Customer service and the cable guy

Have you ever called a big company’s customer support line when “higher than anticipated call volumes” weren’t occurring?

That’s what I thought. Whoever anticipates call volumes sure seems to be off the mark a lot, don’t they? Do they use sophisticated trend analysis to anticipate call volumes?

Seriously, I wonder how often – or IF – they measure call volumes and adjust staffing levels. Perhaps a topic for some other time.

Yesterday, I called my cable company (Bresnan) about some signal problems and had an enlightening conversation with “Chipper”, who was very courteous and professional. He asked all the right questions, in the right order and did pretty much everything I expected – except…

…for the 27 questions – which weren’t his fault.

When I call a coffee shop, my favorite outdoor power equipment store, the paint store or the local caterer, I don’t expect them to have sophisticated call management software in place to get my phone # from caller id, look up my account and slap pertinent information on the computer screen for the technician / customer service representative who takes my call.

On the other hand, I do expect that when I call a large corporate for customer support – some (or ALL) of this should happen. These are people who should understand that 2 things happen when they take the trouble to manage their calls without making them impersonal touch “say English, press 1#, press 2, press 2, press or say 112, press or say the last 4 digits of my SSN, say YES”, to get help:

First, they have a far better idea why people are calling, how to adjust staffing, and how to dynamically re-route calls so that call wait times are lowered and frustration levels drop.

Second, they can easily avoid 24 or 25 of the 27 or so questions I got asked today when calling to get my cable box reset.

If I am calling from the phone number on the account, it’s fairly clear that either I’m a psychopathic cable service caller, OR it’s my house, it’s my account and a simple security sequence is all that should be required to make sure I’m me. Remember, I’m calling from the # on the account.

Instead, the act of trying to get my cable box required way too much time on the phone – much of which was answering questions like my physical address (on the account), my phone number (on the account), my billing address (on the account) and so on.

If I sold you a cable service and came to your house to install a cable box, wouldn’t it stand to reason that I would know which type of box I installed (cable, HD, HD and DVR, etc), what brand the box is, what the serial number is and similar info?

Yeah, you’d think so. Yet I was asked all of those questions except for the serial number (which has been asked on previous calls).

All of that info should have been on Chipper’s screen the moment that the call software passed the call to him.

Sure, caller ID can probably be spoofed – but that’s what the security sequence at the beginning should be for. It shouldn’t be sprinkled throughout the phone call as if I’m trying to get top secret clearance.

Remember – I’m just calling to find out if they can fix my cable by resetting the box. If I want to change the financial details on the account, sure, a bit more inquiry is not only acceptable but expected.

The funniest part of all? After all the questions, discussion and so on, Chipper finally decides it’s time to reset the box.

But…(there’s always a “but”, isn’t there?)

Before he can send a signal to the box, he has to get the last 4 of my Social Security Number. You know, cuz the previous 26 questions weren’t enough to make sure I was me. But it wasn’t my social, it was my wife’s, since she opened the account.

I wonder how many meetings it took to decide that the last 4 of the SSN is required to reset a cable box. I figure it took 3 hours in a big conference room somewhere, or a conference call with the lawyers. Or both. Hubboy.

After waiting several minutes, the reset didn’t take. Well, actually it did. 5 to 10 minutes later after Chipper and I were done talking, the box turned itself off and didn’t restart like it was supposed to. Now it’s dead and nothing works except for the lights on the front panel.

By the way, Chipper told me that I can expect a service call “sometime between 8 and 5 on Tuesday June 12”, more than a week from now. Somewhere in a 9 hour window. You know, because I have nothing else to do but sit around for 9 hours waiting for the cable guy.

Now that’s service.

Look at your service and customer care departments. Record some calls ($27 at Radio Shack, it’s just not that hard), listen to them, and put yourself in the position to know what’s going on. Figure out what parts of your business have been bogged down, if not made ridiculous, by situations like the one I describe here. It just shouldn’t be this hard.

Even a small business with a modem hooked to their phone can help their service people as I’ve discussed above, much less in other ways. Don’t take phone calls? There are other ways too, like a license plate lookup in your POS or database.

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