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August 17, 2010

Bell Mobility Serves You... With a Side of Ketchup

First, I have received three phone calls from Bell Mobility telling me that I have won a free, $800 iPhone... all I need to do is sign up for a minimum $50/month three year deal ($1800) to get it! What a deal. *sarcasm

Secondly, I have to endure the heavily, heavily accented Indian who calls to inform me of this deal. I can barely understand his English, yet he claims his name is "John" (today), "Stan" (yesterday), and "Mike" (the first day). Of course it is. *sarcasm

Thirdly, I argued with Mike for a while about getting them to send me the phone but I don't want a new plan or any service on it. "But how can you use the service?" he asked. "I don't want to use the service," I reply. "Either I won a free phone or I didn't. If I have, then send me the phone. I'll either give it away, sell it, or get my own plan at my leisure."

Moments away talking in a language that definitely isn't English, and is not a romance/latin-based language either. "No, I'm sorry, we cannot do that. You have to pay for a monthly plan to get the free phone."

"Well, then, it isn't free, is it?"

Bell Mobility should get a new Indian calling center if they are going to outsource this, one that does a better job of teaching its clients English and English/American accents. And don't open with the line "John, you have been selected to win a free iPhone" if you don't mean it. Not everyone you call is a rube or a newb or an idiot... If I have to pay you, then it isn't free. Best case, there are call centers right here in SJ who employ many people who speak very good English who could be making these calls... why not employ them.

My ire doesn't end there. I call Bell Mobility's customer service phone number. I get Kathy, Katy, something that started with a K sound. I told her I was receiving annoying spam calls to my home phone number from Bell Mobility. She said, "I can't help you. If they are to your home number, then you have to call the Bell Home customer service. Or, I guess I could transfer you." Gee, you think? I agreed that she could, indeed, transfer me.

I got Natalie. I told her the same thing and she immediately typed my home number into their Do Not Call list. But then she said, "To stop the Bell Mobility calls, I'll have to transfer you to their Customer Service line. We are separate businesses and I can't...".


I curtly explained that I had spoken to them, they had transferred me to you, and you, Natalie, are now going to help me with this problem. I will not be speaking with anyone else (except maybe your manager) to resolve this issue. The Bell Mobility support agent proved incompetent and unaware of her company's system/procedures, why would I give them a second chance?

"Let me see what I can do," said Natalie. A quick discussion with her manager later and sure enough, Natalie could help me.

Turns out, she simply called the Bell Mobility customer support number on a separate line, relayed my Bell Mobility number, and asked them to place me on their Do Not Call List. Good enough for me-- she solved my problem like a good customer support person should. She thought outside the box and left me as a happy customer after an initially poor reception at her company.

And that's the end result, isn't it? The first girl took an unhappy customer and made him even more unhappy. Natalie, on the other hand, made that very unhappy customer happy again. Bell in general, and Mobility in particular, needs to hire a few more Natalies and fire a few K-whateverhernamewas's.

Now, let's see if "Stan" or "Mike" or "John" call back tomorrow. *sigh

Blog Life

A friend of mine is struggling with his blog, as he recently moved from a long-term position in London back to his home in SoCal. The blog was initially his way of ranting and raving about the changes he was experiencing and the unusual circumstances he found himself in while being that "duck out of water" in a foreign land. One of his issues seems to be that he so identified his blog with that point in his life that he does not know what to do with it now.

When I moved to Canada, my blog changed focus quite a bit to reflect the differences, both frustrations and joys, at coming to a foreign land for, presumably, the rest  of my life. I originally created a second blog, intending it to be only for my comments as an expatriate living abroad (okay, 70 miles or so from the Maine border, but still in a foreign country), but I soon realized that my original blog, this one, was already ready to serve that need.

I named my blog "Omniverse" for a specific reason. I cobbled that together from "omni," meaning all, many, around, universal, and "verse," meaning type of poetry (I have posted some poems), familiarize through study, and as a cheap version of universe or world around me. This blog, therefor, is about my entire universe of thought and opinion, it is used to see and study all that is around me, and to comment on any subject that catches my fancy for the day.

Many of my friends and family have blogs of various sorts. Only two write regularly; everyone else either cannot find the time, the interest, or the inclination to keep theirs up. Even my wife, who likes to work out issues she's having, doesn't post nearly as often as she makes blogs (you should see her draft page!). She has changed her focus, feels that talking with me about many of the issues is helpful, and, at times, isn't sure what she wants to do with it. Most friends just slowly curtail their writing until they haven't used it in ages. But I keep checking, on the off chance they start up.

Writing isn't for everyone. Mater of fact, I would say that writing is for very few people. And, in today's society, writing has become a lost art form in that texting, sexting, twittering, status updates, and other forms of quick communication have undermined most people's ability to write for longer than a few paragraphs and pay attention for longer than a few sentences.

I don't claim to be a great writer. I don't claim to write about interesting things. But I write. I use it as my form of expression and to work out any issues or thoughts I'm having. By posting it semi-publicly, I can get opinions from anyone who stumbles on it and wants to say something. Hell, that was how I met my wife... my way of doing things seems to be working out okay for me! The only thing inconsistent about it is how often I post. Not every day does something catch my eye or spark my imagination or get my ire up; but I keep happily writing away as the mood and need strike me.

And everything in the omniverse around me is there for the experience!

August 11, 2010

Asked and Answered

Imagine you know how to sew by hand. You have been sewing this way since your parent taught you and, while not an expert by any means, you feel confident with a needle and thread. You have rarely, if ever, used a sewing machine, however.

Now you take this expertise somewhere where your superior asks you, "Can you sew?" You reply strongly in the affirmative. However, what they thought they were asking was 'do you know how to use a sewing machine, all of its attachments, and features?' Your answer to the question asked is completely accurate, honest, and true, but it does not answer the question the boss thought he/she was asking.

The boss, thrilled with your answer, then asks you to perform a task, "I need you to sew the buttons in this jar onto these outfits by lunch time."

After the boss leaves, you pick up a needle and thread, and you get to work. You sew buttons the way you have always done them. You sew them as fast as you can, and you get the job done within the allotted time frame. However, when the boss returns, he/she exclaims, "I thought you knew how to do this? If you didn't know, why didn't you ask me? I would have been happy to teach you how to do it."

You are shocked and more than a little chagrined. You were asked to do something and you did it to the best of your ability and within the time required. There was no question in your mind, so why would you ask the boss a question? All of a sudden, you are in a situation with stress, possible contention with your boss, and maybe both feeling and looking a bit foolish. No matter how gently your boss, coworkers, or whomever broaches the subject, you are at a loss because you have been honest with them and answered all of their questions to the best of your ability. And no one can fault you, per se, for it; they asked questions that didn't lead to the information or answers they needed.

Sometimes this happens in real life, especially in new jobs or when working with new people at an old job. For example, I am a technical writer. This in no way means that I am infallible as a writer or that I know every nuance of every application that I use to perform my job. If I run into someone who knows more about a particular application than I do, they may ask me to do something using that application that I have a "work around" solution for, but which could have been done faster, more efficiently, or simply better another way. But I DO know how to do what they asked and how I did it worked and is repeatable. My way is not wrong, it just isn't the way they would have done it.

Or you are new to a job or have been giving new responsibilities. You are asked to do something that you are sure you know how to do. You get well into it before you realize that your way of doing it isn't working as well, or you feel like you are wasting a lot of time. At this point, you go back to the person who gave you the job and ask questions. They now ask that same question, "If you didn't know, why didn't you ask?" The problem is, you thought you DID know, so there was no point in asking... at the time. Even if you go to them at the first sign of trouble, that question may dog you.

In my experience, it is rarely the person asking the question who takes any responsibility for the answer you give. It is always the other person, the one who tried to do it the way he/she understood or learned to do the task who is at fault. Imagine how much different both the boss and the employee would feel if the boss said, "Your way worked, but I can show you a way that is simpler and easier and will save you time in the future." They are acknowledging that you sewed those buttons on and that the job done will work, but also allowing you to know that there are other ways and building camaraderie with you by offering to teach you the new technique. Win-win for both sides.

I don't know exactly where I am going with this, except maybe to say that sometimes the question you ask is not the question I am answering.