Sunday, October 16, 2005

customer service? {flashback across a few months}

Moving to a new apartment. Time to get utilities activated. I get the utility I've been dealing with other places before. Luck of the draw. But then, you deal better with the evils you've been accustomed to. Onward ho!

If you've dealt with utility companies in the US (who hasn't ... in the US, that is), you know about the fat sums of money they slap onto your bill for setting the connection up, for signing you on, for administrative hand-waving, along with the teensy-weensy special costs they tack on (and describe with admirable lack of clarity in the fine print at the bottom of your verbose multidimensional bill).

Scarred enough, I did my research by poring the pages on their website (yep, they had a useful one in this case). I found out the most advantageous of their plans. And then I called. The person at the other end was remarkably friendly and accomodating (probably having a good day). Everything checked out fine as far as a background check and collecting information about the apartment was concerned. The only hitch was that the previous tenant still had an outstanding balance. This would be (and was) resolved in a couple of days with a friendly fax from our leasing office.

The next time I called (to confirm that the fax had arrived; can't be too paranoid), things initially went as expected -- the fax was nowhere to be found. Mercifully, the person at the other end found it during the call. And I was all set. We had a start date for the service. And I didn't have to worry about the plan yet until they had started the service.

I call on the starting date to provide my choice of plan. Of course, they've already assigned me a default plan (stupid algorithm this, especially since I was ready with my plan when I first called). But the person at the other end put in the request for a change of plan. And I was told that I didn't need to call back to confirm this.

Flash-forward a few days. I receive a welcome packet, which includes a suspicious letter of disclosure that stated that I had called (on the day that I had called) and "had requested" that they place me on the default plan! Furious to no end, I called back to check the plan on my account. It turned out to be the one I had chosen and not the default plan. No cause for concern.

Yet. I get the first bill, and sure enough it's still the default plan. I call back, and they have strange call log dates, which, coupled with this strange algorithm they follow for determining the plan for a billing period: use the start date for the billing period and find out the existing plan then. Because of the dates involved in all my interactions with them, one segment of my bill would unavoidably fall into the default trap. But the other was clearly in error. But the problem was that they had the wrong call dates. And after talking to three representatives a few days apart, one thing was clear: these people didnt' care, they were not interested in finding out if I had a valid case, they were happy to send me running around blind in the forest.

My final call, however, went to a supervisor (this being the second one), and he was a revelation. He looked up the information, and made his decision in seconds flat. No arguments. No need for me to go into flashback mode again. The adjustment was made, and he even made a generous one, accomodating the previous cycle (a reward for all the bad times I had been through). And near the end he said "when considering the company and the customer, i tend to lean in favour of the customer"

Now, isn't that supposed to be the case in general? With such heavy emphasis on service, shouldn't everyone be doing what this gentleman just did?

Incidentally, why does the a.ntaraa of ishq kamiinaa sound like the a.ntaraa of SJ's title song for Love in Tokyo?

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