On Friday, June 22, the New York area was hit with a storm that brought heavy rain and a fair amount of thunder and lightning. The lightning knocked out my phone, Internet, and satellite TV.
With just a simple reboot of the satellite TV system and a few minutes of waiting for it to synch up with my account information, my DirecTV was up and running in no time. My phone and Internet service experience wasn’t quite so seamless.
I’ll start with my telephone service woes. I placed a call to Verizon’s toll-free number. The automated system did a great job of guiding me through the process of initiating a trouble ticket, and even conducted a test of the line. I was clearly impressed, until the system told me that the earliest a repairman would be able to get to my house was July 2 (a full nine days later). Unacceptable, I said, and I immediately got transferred to a live agent. I tried to explain that I couldn’t be without a telephone for that long. The agent didn’t relent, and so I had to wait. Luckily, I have a cell phone.
When the big day arrived, I opted for a work-from-home day so I’d be there to greet the service technician when he showed up. I woke up bright and early, confident that if I decided to sleep until 10 a.m. the guy would be banging on my door at 8 a.m. I put the dog out, made a cup of coffee, and started to get ready for my day. Then I got a text message to my cell phone from Verizon. All it said was “Your Verizon repair is scheduled today by 7 p.m.,” with an option to cancel or reschedule if I wanted.
What happened to the typical four-hour window that companies usually give? “The repairman will be there between 8 and noon or 2 to 6,” would have been nice. After all, I had things to do and places to go.
I called Verizon yet again. The automated system took my number, called up my account information, and even made note of the fact that I had a service appointment scheduled for that day. If I wanted to discuss the appointment, it could transfer me to an agent. Wow, now that’s how voice self-service is supposed to be.
I pressed the agent for some kind of ETA, but she assured me—as politely as possible—that she couldn’t give me anything more, citing company procedures about how service technicians are dispatched and how they work their scheduled stops for the day.
So there I sat at my front door, waiting… and waiting… and waiting some more. I couldn’t move, knowing full well that if I walked two blocks to the mailbox, the service tech would show up, get no answer, and be gone, and then I’d have to wait another two weeks for the next available appointment. And so I sat and waited some more.
If it wasn’t for Dan Brown, I’d probably have gone insane. I bought his latest novel, “The Lost Symbol” when it came out last year but hadn’t started reading it yet. What a perfect time to start.
Several hundred pages into the book, I see a Verizon truck finally roll up. It’s now almost 4 p.m. The work day is practically done, and I got nothing accomplished, but more on that later.
So the guy comes in, does what he has to do, and my phone is back up and running. It’s now almost 4:30. It turns out lightning was to blame, causing a power surge that fried some of my equipment.
I was happy with the service delivered by the technician, but surely Verizon could have done more to narrow the window for his arrival. After all, there’s a lot riding on it. According to a 2010 Cost of Waiting survey, 69 percent of Americans have had to wait at home for something, and 21 percent of them chose to shop or subscribe to a competing company based on their in-home appointment experiences.
Arhaus, a furniture retailer, found a way around this. Aware of how damaging a poor in-home appointment experience can be to customer satisfaction, it turned to technology for help. With the ETA solution from TOA Technologies, Arhaus can pinpoint the exact time a driver will reach a customer’s home. Through automated phone calls, the retailer makes sure customers are continually in the loop. The retailer even adds a little security by providing customers a photograph of their delivery person for verification purposes.
Now that’s what I would have liked. I could have been so much more productive that way. Which brings me to my second bad experience with customer service.
AT&T provides my Internet service, which was also knocked out during the storm. So I called its toll-free number as well. I waited on hold for about a half an hour, with little more than a looping “Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line” to keep me entertained. Finally a human voice cuts in. After the tech support guy does a couple tests on the line, he concludes that my modem got fried, and so we mutually agree to have a new one shipped to my house. It’ll be there in three to five business days, I’m told.
When it doesn’t arrive by the following Friday, I again call customer service. The person tells me that the trouble ticket was drafted and the resolution was logged, but no one followed up. She apologizes profusely as she tells me that no one actually put the new modem in the mail. As a courtesy for my patience, she promises that the company will put a rush on the delivery and I’ll have it by Monday morning. This is the same day Verizon is due to come, so I figured I could set up my new modem and get some work done while I’m waiting for the Verizon guy.
The morning comes and goes, and now it’s early afternoon. So I call back to find out where my new modem is. The customer service rep tells me the person I spoke to on Friday had it all wrong and UPS doesn’t pick up deliveries from their location on the weekends. That means that instead of Monday my modem wouldn’t arrive until Tuesday. So much for getting any work done, and so much for AT&T’s customer service rating in my mind.
My new modem should be waiting for me when I get home tonight. If it’s not, I’ll do my best to summon a plague of locusts to AT&T’s DSL technical support center headquarters.
In the meantime, I hope both AT&T and Verizon take a basic lesson—improving the customer experience, especially in this day and age, should be priority number one. I can’t be expected to wait forever, not when someone with faster, better customer service could be right around the corner.