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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Digitalization

Posted by Raul on May 9, 2011

 

It was about ten o’clock in the morning when the doorbell ringed; I opened the door and found a technician from Comcast (my IP provider) who claimed to be here to activate the requested phone service (which I have with Qwest). Surprised as I was I told him that nobody requested such service, and I wasn’t expecting anyone from Comcast to show up. He checked in his (seemed to me) cell phone and confirmed the appointment, so I had no option but to insist that I didn’t want to switch my phone service to them and asked him to cancel such work order. He apologized for the inconvenience, worked in his cell phone and told me the order was cancelled; then he left.

That same day in the afternoon the doorbell ringed again, I opened the door and found another person from Comcast, this time introducing himself as a supervisor who was in the area checking for customer satisfaction. He asked for the installation of the new modem for the internet service and asked if everything was OK with the technician coming in the morning. I told him the technician didn’t mention anything about switching the modem, but instead he wanted to connect phone service; that I explained to the man it was a mistake and nobody had requested such service; and so that I dismissed the technician.

He apologized for the confusion and explained that the purpose of the technician wasn’t to connect phone service but to upgrade the modem for a better and even cheaper bill internet service. He explained that with the new modem customers have a smaller bill, and he didn’t want me to find out later that my neighbors are paying less than I for the same service with the company. He wrote down a new work order for the following day in the morning for a technician to show up and switch the internet modem. He told me then, if anything happened and it was not possible for a technician to show up in time, he will call me and let me know. I thanked him for his courtesy and, holding the white copy of the work order, I closed the door and smiled for the outstanding customer service the company has shown (silly me!).

Nobody showed up and nobody called to explain why!

That’s fine, there’s time to switch to a modern modem if the need arises, I thought.

The next day I tried to create a new email address to use exclusively with the scooter’s club I participate in, so went through the process in my Outlook Express and, copying all the steps from the actual address I have, created a new one for the specific purpose.

It didn’t work!

After several attempts I decided to call Comcast’s customer service and ask for help; after all they claim I can have up to seven email addresses within the contract.

My first call was for service in Spanish, so there’ll be no misunderstandings because of language (I am Chilean). The lady who answered was a big time talker, repeating several cliché phrases about my satisfaction, customer priority, etc, but didn’t know about the system more than I do, so there was no solution to the problem. By the end of the call she asked if there was something else she could help me with (she wasn’t any help with the first issue), so I mentioned about the modem switch work order that didn’t happened. She checked her computer and confirmed the work order for installing phone service, not switching modem! I asked (in my best calmed and controlled voice) that I wanted to cancel the phone connection since I didn’t request it. She said she couldn’t do that but she could connect me with the sales department; I accepted and she made the switch. The lady (speaking in English) didn’t hear me, so after several attempts I had to just hang up the phone.

With my state of mind a little in the high tone (which is known in my country as “boiling shit”) I called again to customer service, this time in English, to ask for help with setting the new email address. The man who answered could barely hear me and didn’t understand my talking (I must clarify; when I’m mad my English pronunciation is better than normal since I speak at a slower speed and trying to modulate better -That’s the way you know I’m mad). Again there was no solution; he went to the same process I did first and got to the same place I did: Nowhere. I mentioned if they might have a problem in their system and, after repeating and repeating everything I said, finally, out of rage, I told him “How do you want to sell me phone service if you cannot even hear me on the phone?” and hanged up.

To calm down I decided to surf the net for a moment and found out now I didn’t have internet service! With my fist pointing to the heavens I screamed “Damn you Comcast!” Well…not really, but I was mad at them.

At home there are three computers connected to the internet through the same contract with Comcast. Only one had internet!

With my almost non-existent knowledge and skills about computers, I checked everything I could to make the three computers have internet. I disconnected the router and plugged by turn each computer straight to the modem, to first discard the possibility of a faulty router. Every computer had internet this way, but only after doing a re-start. My conclusion was that Comcast can only recognize and accept one computer (I don’t know about computers and/or IP companies remember?).

Tired of getting nowhere I decided to drive to a Comcast office close by to ask for a technician to come by and check the whole system. I didn’t want to call again (I have a very sensitive shit!). My thoughts were that, if it was required to talk on the phone with customer service to change codes or something like that, a technician could do that from my place better than I.

I took a bill statement with me as proof of customer and all the numbers they might need to identify me as such. The lady took the statement and scanned it, so all the information about my account appeared in her computer screen. I explained I wanted to set an appointment for a technician to come by and check why I didn’t have internet. She said the computer showed I didn’t have a forty five dollars a month service that will allow me to receive a technician without cost, so the fee for a visit would be forty dollars…

”Do you want to add that service now?”

Also, there was a pending phone service connection.

I breathed deep…I took hold of all my experience in Yoga and relaxation techniques (which I have never practiced in my life) and told her that please cancel the phone connection and let’s go with the forty dollars for now; that I wasn’t sure to keep the service with them. She typed in the computer and told me that the order was cancelled, but she couldn’t schedule an appointment because the system was down!

“So what can we do now?”

“We have to wait until tomorrow for the system to come up again, and then we can schedule an appointment”

“So there’s nothing to do for now”

“Nope”

She could scan the statement and get all my information as customer in her computer, but couldn’t schedule an appointment!

I left the store not sure if it made any difference in person compared with on the phone.

Once at home I decided to try again and reprogram the router…just in case. After following the procedure, the step by step guidance told me it couldn’t find the router.

Aha! Maybe the entire problem is the router! -I said to myself.

So I rushed to the store and bought a new one. Once back at home I followed the procedure to install it and program it, and voila! All three computers have internet again. It was a faulty router after all.

With this I can see it wasn’t a Comcast problem, but I still have a bitter feeling about how they handle customer service and the tactics they use to sell more services.

When checking the snail mailbox yesterday I found a letter from Comcast telling that some unknown company is planning to buy Qwest, so how is that for customer service from Qwest? Why should I put up with Qwest not telling me that they might sell to some other company I don’t know about? Of course, the phone number and the URL from Comcast were there for me to immediately switch services to them!

One…two…three…four…five…

Why am I telling you all this?

I used to think that relying too much in electronics and computerized services is giving away our own power over our lives. What would happen if a virus enters the systems in one of these companies? If an earthquake destroys the link towers or systems they have? Customer service cannot solve problems when everything is fine, will they be able to be of any help if an extreme situation arises?

How would you pay with a credit or a bank card, even if the money is in your checking account? How will you recover all the information about people you know and do business with if the robots that remember information and passwords suddenly die? If there are no more internet and phone services?

How much of our lives are dependant on a technology that we are loosing control of?

I used to think that an external agent such an earthquake, a virus, even a terrorist attack could change everything. Now I believe we don’t need that; customer service and the voracious hunger of companies for getting more and more customers to charge every month, without caring for providing a good (or even decent) service will do the trick in the future.

When was the last time you heard of a company proudly claiming being “Third” in customer service in the country? When was the last time you received prompt and knowledgeable service from one of these companies?

They are loosing control of their own business because of paying more attention to acquire paying customers that retaining them with a good service.

Lies in publicity have become institutionalized and are the norm nowadays! It cannot be only number one companies, right? Somebody have to be second, or third.

Let me briefly summarize it:

-The collapse of the electronic and computerized systems.

-The institutionalized lies as a way of business.

-The interest in quick profits at any cost rather than continuity in business.

-The degradation of the competition as a form of publicity, rather than the self improvement as a company, as a way to gain and retain customers.

We are giving away to technology our own responsibility of our doings in our lives. We don’t need to remember…technology does for us. We don’t need to learn…we just Google it. The use of technology is even replacing our need to know how to read a map to get somewhere. Thanks to technology and our laziness we can stop the learning and skill acquiring processes, leaving ourselves in a very precarious position if something happen to our beloved technology.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and I wouldn’t go back in time. I don’t believe that the past was better than the present or the future, but I do believe technology should be used to “help” instead of “replace”. With technology we can do more and faster than was possible before, so we can use it to lead better, more productive lives, rather than using it to rest over it and stop our own growth.

Using technology as an aid we can create a better future, but if we use it for monetary gain or to slow down our own self growth, we might find ourselves in a very tight situation in the near future.

Am I becoming obsessed? Have you experience similar situations? Do you agree with some of these points? What is your take on this?

Raul

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