about 200 Mbps at me at a given time anyways … which was kind of expected. So it’s certainly worth noting that as sexy as the prospect of gigabit ethernet is, it’s really only useful for multiple devices pulling at the same time at least for the time being.

Still, this effectively doubled the speed in which I can download movies and TV shows, so that’s cool!

Also, my ping time is roughly 1/4 of what I was used to seeing, so also cool.

That said, even in just a day I’ve noticed my speed wobbling a bit – sometimes I can get the full 150 Mbps, sometimes it clocks in less than the 75 Mbps that I had before … not sure if that’s just standard Internet congestion (though I didn’t see it much before) or if moving me over to GPON puts me on a busier node where I’m competing for bandwidth more than I did when I was on BPON. Will have to keep an eye on that…

Anywho, at the end of the day my only real complaint is simply that I had to jump through so many hoops to get where I am today. One typically shouldn’t have to complain to a VP in order to get their service upgraded, and better communication at any step in the chain would’ve at least calmed me down and made me a little more understanding. I guess the moral is if you’re not getting anywhere with customer service, just go straight to the top and try there instead … which is terrible advice, really, but it seemed to work here.

I made the link above to said VP’s reference clickable just in case anyone else has the same problem… 😉

I’m really frustrated with Verizon right now, which is tough because I’m absolutely a huge fan of my FiOS Internet service.

We’ve been customers since 2012 and without a doubt they provide the best Internet service available in the Tampa Bay area. I’ve done the research, I’ve priced out the competition, but between their pricing and the symmetrical download & upload speeds that are pretty much unheard of elsewhere, Verizon FiOS is the best.

So why have I spent the last couple of weeks feeling like an inferior customer over one that they could have sometime in the future???

I’ve talked a lot about upgrading my Internet speed lately – right now I’m at 75 Mbps, but I’ve really been eyeing their 150 Mbps package … it’s just that until recently, it was a bit out of my reach at an extra $50/month. So needless to say, I was really excited when I noticed one day when browsing my upgrade options and saw that they had a new promotion where I could not only go from 75 to 150 Mbps for only an extra $20/month, but they’d also throw in the $200 router upgrade for free!!!

It sounds too good to be true, and apparently it was because a couple of weeks ago when I was finally ready to pull the trigger, the 150 Mbps tier was mysteriously nowhere to be found…

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 7.47.38 PM

My first instinct was understanding enough – there must just be something wrong with Verizon’s website, so I got on the phone and called to place the order manually instead, but the rep who answered my call saw the same thing and was pretty clueless as to why there was a hole in my tiers where the missing 150 Mbps option used to be! It was frustrating to hear her shrug it off, not even giving me an option to escalate the issue for someone else to take another look.

It just wasn’t there, and she was ready to move on to her next call, but that’s not even where the story takes a dark turn.

So I hung up and instead tried reaching out via Twitter, where I got a slightly different, but equally misleading explanation…

This time they told me it was a “technical limitation” and that the tier must simply be “filled up,” so it was no longer available. Here I started to call bullshit because things really weren’t adding up … namely, they had the capacity to upgrade me to 4x or 6.5x my 75 Mbps speed, but not to only 2x my speed! 

And granted, I’m not a fiber technician, but I know a little about how math works – I even gave them the benefit of the doubt here and asked if it was really a technical limitation or if Verizon was artificially limiting availability of certain tiers to encourage the higher sales, but from there the tech just doubled down on that speed is popular, so it fills up and isn’t available anymore.

That didn’t make any sense, but in between waiting for responses I did a little more research and found what I thought was the missing key that would finally make somebody say, “Crap – that’s not right! We need to look into that!!!”

Opening up a separate browser and going to getfios.com, I was able to bring up a brand new order – even at this same address – for a new bundle including 150 Mbps Internet service…

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 11.18.37 PM

Huh???

So clearly there must be something wrong with their ordering system if a new order will offer me that tier, but when logged into my Verizon account it was nowhere to be found!

Well, after waiting a couple of days for a response from the social media team that never came, I decided to send an email to customer service to see what answer they’d be able to come up with for my issue. And at first it seemed promising because I was told that they needed to research it more before they could respond, but eventually they sent me this…

Thank you for choosing Verizon. I have received your email dated 10/29/2015 regarding that  want to know why a new customer would be able to get Fios Internet speeds of 100 and/or 150 Mbps while existing customers can not. I apologize for any frustration or inconvenience this has caused. My name is Karen, and I will be happy to assist you. I will also review the account to make sure you are getting the best value.

Thank ou [sic] for your interest in our products and service.

We apologize for the delay in our response and regret any inconvenience to you.

Unfortunately the connection speeds of 100 and 150 Mbps are not availble [sic] to you.

The decision to only offer the connection speeds of 100 and 150 Mbps was made at corporate management level. Unfortunately it has not been advised to us of why the decision was made to only offer the 100/150 Mbps to new customers and not to existing customers other than that there is technical limitation of upgrading the equipment for existing customers who already have Fios working at their location.

I’m very sorry for the inconvenience and frustration this will cause you and your family.

This after Verizon “added more versatility to its industry-leading service” by apparently adding a 100 Mbps tier in between 75 and 150 Mbps, according to this swell press release boasting about their latest promotions in my specific market a month before I was unable to order them myself!

According to this release, “Verizon is the only communications provider to offer a symmetrical speed tier of 100/100 Mbps, or any Internet services offering the same fast download and upload speeds, in the Florida market” … but only if you’re a brand new customer for them because if you’ve already got an account, your business isn’t worth the effort.

Seriously, how insulting is that?!

Here I am, a long-standing customer and very much a fan of the service, and I want to give Verizon more money, and if I had submitted my order two weeks earlier before this asinine decision was made, I could’ve! But now my extra $20/month isn’t good enough for Verizon. They’d be happy to sell me 300 Mbps service at an additional $110/month, but sorry, the next logical upgrade that makes sense for my account isn’t available because they’ve arbitrarily dog-eared that speed for new customers only.

What sense does that make? My next door neighbor could call and get 150 Mbps service installed tomorrow, or hell, my wife could call and apparently get it installed at our same address … as long as she sets up a new account because this account – the one that’s 3 years old and has earned Verizon upwards of $7,000 over the life of our service – isn’t eligible for an upgrade.

Sorry / not sorry.

You wouldn’t do that with HBO or Cinemax – “I’m sorry, I know that you’ve had an account for 3 years, but we’ve reserved those premium movie channels to entice potential sales from our new customers only. We regret any inconvenience that this causes you…”

Traditionally it’s a poor business practice when one of your loyal customers wants to give you more money and you arbitrarily refuse to take it, but apparently a fiber customer in the hand isn’t worth two in the bush when you’re Verizon.

But it’s not too hard to fix this! We schedule an appointment, you send out the technician who makes my dog bark for hours on end while he tinkers around outside, he installs a new ONT on the side of my house and gives me my sweet, new Quantum router, I start paying you an extra $20/month for the service I’ve quite literally been salivating for all summer long, and in the end we all win!

You get some extra money without having to sell me on the upgrade I already want and I get an even faster Internet speed to rub in the faces of everyone I know who isn’t lucky enough to live in a FiOS market … which admittedly is almost everybody I know.

Verizon, I love FiOS and I don’t want to fight with you. I just think it’s bullshit that you’re offering better deals to the new customers you don’t even have yet than you’ll give me who’s been here this whole time. I’ve come to accept that your best promotional pricing is for new customers and my bill jumped up a ways after my contract renewed, but this is service – to tell me that I can have one Internet speed but not another is just cruel. 

We can get through this, you and me, but honey, right now you’re being kind of an asshole. Please call me when you’re ready to grow up.

IVR Dueling

October 9, 2015 1:07pm
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Ok, so this kind of amused me just now – calling my bank with a simple question about payments…

Me: *presses 0 for an operator*

IVR: I’ll connect you to a customer service representative, but first, please say a quick phrase to describe what you’re calling about…

Me: payment question

IVR: Ok, payments – I can help you with that! Would you like to…

Me: NO!!!

IVR: Ok, I’ll connect you to a representative…

I hate customer service.

September 28, 2015 3:14pm
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Sometimes I feel like dealing with customer service departments makes me out to just be another grumbling asshole when in reality I just want an answer that makes sense.

Not the copy & paste response that isn’t even relevant to my problem.

Not one that is just blatantly guessing on your part.

I just want a legitimate answer that justifies the problem that I’m experiencing, and bonus points if you can actually help me to solve my problem, too!

I think part of my issue comes from having a developer’s mindset because when I see an issue with a company’s website that I have to interact with, I don’t simply want an apology for the inconvenience … I want to know what’s wrong so that other people don’t have the same problem in the future, too!

In a way, systems are easy because they’re consistent, or at least they should be. If designed properly, a website should look the same to me as it does to you … the 1,000th text message that you send should be delivered just as the first 999 were … when banking transactions don’t all post to your account in a consistent manner, that should be a red flag for anyone concerned about how the online banking system is working.

In my scenario, I scheduled five transfers from my checking account on Friday – when I woke up and looked in my account, four of the transactions were pending, but one was missing.

This seemed odd to me because when I do regular, unscheduled transfers, every transaction always shows as pending immediately regardless of where the transfer is going to.

…and mind you, these are all transfers within the same bank…

All in all, I talked with six representatives across different customer service departments – some had different explanations than others, some clearly didn’t want to be talking to me at all, and even the final supervisor that I spoke with couldn’t really say why it was happening but at least offered an alternative to what I was having an issue with.

I mean, I get that most customer service reps don’t understand their company’s systems well enough to identify where a process is failing. Hell, I’ve had issues where I’ve had to talk to multiple developers to get to the one who could speak accurately to their own application for building new ones! But regardless of your knowledge of a given system, I think it’s a fair suggestion that anyone should be able to recognize one of these things is not like the others to help identify when the system might be behaving incorrectly so that those with more know-how can investigate those types of scenarios in more detail.

And don’t get me wrong – I’ve worked in a call center myself so I totally get that a lot of people just don’t care because as soon as my call disconnects, they’ll have another pissed off customer in their ear to deal with next … but that shouldn’t be the gold standard because you can’t improve customer service through apathetic customer service representatives. Good customer service starts with identifying that a customer is upset and then dissecting their issue into something you can work with, whether it’s through education or process improvement or even a bug fix.

It doesn’t neither of us any good for you to just say, “I don’t know what else to say – that’s just how it works…” unless you’re looking to keep your complaint level high.

It reminds me of another situation that I had earlier this year – I was driving home one day and noticed that one of the signs leading onto the interstate was wrong.

Huh?!

I even drove back that way a second time to double-check myself before saying anything. They were doing a lot of construction around a new interchange, and the arrow definitely indicated that one lane was split for both north and south … even though it really only went south.

So after mulling over who to even report that kind of thing to, I found a contact on the Florida DOT website for our area and explained the situation … to which I got a fairly curt reply stating that I was incorrect because the guy’s field engineers said that it was fine.

The next day I drove down and took pictures.

A few more days passed before he finally replied again that the road had just been reconfigured and now matched the sign overhead, so everything was ok. I drove through one more time, and he was correct.

But how hard would it have been to just say that they were in the middle of changing things over and the sign had gotten updated before the lines were repainted on the road???

I know that customer service is often depicted as a shit job that nobody likes because it’s nothing but people complaining at you all day long, but what if you were to take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of the person on the other end of the line?

Be the guy who got on the interstate going the wrong way because the sign was wrong.

Be the guy who wondered all weekend if his mortgage payment got pulled from somebody else’s account by mistake.

And then don’t just gloss over this issues with an “Oops!” – actually take the next step towards solving them so that they don’t have to happen all over again.

It’s the difference between “Give us a break – the sign’s fixed now!” and “Sorry about that – we’ll make sure our contractors know to cover up those parts of the signs that aren’t correct until the new lanes are opened to prevent that in the future…”

Or “Yeah, I can see why you would expect all of your online transfers to appear the same. This is how our system behaves today, but let me open a ticket with our development team so they can look into changing that.”

The more you act like you actually want to fix my issue from happening again, the less I’ll sound like just another grumbling asshole when I’m explaining it to you.

mainly because hopefully it won’t be the sixth time I’ve had to explain the same issue over and over again to apathetic ears that are just counting down the time until their next break… 😛

Creating the Illusion of Customer Service…

October 22, 2014 5:37pm
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I try to be nice to customer service reps – I’ve had that job before and I know that it sucks, but I still have little patience for those who don’t even try to walk the customer service walk.

The trick to working customer service is creating the illusion that you give a shit about your customer’s problems.

I called in because I’m having a problem with our home warranty – thing broke on Friday and repair guy said that it’d be fixed on Monday or Tuesday, and today is Wednesday. I talk to him and he says that his hands are tied until he gets the parts from the home warranty company because they insist on using their own. I talk to them and they say that they’ve just been ordered today and will arrive in 72 hours. So basically I’m out for a full week at this point.

The delay doesn’t bother me that much, though – delays happen.

What struck a nerve with me was when the home warranty rep told me, “I’m sorry about the delay, but things are kind of out of my control.”

“No, they’re not,” I countered. You should have control of your own supply chain that you use to fix my stuff.”

It looks like there was a discrepancy in pricing, and it is what it is at this point.

Excuse me?!

My biggest pet peeve with customer service reps, or really anybody who works for a company, is when they shift from we to they when they’re talking about the problem that I’m experiencing.

We’re having a small delay in getting those parts to you…

They’re having a small delay in getting those parts to you…

You see the difference? The difference is that in the second one, the rep makes it sound like he’s on my side and he doesn’t know why my parts are being delayed, either! But as I tried in vain to explain to this dim-witted claim rep, when I call customer support to complain about an issue, you are the company that I’m calling to complain about.

That doesn’t mean that you personally delayed my parts, and I get that. But it does mean that you’re responsible for it – you, in the royal sense, meaning the company that’s paying you to take my call. And that’s where the illusion falls apart because if instead you say, “We’re really sorry about the delay, Mr. Sevener, but I can confirm that the parts have been ordered and should be delivered within 72 hours…” now you’re fulfilling your role as a customer service representative and I can go back to my day knowing that your company is trying to address my issue.

I’m not calling for a buddy to hear my pain about why my repair isn’t done yet, but when you say, “They had an issue getting the parts…” you’re shifting responsibility to somebody else, which is a no no because at the end of the day, I’m paying you. Sure, there are lots of moving parts and third parties that you use to facilitate this transaction, but at the end of the day they all report back to you.

…because if I was working with any of these other folks directly, my thing would’ve been fixed last Friday because the repair guy already had the parts on his truck – your process just wouldn’t let him use them!!!

So I have all of the sympathy in the world when good customer service reps have to deal with asshole customers, and I’ll even admit that I’m sure that occasionally I’ve been that asshole customer myself who calls up yelling and screaming and absolutely refusing to listen to anything resembling reason. But you have to try at your job – create the illusion that you’re concerned about my problem – because for the eight minutes that I’m talking to you on the phone, my problem is your problem.

Or at least my problem is your company’s problem…

lowes

I couldn’t login to my account just now – it kept giving me that second security question about “In what city is your vacation home?” which seemed a little odd because I don’t remember ever buying a vacation home, so it would be silly for me to pick that as one of my security questions.

For a brief second, I was worried that maybe my account had been compromised and somebody had went and bought $4,000 worth of lumber on my card, but while waiting for their IVR to let me talk to an actual person, the website finally said, “Oh, I see you’re having some trouble answering this question!” and let me login with my account number and that crap instead.

Note that it also had me select new security questions at that time.

Nonetheless, the first thing I did when I logged in was pull up my security questions to verify that my new ones were listed so that I wouldn’t have that problem again.

I think we found the problem – who would’ve guessed that I had a vacation home in “a” … which just so happens to be the same “a” where I went to high school?! 🙄

Earning My Business

May 16, 2014 8:32pm
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Until maybe the last year or so, I’ve always generally steered clear of doing maintenance and repair work directly at car dealerships under the idea that they’re always just so ridiculously overpriced.

That’s slowly changed with Sara’s car because although for a while we were shopping around or taking it to the local shop where I’ve taken my own car for years, it seemed like her standard oil changes kept going higher and higher … at everywhere but the actual Honda dealer. Whereas the other guys liked to tack on new fees for the special oil that her hybrid uses – I think the absolute worst wanted something like $60 for a single oil change – the dealer seems to have no problem staying competitive and after coupons, it’s now some of the cheapest oil changes I’ve ever seen!

But that’s not what this post is about.

10292520_10202812742572103_2926047506917846785_n[1]So yesterday we traveled down to Anna Maria Island south of us to celebrate one of Sara’s cousins renewing their vows. Despite numerous visual cues, the weather somehow managed to remain remarkably not rainy, and it was surprisingly nice having the sun hidden behind clouds all evening because it helped to keep the temperatures on the beach down a bit. All in all it was a pretty fun time, however the evening wasn’t without it’s share of “excitement” in that only a few miles away on our arrival to said party … the brakes on Sara’s car went out.

Well, I’m not entirely sure if went out is the appropriate term, but just as we were going over the last bridge onto the island, which is pretty much the worst possible time for one to experience problems with his vehicle’s braking capabilities, the brake pedal suddenly went all the way to the floor and a bevvy of warning lights flashed across the dashboard as I temporarily panicked about whether we were going to hit the car in front of us as an alternative to driving off the side of the bridge…

Thankfully there was still some sort of braking left, though nearly all of the resistance in the pedal was gone. We limped our way over to the party, and afterwards stopped at the nearest 7-11 to pick up a bottle of brake fluid … of which I dumped nearly the entire thing into the container, although it didn’t seem to do much good…

…until I hit a giant pot hole in a parking lot, and we heard a *cling* as something fell on the ground, and then they started working just fine again?!

So needless to say, we were pretty paranoid all of the way home and I did my best to pick the route with the least stops so that we wouldn’t have to brake much. Luckily because it was 11pm on a weeknight, traffic was fairly minimal on the freeway all of the way home. When we pulled in the driveway safely an hour later, I vowed to get the thing in to the dealership the next morning to figure out what in the world was going wrong. My Mom is flying in tomorrow and we need to pick her up from the airport, so we need to have a car that can actually stop on demand! 😯 

Because at that point there were two possible solutions in my mind:

  1. Something bad had happened with her brakes that was going to cost me hundreds of dollars after I just spent $450 doing all sorts of other maintenance on her car
  2. Something bad had happened when the dealership had flushed her brakes and what had just happened was totally their fault

Surprisingly after only a short diagnosis, it turns out that neither of those scenarios were correct, and what had happened was that somehow a tiny rock had flicked up from the road at some point and somehow managed to get stuck in one of the brake calipers, meaning that because it couldn’t maintain pressure like it was supposed to, instead whenever I pressed on the brake pedal it had just been spraying brake fluid all over the ground, hence the empty fluid and the lack of braking power.

Now what was pretty awesome about the whole thing is that after explaining just how unlikely it was that the scenario even happened in the first place, much less would ever happen again, the dealership didn’t charge me a dime for bringing my car in.

I would’ve expected even just a $90 diagnostic charge or something for their trouble, yet instead the service advisor merely shook my hand after he explained to me what they had found, and that was that.

You don’t really ever expect to get free things when you take your car into the shop – if anything, it’s usually much more painful than that, so that quick reassurance as a simple courtesy went a long way for showing how much they actually appreciated my previous service visits over the last couple of years.

It’s also why they’ll continue to see me in the future – because I don’t mind paying a little more every now and then if you also treat me like a human being and cut me a break every once in a while, too. 😉

So thanks again, Mike and everyone else at the Wesley Chapel Honda Service Department … we’ll see you next time!

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