Call Center

Phone Failure Fiasco

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Last month I shared that our house took a minor lightning hit, resulting in the need to call our satellite television provider and telephone/Internet provider. The satellite provider understands how to provide great customer service; the phone company does not.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Though my business line was unaffected, our home phone had a loud hum and much static. We could make distorted calls, but no one could call us. The Internet was meandering at one-tenth its normal speed. (Our Internet is on our home line because the phone company insisted that DSL couldn’t be installed on the business line.)

I first reported the problem on Tuesday and was promised resolution by Saturday. My dismay over this delay was met with apathy and unwavering resolve.

Repairs were not made by Saturday, so I called again. After navigating the IVR maze, the agent happily informed me that I had canceled the service call. My insistence to the contrary was met with disbelief – until the agent realized the repair ticket had been filled out incorrectly. He issued a credit and promised repair by the following Friday.

Friday came and went. I called again and was assured everything was working – because the technician had “cleared a short.” When I pointed out that no one had stopped by or called to test the line, the agent reiterated that the repair was complete. I hit my phone’s conference button so the agent could hear the noise on my home phone. “That’s really bad,” she said in surprise. “We’ll have it repaired by Wednesday.” That was unacceptable; I insisted on talking with a supervisor. After holding for twenty-seven minutes, I was disconnected.

By that weekend, our 1.5 megabyte Internet connection had slowed to a mere .01 – even slower than dial-up. Now adept at navigating their inane IVR prompts, I called again. The agent comprehended my frustration, but the Wednesday date was absolute. I informed her that without the Internet, I could not work – but would have all day to call them. She then told me to report my Internet problems to a different number. I was issued another credit, and the trouble was finally escalated.

On Tuesday, the repairman arrived midmorning. He looked inside the interface box and said, “You’ve been hit by lightning!” Soon we were back in business.

How to provide poor customer service:

  • Fill out the report incorrectly
  • Be apathetic about lengthy delays
  • Irritate customers with irrelevant and time-consuming IRV options
  • Disbelieve or argue with the customer
  • Disconnect people waiting for a supervisor
  • Require a customer to call multiple numbers
  • Insist that things are fixed when they aren’t

Other items I didn’t mention:

  • Waste an hour making the customer reinstall and reprogram their modem
  • Threaten that there will be a $90 charge if it’s not the phone company’s problem
  • Warn that if no one is home with they come out – even though they can’t specify when that will be – they might not fix the problem
  • Take thirteen days to repair the issue

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

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