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October 18, 2011

More Phone Frustrations

This time, it was T-Mobile. I went online to in order to check my cell phone's balance. The screen has a section for the minutes balance and for the dollar amount balance. The minutes was listed as "0" while the dollar amount balance was correct.

I called customer support in order to ask why my minutes balance was 0. First, getting a live voice on the phone was difficult. Pressing 0 simply errored, the automated voice did NOT want to give me up to a live person. I finally figured out to answer the questions incorrectly three times in a row so that it would get confused and would be forced to transfer me to live person.

The first live person was happy to give me my balance in minutes. He didn't understand that what I was calling about was an issue with the online site. Finally got him to understand and he transferred me to Trenton, part of the the "Technical Support" group. Unfortunately, this was technical support for the phone itself and not for the online site. So, he struggled to understand what the problem was. I finally had him log in to my account and look at it online from his end (they have a backdoor way of looking at any customer's account). Once I pointed out that the "minutes" section read "0," he understood and transferred me to a third person. This person was in Technical Support for the online services, was in India, and had her head up her ass.

I kept telling her that my ONLINE minutes balance was listed as ZERO. She kept telling me that I simply had to dial pound-number-number-number-pound in order to get my balance. I said, "How will that help me to see the proper balance online?" She responded with, "It will give you the proper balance." It took me over 10 minutes of explaining it a bunch of different ways before I got her to understand that I KNEW I could get my balance other ways, but that I was using their online site and it was wrong.

Then she tried to blame it on "we're currently performing an online update." Yeah, right. Every single time I've called any company with an online issue of a similar nature, they try to blame it on an update. Apparently all companies are performing online updates 24/7, so don't rely on their sites. Or I'm just lucky enough that, no matter when I go online, the company I'm visiting just happens to have that time scheduled for their updates. I badgered her on this until I finally got her to escalate the issue to a supervisor.

I then asked if I could give her my home phone number so that the supervisor could contact me when the problem was resolved. "Oh, no, sir, we're not allowed to call customers."

"Well, then, how will I know when this issue is resolved?" I asked.

"You can call in after 24 hours and check on the ticket..."

"No. YOU have the information. YOUR company knows when this will be resolved. I do NOT want to start calling in once a day HOPING the problem is resolved, having to go through your awful phone system, being transferred a half dozen times, only to find out it is not resolved. Your supervisor can contact ME. How about sending me an email, if he's not allowed to call?"

"Well, I guess that might be all right," she said, and took down my public email address.

Now, I have little to no hope that I will actually get an email when this problem is resolved. It's the principle of the matter. If the company has all of the information, they should contact me when it is resolved, not the other way around.

Why do phone companies make dealing with them so difficult?

Here's how I envisioned the phone call going:

Me: When I log into my account online, the website shows my "minutes" as zero. When you check my account, you'll see that I have $95.11 balance and a ton of minutes. Why is the online site incorrectly showing my minutes balance as zero?
Them: Let me log into your account. Hmmm, yes, you're right. I see that it is showing zero even tho you have 950 minutes left on your balance. Let me forward this request to the proper department so they know about this error and they can correct it. Is there anything else today?
Me: No. Thank you. (See, at this point, I have done what I wanted to do [inform them of the error on the website] and do not need to have them contact me back when the problem is resolved. I assume they will take care of it.)

Is this too much to ask?

October 14, 2011

More Unprofessional Bell Aliant Customer Support

Frequent readers of this blog will note that I have had issues with Bell Aliant (BA) in the past. Well, they've done it again.

On July 19th, my wife and I called BA to ask some questions about our existing account and about getting fiberop internet installed. We spoke with Lance. During that call, we tried to canceled my cell phone line. Lance explained that he could not cancel it immediately and that all cell phone cancellations required a 30 day notice. That's fine, I told him, consider this our 30 day cancellation notice and note it on our account. He did, and we assumed in 30 days, on August 18th, the line would be dead and the charges would be dropped.

Our next bill had the charges from Aug. 18 to Sept 18 on it. My wife made a note of that and showed it to me, at which time I immediately called the help number. I spoke with Tiffany on October 4th at 8:15pm. She said that "something had gone wrong with the cancellation request." For some unexplained reason, she could not cancel that for me but Lance could. She made a note on our account and set it up so that Lance would credit our account and give me a call back to explain what had happened and what he had done to solve the problem. I was to give Lance 48 hours from that phone call to accomplish this and call me.

On October 8 (didn't write down the time), I called and spoke with Alan. I explained the entire situation, told him I was angry that Lance had not contacted me, and wondered if those charges had been reversed and the line closed. They had not. Alan also said that he could not do it (and also gave no reason why). He put me on hold, spoke to Lance's supervisor, explained the situation, and returned to the line. He said that  Lance's supervisor was now aware of the situation and he (Alan) absolutely "guaranteed" Lance would call me the next day after he had reversed the charges, shut down the extra line, and resolved my issue.

On October 11, mid-morning, I called back. I had a 48 minute wait time on hold before a customer rep picked up the line. I spoke with Joe, who was nice, polite, respectful, and dealt with the ration of shit I gave him very capably. I once again explained the situation, he verified that all of that was in the account, and told me that Lance's supervisor had closed the line on October 9th and Lance had credited some, but not all, of the requested amount off of our account. Joe then went in and adjusted the rest of the appropriate amount off of our account. I then explained to Joe that I was very angry over BA's lack of professionalism in not calling me when my account clearly stated that Lance was supposed to call me back and explain the situation to my satisfaction. Joe apologized on behalf of the company. I, however, wanted to speak to Lance's supervisor. As Joe was in a different call center, he could not arrange that himself. He noted my request on the account, sent Lance's supervisor the information, and requested he contact me the next day, or when he next was working (Joe did not know the supervisor's work schedule). Joe assured me our next bill would show credits indicating the reversal of charges from August 18th through October 9th. He also assured me I would get my requested phone call from Lance's supervisor.

Today is October 14. I have yet to receive a phone call from Lance or Lance's supervisor and no messages have been left on our phone. I work from home, so I am here 99% of the time. We have call waiting, so I would have heard the beep if he had called during one of the rare times I was on the phone. We have an answering service, so he could have left a message had I been unavailable to answer.

I think I have been more than patient with BA's customer support on this. Yet, with the exception of Joe, I've really received no assistance at all and what, I feel, is fairly unprofessional behavior.

In the end, after three phone calls, I finally found someone who could properly and correctly (I hope) reverse the charges and verify the line was cancelled. I feel that this should have been handled either a) correctly by Lance in the first place so that I didn't have to call BA at all or b) by Tiffany the very first time I called. There should have been no "Lance has to take care of that" crap from Tiffany or Alan. However, once that happened, Lance should have contacted me back as requested. Failing that, Lance's supervisor should have made it a priority to contact me back. Each of these instances is a case of unprofessional behavior that should be used as a training exercise for all new and existing customer support representatives and supervisors in the future.

I should probably let this go at this point, but I sort of want to make a point of it now with BA. I'm considering calling back and asking for the manager in charge of supervisors so that I can explain the entire situation and vent my frustrations. Provide him with at least one shining, well-documented case of poor customer support and give him a chance to rectify the situation in some fashion. Of course, most of my Canadian friends (even those who work for the company) will just tell me that this is fairly par for the course with BA, and I should move on. But I feel that the company won't ever improve unless people are vocal about the issues.

What do you think?

UPDATE 10/17/2011
My wife has forwarded our complaints directly to a contact at Bell Aliant support, and the contact is putting it into the company's internal review process (after agreeing that this is not good customer support at all). I still have not received a phone call to apologize or explain this situation from either Lance or Lance's supervisor.

UPDATE 10/18/2011
Received phone call from Shelly. She apologized profusely for the unprofessional manner in which BA customer support has handled this issue. She gave us one month free of ALL services. She is also sending out the area supervisor to check on our fibreop cable (a complaint I didn't note above) and is forwarding our Mobility complaint to a special customer support liaison similar to her at the Mobility branch, who should be contacting me in a day or two. If they don't, Shelly provided me with her direct line and I can call her back to continue the complaint.

Now THIS is customer support. Why couldn't Tiffany, Alan, Lance, or Lance's supervisors respond so quickly, efficiently, and kindly?

UPDATE 10/18/2011
Got a phone call back from the Mobility side of things. The woman (I didn't catch her name and forgot to ask her to repeat it before we rang off) apologized profusely for how I was treated each step of the way. She said that Lance was wrong to not provide the cancellation immediately. Tiffany was wrong to say Lance had to do it and not transfer me to the cancellation unit for immediate assistance. Alan was wrong for the same reason and for "guaranteeing" a phone call back the next day. Joe is getting an accommodation for giving good service and a note/fyi to transfer a customer like me directly to a manager, even if it isn't the "right" manager, so that my concerns can be addressed immediately. Lance, Tiffany, Alan, and Lance's supervisor are all getting negative reviews due to this series of events.

In addition, she provided us with one additional month's credit on the now-cancelled phone line, since she saw I hadn't used it the preceding month. And, last but not least, SHE thanked ME for being dogged on this, as she knows far too many people just let it go and the company cannot learn or make good on issues like this.

October 12, 2011

Passing of a Friend and Mentor

My best friend just let me know his father, Eric, passed away. His dad had been sick with leukemia for awhile, and was home on hospice care. When my wife and I went back to California a few weeks ago, we made sure to make time to visit with Eric. It was tough seeing him in the final stages of his life, but I am thankful that I got to talk with him and share some time before he passed.

Eric was one of my English teachers during high school; I had him for two of the four years. He always used to write "Wordy" at the top of any paper I turned in to him, as well as correcting any flaws in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. He would often tell me that he was sure I could write better, that I had a better idea in there somewhere, and I just needed to let it out. It became my goal to turn in a paper on which he had no chance of writing "wordy" and that he could not say I left something behind, or out, or not fully developed. I did not succeed in the first year, but one of the final papers I turned in to him my second year finally, finally, did not have that dreaded word at the top. I got an A- on that paper. Eric does not know this, but I kept that paper with me and it helped guide and assure me as I finally chose to major in English Literature and Composition in college and pursue a career using writing. Unfortunately, during one of my many moves, that paper got lost.

Eric was also a friend to me, and a bit of a father-figure. His son, Chris, became my best friend, and we hung out a lot in high school and afterward. Eric, and his wonderful, strange, genuine wife Norma, let me hang out for some of their family activities. He gladly was Dungeon Master for Chris and me on occasion. He was someone I went to when I had issues with school that I did not want to share with my mother (who was also a teacher at the high school). I did not always follow his advice, but it was always sound, from a different perspective from my parents or my own experience, and usually filled with a dry, wry humor I enjoyed, so it was worth listening to.

Chris and I lived together at college and for a few years afterward, as we both tried to make our starts in the world, so I saw Eric frequently as I grew into an adult. He continued to shed perspective, insight, and humor on anything I brought to his attention. I listened to him even when I did not agree with him, because he often taught me something... even if it was against my will.

I now make my living as a technical writer, a career where I am not allowed to be wordy and where adjectives are verboten. I'm sure Eric would be satisfied, and maybe a little proud, to know he was one of a small group of teachers who pushed me in this direction, helped mold who I am, and helped hone my skills so that I could make a living doing something I enjoy.

And I am absolutely, positively certain he's looking over my shoulder right now and thinking, "Wrap it up, John. This is getting wordy. You're hiding your premise." You know what, Eric? Sometimes, just sometimes, it's okay to be wordy. Now is that time.

Rest in peace, Eric. You'll be both remembered and missed.

October 5, 2011

Speak Your Mind

Just once, I'd like to see a celebutard speak their mind and not back down from it. Hank Williams, Jr. and Johnny Depp are the most recent ones to make stupid statements and then have to backtrack fast when it is pointed out to them their statements were offensive. Williams equated President Obama and Majority Leader Boehner having a "golf summit" to Hitler and Netanyahu meeting. While he may have made poor choices in his analogy, most of us know that Williams is a life-long Republican, right-wing, and very conservative. We can assume he does not have a favorable opinion of the current Democrat President. So why are we so upset and surprised when he makes this analogy?

At first I thought Williams might not back down. He was given every opportunity to do so, and didn't take them. Only after his current, main meal-ticket decided not to use his song to open Monday Night Football did he realize how pervasive his gaffe was and that he may have to make an apology. The thing is, his analogy isn't all that flawed. Yes, he used "Hitler," which no one in this current PC universe can use in any way without reprisals, but otherwise he made a decent analogy: Boehner and Obama are as politically opposite (at least in public comments) as possible, like a Jewish leader and a leader who killed Jews are far apart in ideology. I think the only reason why this is a brouhaha is because he said "Hitler."

Depp equated being photographed without his permission to the heinous act of rape. Gee, you think that might just infuriate some people? This was just stupid on his part. He immediately wrote a letter apologizing for the comparison to RAINN. I do not agree with this comparison, but Depp was leading toward a truth: paparazzi are in a position of power over celebrities, they force themselves on these celebrities, they do not take "no" for an answer, and they do not respect any sort of boundaries (children, personal time, etc.). All of these are similar to the actions of rapist. The same? No, of course not. Similar? Yes. So why are we upset with the analogy?

I, personally, do not condone either of these analogies. However, I'm smart enough to understand they are analogies. The people saying them do not mean them literally. On top of that, they are being interviewed and recorded; interviews wander, they are spur of the moment, and they are on the record. The celebrities do not know which parts will be used, if they will be used in context or out, and if what they said will make sense in the context of the entire, meandering conversation. If each of us were being recorded and asked tough, surprising, or interesting questions, we would make some similar gaffes.

I wish that one of these two, or any of the next few, would simply not respond to the gaffe or would respond in such a way to say, "Yes, I said that. While my choice of words may be regrettable, I think the analogy is valid. If you were personally offended by the analogy, maybe you should look up the word "analogy" and make sure you fully understand it."

This PC craze has gone to ludicrous and incredible heights. People need to grow a pair and stop being offended by any colorful use of the language, take things in context instead of always out of context, and grow up. I would give you an analogy of what the PC craze is like, but I'm afraid I'd have to apologize for it later.

October 4, 2011


Am having some trouble with my stomach, throat, digestion. My GP decided it was serious enough to both provide me with a new medication to try and to get an endoscopy to see if there was anything physically wrong. As luck would have it, my GE had an opening and could get me in much more quickly than my GP thought, so I had that done yesterday.

I've had two other endoscopies done in the past, for similar reasons. In one they found a large ulcer in my throat and discovered I have a hiatal hernia, in the other they could not figure out what was causing my issues. In both cases, however, since I was under the effects of the "twilight" medication (a drug derived from Valium used to keep you conscious but make it so you don't remember the procedure (or discomfort/pain from it)) the doctor spoke with my mother about the dos and don'ts, gave her an overview of what happened and what they found, and gave her the plan for going forward.

This time, however, they told ME all that information. While the doctor did provide me with a sheet that showed the main points and the going-forward plan for my medications, he, or one of the nurses, told me all of the immediate things while I was in a drug-induced haze. Even though I kept asking for them to go get my wife, who was waiting in the waiting room, they said no and kept talking to me. So, here it is the next day, and I can only barely remember bits and pieces of the conversation. I know I'm supposed to stay away from certain foods and drinks (I remember acidic drinks, but that's it), I'm supposed to watch for something, I'm supposed to go to my GP or the ER if something else happens, but I don't remember what those things are because I was medicated.

It makes no sense to me that they would sit and explain this stuff to me, especially after being very careful to tell them how well I react to the medication, that it knocks me out for the entire day, and that I do not remember most of either of the other two times I had endoscopies done because of the medication. Knowing that, as a medical professional, wouldn't you listen to your patient and go get his wife, for whom he keeps asking? Wouldn't you write everything down for him, at the very least?

Overall, I like my new GE. He's a young guy, seems to genuinely want me to be as healthy as I can be, and cares about the medications and quality of life of me (and, I assume, all his other patients). But in this one area, he and his staff really seemed to let the ball drop.