Fighting Back

November 21, 2012

The telephone company is notorious for trying to push products and services on its customers.  In the old days, it wasn’t too bad.  They gave their spiel and they also took care of my telephone repairs.

A couple of years ago things changed drastically.

I was having some major difficulties with my phones.  The lines kept crossing, had static, and kept disconnecting calls, and no one could figure out why it was happening or how to fix it.  They sent one inept repairman after another and no one had the expertise to correct the problem.

First they blamed it on the installation but when they found out that their own installers had done the wiring, they looked around for someone or something else to blame.

They asked for my permission to discuss products and pricing plans and said that my answer wouldn’t affect the repair of my phone lines.  I was too stressed out about the phones not working to argue the point.  I figured that I could listen to their pitch as long as they fixed the malfunctioning telephone lines.

That was a stupid mistake on my part.

I had already gone through a lot of managers and supervisors and the phones still weren’t working.  With each call, I had to wait another seven or eight days for another repairman to come to the house.  And no one could figure out what was wrong.  Each repairman blamed the previous repairman for the malfunction.
In the meantime, the last supervisor told me that she was sure I wouldn’t be having these problems if I switched to U-Verse because it was on a fiber optic network which the regular phone lines weren’t.

What did I know?  So I said OK.  But there was a hitch.  Actually, there were a few hitches.

The first hitch was that it required both an outside repairman and an inside repairman to make the switch and they couldn’t coordinate their schedules.  Meanwhile, the supervisor kept trying to push other services on me and I still didn’t have phone lines that worked.

Whenever I tried to find out about the U-Verse technicians making the switch, the supervisor would try to talk to me about another product or service.

I was OK with some of the services but I remained firm that I did not want my bills bundled.  Previous experience with the phone company showed me that if I wanted to stop a service, I’d have to jump through hoops to get them to straighten out the billing problems.  So, now when the supervisor tried to get me to agree to bundling my services, I declined and told her I wanted separate bills for each line.

At this point, I was still OK with signing up for U-Verse Internet but I didn’t want to bundle my TV or my phones.  The supervisor was miffed; she wanted me to bundle everything and agree to services I didn’t want.

This supervisor not only didn’t complete the U-Verse installation order for the Internet, but she also pulled the plug on my repairs; she actually got rid of the repair ticket.  So now I had no fiber optic network, no phones that worked adequately, and no one who knew that my phone lines needed to be repaired.

In the end, it didn’t matter because I moved shortly after that to a neighborhood that didn’t have switched telephone wires but the experience taught me a valuable lesson.

It no longer matters whether it’s the telephone company or any other company . . . when I’m asked if they have my permission to have me take a survey or discuss products and services, I automatically say “No, you don’t have my permission.  I just want to discuss the problem I’m having with . . .” whatever it is at the time.

At first I was concerned that they might not want to take care of whatever service problem I was calling about, but I found out that it is far better not to combine sales and repairs in the same phone call.

There used to be a division between customer service and sales. Nowadays, companies try to economize by making their customer service representatives also responsible for meeting a sales quota.  The end result is that their salespeople don’t have very good customer service skills and their customer service representatives aren’t very good at sales.

I think there needs to be more competition in the telecommunication industry.  When you have so few companies providing telephone service, they don’t have to do much to attract and retain their customers.  On the other hand, they could take a page from cell phone providers who have a lot of competition and are forced to deal more effectively with their customers.

Given my many unsatisfactory experiences with the telephone company, if my cell phone provider ever gets into the field of servicing land lines, I’d switch in an instant.  But for right now, I don’t care what great deals on products or services my telephone company is offering, I will no longer allow them to discuss anything with me but the reason for my call.

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