Customer Service: a Dying Art


It’s Friday; bills to pay, groceries to buy, prescriptions to pick up. I’m buying lunch for the guidance department at a local high school – they work too hard!. I’m having lunch with an old friend. I have a couple of odds and ends to finish up at work…

Then I’ll go and meet my newest granddaughter, Marlana,  born April 12.

I tried to make an appointment with my new PCP for today, but she only has office hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – and she is off all next week. Must be nice. So, I have to wait until the 26th for that. That makes me sad because that means I have to wait until after that to see the chiropractor – and I really need to do that. My neck pain persists. Seeing the chiropractor without the benefit of insurance is too expensive, prohibitive. And I have insurance – but my PCP has to tell the insurance company that I can see the chiropractor for an injury he has treated me for off and on for more than a decade. Cuz that makes sense.

I changed PCPs because I was very, very dissatisfied with my former doctor. Some of you may remember the Rheumatologist he referred me to (maybe I’ll repost that here). The RA Dr. transcended idiocy. My PCP’s office messed up on the referrals, prescriptions, appointments… My “physical” consisted of a conversation. Said PCP, was also affiliated with a hospital I won’t use. Well, he is probably still affiliated with that hospital; I’m just not affiliated with him anymore. The insurance company picked this doctor – I picked the one I will see in two weeks. We’ll see if that goes better.

It amazes me that people don’t understand that life is about customer service; from fast food restaurants to doctors’ offices. To me. And you.

It doesn’t really matter what that service is – you are, we all are, or should be, obligated to be polite, caring, and compassionate in our professional dealings. We’re supposed to listen, and try to understand… But, that’s not the American way. Sometimes, I think that most people who deal with the public have to take an ugly attitude test.

Recently, at work, I had to contact Verizon about a contract issue. I had N. talk to him first, while I was working on something else. All we wanted was a local fax number to send our contract letter to. Easy-peasy. N. is the epitome of genteel decorum and I could hear that she was becoming frustrated. I had her put the gentleman on hold so I could talk to him. She tried the good-cop routine, now it was my turn…bad-cop.

I answered the phone in my crisp boss-ish manner, “Hello? To whom am I speaking, please?”

“Mr. Washington.”

“Mr. Washington, this is Dr. Jones, and I would like to get this sorted out. All we need from you is a fax number. I don’t understand why you couldn’t provide that to my assistant.” Ok, so Dr was reaching a little – but only as a technicality. I have enough credits to be a Doctor! And Doctor sounds so much bitchier than Ms.

“Mrs. Jones, I can’t give you confidential information, here at Verizon we work to protect confidentially.”

“It’s Dr. never Mrs., thank you. You business fax is confidential?”

“I can’t give you that information without having all of your account information.”

“But we’re not talking about my account, we’re talking about you’re fax number, Mr. Washington. I think I’d like to talk to your supervisor.”

“About what, Mrs. Jones?”

“It’s Doctor Jones. And I would like to have this resolved. All I want is a fax number – that your company did not include in the correspondence it sent to us. I can’t send a faxed response, without a fax number. I’m sure you understand that. And thus far you have been very uncooperative.” I wanted to say, cantankerous, irascible, obstreperous, I default to these sorts of words when I get angry – peppered with Irish adjectives, most of which start with F, but I figured these were words he wouldn’t grasp. Well other than the f-word (and because this was work related, I refrained from using that). Sometimes simplicity is best.

“I can’t do that, Doctoor Jones.”

I could hear the doors closing around me, as my staff worked to shut me off from the student working in the other room. “Wait, are you telling me you won’t connect me to your supervisor? Can I have your name again?”

“Yes, I am. My name is Mr. Washington.”

“Do you have a first name that I will be able to use in the complaint I intend to file, Mister Washington?”

“No, I don’t.”

Again, I asked to speak to his boss.

Again, he refused.

I tried to contain my rising indignation. Really? You won’t let me talk to your supervisor? Really? God, I hope that call was recorded for training purposes…

Eventually, I got another phone number out of him. I called and spoke with a very nice man named Mike. He apologized about a dozen times – but it was too late. I explained to him that customer service agents like Mr. Washington are the reason people choose other service providers! He and Frances – the woman in Richmond that I finally got on the phone an hour after N. dialed the first number – were both gracious and suggested that I go online and file a formal complaint against Mr. Washington. So, that’s on my to-do list today too…

Yes, I told Mike & Frances I would sing their praises – even if they came along too late to keep my business…

Somebody in Customer Service will care that you were rude, arrogant, cantankerous, obstreperous, and a general ass, Mr. Washington.  I wrote down the number we dialed and the date and time it was dialed — that someone will find you.

Word Count: 995

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2 thoughts on “Customer Service: a Dying Art

  1. Good luck! It would be encouraging to think that any company cares that any of their employees might be “rude, arrogant, cantankerous, obstreperous, and a general ass”. I’ve come to the conclusion most companies offer a full schedule of courses to their employees to promote their ability to exemplify such characteristics. The cap course, of course, is incompetence! As for such “service providers” caring about customers choosing their competitors, forget it. The volume of irate customers and the velocity with which they change providers still support the profit margins required to pay the CEOs their huge salaries and bonuses and after all, isn’t that what they are in business to do?

  2. That is the very reason I won’t give Verizon my money! Their customer service problems are not new at all. I can state at least a 20 yr old problem. It is probably longer. I can’t figure out how they have stayed in business! Their DSL customer service is worse than the Phone service. Now they have a cable service? I wish ATT would buy them out already. Just like they bought T-Mobile.
    I am sorry for the bad day. Grats on the new grand baby!!

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