Thursday, June 5, 2014

What's A Girl Gotta Do to Get Some Help Around Here?!

Yesterday, I called my Internet provider from my phone and was put on hold with an estimated wait time of greater than 10 minutes, due to "higher than usual call volume." Yeah, right. We all know that means there are only 3 reps answering phones on a call load that requires 7 to 10. Do more with less: the motto of corporations everywhere. 
Normally, faced with that long of a wait, I switch my phone to the 'speaker' setting and settle in for the wait. No big deal, I'm a good multitasker. There's plenty I can do while I wait. Besides, hold music is getting better. It's like listening to my favorite radio station while I chop veggies or fold laundry and I mark an item off my to-do list at the same time.
This time, I was on my way to get my son from daycare, a commute that typically takes 40 minutes in light traffic. I expected my call to last at least 20 min once I was talking to an actual person. Add the unknown variable of a "greater than 10 minute" wait, and I ran the risk of arriving at daycare while still on the phone with a rep. Didn't like them odds (cancellation was on the table, so I also wanted the leverage of time to wait out the inevitable back and forth that would come when I expressed my intent). Besides, once I'm with The Buddy, I prefer--and need--to be able to focus on how his day went with the sitter, then on quality time with him in the few hours we have before bed time.
There may be some who take exception to me talking on the phone while I drive. To you, I say as sweetly as I can muster, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn what you think. I get up early, work all day, then spend 3 hours in the evening with my man-cub. Then I fall asleep. My evening drive to daycare is the single hour each day during business hours when I'm alone, not being paid to do other things, and don't have to worry about someone gargling bleach or jumping off something high and breaking his face if I'm not watching. I use it to make and return phone calls. Got a better method? I still don't care.
Anyway, I digress.
I've suspected for a while that most customer-driven industry holds the new customer as priority one. As a customer, I define myself as, "loyal." I stick with products that work well for me, until they're changed or discontinued. I've used the same cell phone company since I got my first phone in 1999. I don't fall for the bundling promos at the mall, offering me $100 cash and free service for a year if I will switch from A Company to B Company. Not because I don't love a deal, but because I'm not willing to expend the time and effort to make a switch unless I have a legitimate complaint that I have already tried (and failed) to get resolved on at least one occassion. It's my sense of efficiency and fair play at work. That's why I get annoyed when I don't get the best that whatever company I'm working with has to offer. You've seen it: promotional cut-rates of service, free equipment, rebates and other perks are typically available to new customers but almost never to existing customers, regardless of the length of time you've been a customer. I've hung on long holds to discuss an issue with a service provider enough times that I've begun to wonder if my being an existing customer drives how timely the response is to my concerns, too. It makes sense. They always read me the number I call from to verify if it's the one linked to the account, so they know who I am before they talk to me. It stands to reason the phone system can shift me into the "long wait for existing customers" phone queue. I decided to test my theory. While on hold on my phone, I called the same customer service number from another phone not associated with my account to see what would happen.
I held my breath when the automated system engaged, then gave a disbelieving snort when I heard that my estimated wait time was...wait for it...2 minutes. While I was still on hold "for greater than 10 minutes" on my other phone.
The actual wait was less than 30 seconds. And the rep I spoke to was surprised I wasn't calling to set up a new service. Unbelievable. I was pissed enough to play hard ball (relentlessly) on my concern. It took every bit of my 40 minute commute, but I didn't stop until I got exactly what I wanted. A better service package for less money, and a thirty-day out clause if I wasn't completely satisfied with what I was paying for. They deserved it.
I realize that my single experiment doesn't make for good science. I'd need to get the same outcomes on a series of calls during different times of the day/week to prove for sure that this wasn't a fluke, but let's be honest: ain't nobody got time for the scientific method, son! I had to write this post at 3 am because, sadly, that's the only time I'm awake when my son isn't! I'd love to hear about others' experiences if any of you finds time to try the same thing, though. If you do it, shoot me a line and tell me how it went.
I've told you all I know. You're welcome.


  1. Very interesting read my friend. I've had a lot of experience with customer service lately, with our AC going out and having to go through a crappy home warranty company that didn't want to pay for the unit to be literally took me calling an automated system, set up like you described...daily for a week, besides the initial phone calls. Probably a total of 20 hours (not even joking)...before we got our air fixed. Hence we will be cancelling our policy and they will be losing business. Very frustrating and I see why many people don't bother fighting the system. Honestly, if I didn't work part-time, I don't know how I could have spent that much time dealing with the phone calls. BTW...we should meet with Ken for lunch some day, near your work. Interested? We miss you!

    1. Ugh, Gwen, that sounds like a nightmare! I've been told that we vote with our money and I think the same applies to companies we choose to spend money with. I hope the next company you deal with is actually invested in giving you what you pay them for.

      And as to lunch, uh, YEAH! I'd love to. Just let me know when you're free and we'll make it happen!