An Alternate Universe

September 7, 2012

Sometimes I feel as though I am living in an alternate universe.  I hear people talking and find that their responses don’t seem to match the conversation that they are having.  It’s as if they have pushed a disconnect button on their listening skills and they are answering questions that haven’t been asked and/or they are ignoring the questions that have been asked.

A few weeks ago, I called one of my credit card companies and told the representative that I seem to have misplaced my credit card.  I told him that I hadn’t used it in a while and said that I’m sure it’s in the house somewhere but I’d like him to send me another one with the same account number but a different expiration date and a different security code.  He told me that company policy is that I have to have a different account number because they wouldn’t issue a new card with the old account number.

We went back and forth on this.  I told him that I’m sure the card wasn’t stolen; that it’s here somewhere; I just don’t know where it is at the moment and couldn’t see why I couldn’t just keep my old account number with a new expiration date and a new security code.

Another few minutes went by and then, all of a sudden, he said, “I’ll be sending out a new card with the old account number and a new expiration date and security code.  Should we overnight it to you or send it by regular mail?”

I felt as though I was in the Twilight Zone.

He didn’t say something like, “I have good news for you; the system is letting me put through a new card with your old account number along with a new expiration date and security code.”  He just made it sound as though this was a different conversation.

I didn’t know what to think so I figured I’d wait and see what my new card revealed.  Sure enough.  The new card has my old account number and a new expiration date and a new security code.  What happened to the company’s policy of new card, new account number?  What happened to all his arguments that the company has these rules for my protection?

Was I having one of those alternate universe experiences?  I wish I could say that it was one of those rare instances but I see it happening with alarming frequency.  There seems to be such a great disconnect between the communicator and the communicatee that it’s a wonder that two people can ever have a clear understanding about anything.

Today I had a similar situation with my bank.  For all the years I have been with this bank, the one thing I have always liked about it is that there was always a live customer service representative to talk to and, whenever I called, I was either connected  immediately or put on hold for two minutes, rarely longer.  This superior customer service has kept me from going elsewhere all these years.

This morning when I called, the outgoing message said that I had connected to their automated customer service center.  I didn’t want their automated customer service center; I wanted to speak to a live representative.  Thinking I dialed the wrong number, I dialed it again a few more times.

Then I Googled them and it said to dial their toll-free number but that I could no longer press zero to get past the automated customer service center.  There was a drop down menu that asked how many minutes I had to wait to be connected and I typed in 36 minutes.  Then it asked if I was satisfied with the service and to rate it.  I rated it as horrible.  Then it asked if I wanted to leave a message, and yes, I did.

I said that this was terrible customer service and that the only reason I have stayed with the bank up until now has been because of their great customer service.  I also said that I was wondering how many of their customers they were going to lose as a result of this new way of handling their customers.  

Thirty-six minutes later, after finally getting connected to a live person, she didn’t give me the proper information but she confirmed the fact that I could no longer dial zero to get past the outgoing message.  Frustration doesn’t begin to cover it.

I called again and after waiting another thirty-eight minutes to get through, I was finally able to speak to a representative who has been helping me for years and he gave me the correct information for my account as well as telling me that when I get the automated message, I can still dial zero and it will take me directly to a representative.

How do people in business understand each other?  How do they get anything right?  I learned a long time ago that when it comes to business, I want to get everything in writing.

If I’m getting a quote on something, it’s not enough to get the price of the item.  I want that quote to include the materials and grade of the materials used, the process that is being used, the time they estimate the job will take, etc.  I want to be able to compare apples with apples, not apples with oranges.

But how do they communicate with each other when they don’t have these things in writing?  I used to be fairly articulate and made my needs understood.  Now I’m wondering if I’m under the delusion that I’m still living in the real world but I’m actually living in an alternate universe.  Or am I still living in the real world and are these other people living in an alternate universe?

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