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Don’t Call, We’re Not Here to Help
January 31, 2021
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Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi

It takes months to find a customer…seconds to lose one.”  Vince Lombardi

They sell phones.  But don’t call them.  They cannot help.

For over a week I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to change a mobile phone line from a family package to an individual line.  The account owner submitted a transfer request for the unnamed company [let’s call them Company V] to email me vital PIN numbers.  That happened.  I was provided a service request number, PIN, and expiration notification date (next week).  Step 1, completed.  Then the fun began.

I clicked on the link from Company V and entered what I thought was my PIN. No dice.  “Maybe I create my own PIN?” I thought.  I punched my computer’s keypad to create the world’s best PIN.  I used my dog’s name, cat’s name, car’s model, old street address, my mom’s maiden name…. and peppered my creations with !’s, %’s, $’s, Roman Numerals, and spark plug gap numbers.  I wrote them down as I went and got shot down every time.

I clicked on Company V’s FAQ link which did nothing, like a shout into the wind.  Later, at about midnight (I bit their 24/7 service promise bait), Company V’s web-site flashed a system-wide internet problem.  “Please check later,” the banner said.

Please Try Again

Please Try Again

I revisited Company V’s web-site the following day—the site was still down.  So I called the 800 number, which operates 24/7/365.

After several minutes a guy named Jeff (in Arizona) picked up my call.  I explained my plight.  Jeff said there was nothing he could do.  I provided Jeff, my phone number, PIN, and requisition.  I explained none of the links worked.  “There’s nothing I can do,” he persisted.   I asked for a manager.  “My manager will say the same thing.  Call our 888 number but do it nearer to 7 PM before we close.  You’re competing against East Coast customers now.  I’ve said too much.  Bye.”

I immediately called the 888 number.  A recording said I’d be on hold for “about 30 minutes.”  I hung up and went back to work.

At 6:45 PM I called the 888 number.  A guy named Raj answered.  I explained my situation.  “I understand,” he said, “Hang on and I’ll fix it.  No sweat.”

Raj put me on hold and I listened to elevator music.  My mind wandered.  I thought about my upcoming dental appointment, “Ah, that’s where I’ve heard this music.”

My Supervisor Doesn't Care Either

My Supervisor Doesn’t Care Either

Then a recorded voice interrupted the music—“To transfer your account, enter your area code and number.”   I entered my number.  Pause.  “Due to COVID we are closed.”  After 45 minutes Company V’s 888 number disconnected.  Raj left me hanging.

I ranted at work the following day.  My colleagues shook their heads.  “Try someone else!”

Two nights ago I visited  Company V’s brick and mortar store, located inside a mall.   A sales rep greeted me.

“Did you make an appointment?”

“Nope.  I’m a long-time customer, 15 years.  I have a quick question.”

“COVID policies require an appointment.  What’s this about?”

“I need to transfer a phone line.  Here’s a copy of the email from you guys.”

“Oh,” she said, “just call our 800 number.”

“I just want the account information and service plan so I can proceed.  I called your 800 number, no one could help.”

“Oh,” she said, “try our 888 number.”

“I already called your 888 number.  No one could help.  PLEASE.  This should only take a few minutes.”

“You need to set up an appointment.  Then I’d be happy to review it with you.”

Company V

Company V

“Are you open Sunday?”

“Yes, we’re open til 6 PM.”

“Let’s do Sunday at 2 PM.”

“I can’t schedule that way.”

“Huh?  But I’m here NOW speaking with you, IN PERSON, about meeting on Sunday.”

“I’m sorry.  You must call our 800 number.  Have a good evening.”

I couldn’t believe it.  We were talking one on one, standing six feet apart.  We both wore masks.  Two other sales reps milled around with no customers.  Then she refers me to an 800 number to schedule a meeting with her two days later.  What?

I walked to leave the mall.  Near the exit was a competing phone company, Company X.  I walked inside.

A sales rep greeted me.  “Did you make an appointment?”

“No, but I get internet from you guys.  Can you add a mobile phone to my account?”

“If you can wait 5 minutes…hold on…we can talk now.”

A guy named Frank, who signed me up for internet, took me to his kiosk.  “Is that a new iPhone?”

“Five months old.”

“Should work,” Frank said.  “Otherwise it’s worth $50 on a trade.  Cell phones depreciate faster than cars.  I’ll poke around.  If you want to meet again send me an email.  I’ll get back to you right away.”

I researched the value of my new iPhone and tried calling Company V (no help, surprise).  I emailed Company X.  Frank responded, “Come tonight at 5:30.”

By then I had relevant account information from Company V to provide Frank.  I hoped for an easy transfer.  I handed Frank the print-out with Company V’s transfer PIN.  He typed, clicked, smirked, and shook his head.  He even called Company V’s 800 and 888 numbers pretending to be me.  No results.

“This usually takes seconds.  If you can get a refreshed set of transfer PINs, email them to me by Sunday and I can do it.  In the meanwhile I can show you how to change SIM cards.  Or bring in your phone and I’ll change them for you.”

As of now I’m still without a resolution but I give Frank at Company X high marks for effort.  At least he’s trying to help.

Tom Peters, business guru

Tom Peters, business guru

As for Company V’s customer service reps, I hold no ill feelings.  They’re just doing their jobs the way they’ve been trained.  I told one of them that Company V’s corporate policies really screwed them over.  They’re following directions from corporate gurus thousands of miles away, from people who  probably never worked in the trenches.  I may become temporarily phoneless but will figure something out.

I’m pretty sure though….that my relationship with Company V is history.

It amazes me that companies spend millions to attract new customers (people they don’t know) and spend next to nothing to keep the ones they got.  Seems to me, budgets should be reversed.”  Tom Peters

###

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