Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Customer Service, Where Art Thou?

The electric bill arrived in the mail with a note that said I needed to call for a meter reading schedule because they could no longer estimate my electricity usage. I postponed making the call as long as I could because I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I had no idea what I was in for.

Call #1 (after following the automated prompts and receiving a live person):
Me: Hi, I need a meter reading schedule.
Customer Service Rep: Huh? (said with a foreign accent)
Me: I need a meter reading schedule (said louder and with more enunciation).
CSR: Huh?
CSR: (no audible response)
Me: (hanging up the phone)

Call #2 - 1 week later
Me: Hi, I need a meter reading schedule.
CSR: Ok. What your address?
Me: (giving address while pondering why that is not listed anywhere in my account)
CSR: So that's V-L-O?
Me: (wondering whether there is any street in the English language that begins with that combination of letters, but spelling my street name again)
CSR: Okay, so your address is . . . (transposing the numbers)
Me: (giving correct numbers again)
CSR: Okay. I mail you meter schedule for rest of year. Then you call back in January for another one.
Me: How about if you put a note in my account that says, "Customer requests that a 2010 meter reading schedule be mailed when it is ready."
CSR: Ohhh. You hold while I type that.

So when I found an envelope from the electric company in my mailbox the following Saturday, I thought I could check that task off my to-do list. Until I opened the envelope and found my payment history. For the last 3 years. Clearly, that sounds exactly like a "meter reading schedule."

Call #3 (becoming accustomed to calling electric company on my lunch hour)
Me: (interrupting recorded prompts) Supervisor!
Electric Co's robotic prompt: I understand tha tyou want to talk to a live person, but please answer some additional questions, so I can direct you to the right person.
Me: (playing along)
Live CSR: How can I help you?
Me: I need to speak to a supervisor.
CSR: I'm sorry, I can't do that until you give me some information.
[There is a 5-minute conversation during which I get pretty ugly because none of my reasons, including my I-have-a-problem-with-my-bill excuse, meet this gatekeeper's expectations. I don't recall the magic words that got me placed on hold for exactly 5 minutes before a manager picked up.]
Me: I have a simple problem that you can resolve.
Manager: Okay.
Me: I need a meter reading schedule, but my 2 previous phone calls have not resulted in that.
Manager: I see that we sent you one on Oct. 19.
Me: No, unfortunately, you sent me a payment history.
Manager: Oh.
Me: So if you'd put a meter reading schedule in the mail, I'd appreciate it.
Manager: Okay. I just need to place you on hold for 4-5 minutes.
Me: You have my request and you have my address, so please just put the schedule in the mail.
Manager: We understand that it is an inconvenience to place you on hold, but company policy says that we can't make any changes to your account without your being on the phone.
Me: But, I am on the phone with you right now, and you are in my account. What do you need from me after the hold time?
Manager: Nothing.

It wasn't pretty after that folks. I tried to explain how that was the definition of insanity; he played the "policy" card again and told me I wouldn't get a schedule if I hung up; and I hung up on principle. I felt like I'd logged my share of hold time.

To say that I was angry after I got off the phone with the electric company would be putting it mildly. I felt played. I have a simple request; I'm not even arguing over my bill (yet). But for whatever reason, I'm not being heard or understood.

I think that the frustration that surfaced as a result of those calls was really the culmination of feeling unheard in other areas of my life. Like feeling unheard by God. I know that's not true. But it feels that way sometimes. And in the midst of that, I can scream and pout and ignore Him, or I can continue to put my requests before Him and wait expectantly for an answer, knowing that He always hears and sometimes chooses to say "no" or "not now."

Just like the electric company with the meter reading schedule. Speaking of which, it looks like I'm due to put in another request. Wish me luck on that.


michelle said...

i also lose it in those situations...
please don't make me think about the sprint incident of 02...
it got ugly.

Jamie said...

Oh my goodness....I am still laughing...I have had conversations like that where I end up just screaming...customer service...customer service...I am a calm, rational person until I get an automated phone system!! I would pay money to hear your phone conversation...

Clarissa said...

Why do you have to RESQUEST a schedule, why don't they just send one to you of their own accord? I don't get why this is your responsibility. Idiots.

Momma Bean said...

I completely agree with Clarissa!

Sarah said...

Uhh, how frustrating. So sorry.

Krista said...

Alyssa with a little vinegar in her!! Whoa!!