Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Press 1 for a pleasant surprise

I realize that I spend a lot of time being kind of negative on this blog - ripping on celebrities, talking about my pet peeves - so I felt compelled to share a recent experience that absolutely made my day.

I received excellent customer service!!!!

Yes, I know this is hard to believe, but it's true, it can still happen every once in a while. I only had to deal with an automated phone tree for a few seconds (and it worked correctly), I got a live human being who sounded like she was actually in the United States, she spoke English, she was not bitter at the world, and not only did she handle the complaint I was calling about to my satisfaction, I hung up with an even better deal than I had going into the call.

And here is the real shocker: The company is (the now absolutely gigantic) AT&T/SBC.

Could it be - a merger that worked?

I was calling because the DSL part of my bill randomly went up $20 this past month. The bill itself is a joke - there are no less than 20 line items in the DSL section - tons of credits and debits canceling each other out - it is literally impossible to decipher. All I know is that I had gotten many flyers in the mail about how I could sign up for all these faster-speed DSL plans, but they locked you in for a year, and the fine print talked about also needing to pay about $200 for new equipment, a service visit and software. Thanks, but no thanks... our current set-up works fine and I didn't want to mess with it. I knew that the price would go up about $10 a month if I didn't select an official plan, but then we weren't locked in for any period of time, and there were no other fees.

I didn't respond to any of the mailers and figured I would see the new charge one day.

Then it went up to $20, the service plan completely changed names, and I had no idea how to make sense of the bill. The payment due date was nearing, so I had to figure it out.

The way it actually is most of the time...Some people hate going to the dentist, some people hate shopping for bathing suits, some people hate being stuck in traffic... I HATE CALLING THE PHONE COMPANY. Or really any utility company, for that matter... especially when there's a billing issue.

So what did I do? I told my husband to call them.
Nearly a week went by and he "couldn't find the time" to call them. Subconsciously I think I knew I would end up calling (and so did he) and that it was better if I did so, because I know the history of the bills as well as the content of the flyers that were sent to us.

And so I called, settling into a chair with a big cup of tea, extremely low expectations, and prepared for a fight.

I dream of JennyI get "Jenny." And before I go any further, let me tell you my basic approach to almost ALL dealings with other humans in life.

It's called: "Being nice."

It is not Jenny's fault that my bill is configured by some insane accountant who loves confusing people with multiple charges and refunds all on one bill. It is not Jenny's fault that two behemoth companies merged and now everyone's confused about which bill they're paying. It is not Jenny's fault that the marketing people sent me a flyer with a price for a plan that never transpired on my actual bill. And even if Jenny gives me major attitude, I'm not going to get anywhere talking down to her or making her feel like all of these things ARE her fault.

So, when she asks why I'm calling, I take a deep breath and explain the situation and then wait. I wait for the inevitable backpedaling, excuse-dealing, apathy, incompetence and overall defensiveness and snottiness I've come to expect from these sorts of calls.

But instead I heard, "I can help you with that!" She then proceeded to tell me what the price should have been - and it was indeed the price I saw on the flyer. I said, "That's right." And while she had been looking up my account information, I made small talk about how "you all must be going crazy with the merger... I know what that's like." The empathy seemed to be appreciated.

Suddenly my cube doesn't seem so bad...And instead of offering me some bizarro plan that would never make any sense for me, she said, "Do you intend to still be using your DSL for a while?" And I said yes. She replied, "Well, there's a plan that's only $19.99 a month if you commit for a year." And I countered, "Yeah, I saw that one on the flyer, but the fine print said you had to get upgraded equipment and a service visit for about $200." That part was kind of a lie, because there was no plan for only $19.99 on the flyer I saw. But regardless, she went on to say that I could indeed lock in $19.99 a month for a year and nothing about the service would change and no one would have to come out and there would be no other fees. Nothing except the price would change, and it would be about $15 a month lower than what I had been prepared to pay.

So then I said, "Well, are there still going to be ten million charges and credits on each bill - will this make it even more confusing?" And she said, "No, there will be one charge and one credit for this discounted plan."

How could I refuse? I accepted that rate for a year, politely listened through two more of her ideas, and then hung up genuinely shocked. I really almost thought I had dreamt the whole experience. I then announced my huge triumph to my husband, which was a bad idea, because now I am DEFINITELY going to get stuck with these sorts of tasks forever and ever into the future.

But if all of those calls were as quick and painless as the one with Jenny, then I'll take that over some other dreaded household chore any day.

Jenny, whoever you are and wherever you are - thanks for not causing my blood pressure to rise on an otherwise lazy Saturday. Please clone yourself and staff the entire call center with Jennys.

- e

No comments: