Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Squeaky Wheel       

We’ve all been there. We’ve dealt with a service provider (I use the term service loosely), who doesn’t listen, doesn’t care, and certainly wouldn’t give us the time of day if he or she were not paid minimum wage to answer (or should I say avoid) our call. Thankfully when all is going well or at the very least, not badly, we don’t have to deal with these people or the organizations they represent. I suppose that is how we are lulled into complacency. When something falls apart, and we have no other choice, we hold our noses and block out enough time to make that call to the provider because we know we’ll have to go through the entire directory of options and remain on hold for an enormous amount of precious time before we are allowed to talk to a real person. And even when we get to that person, there is no guarantee they will solve our problem.

I called a national organization this week to get information about their programs. Their website wasn’t updated. And I had no idea if what I was reading was current. I actually called them several times last week only to get a recording. I left messages every day because I’m determined and pushy and know that organizations such as this are trying to wear me down, make me go away in sheer frustration. Of course, there is no way they are going to get the better of me. I’m too stubborn.

I waited all week and no one returned my phone call. So first thing Monday morning, I called the number again and pressed zero in the hopes I would be passed through to a live person. And to my surprise I was. After summarizing my query, the person on the other end of the phone said she couldn’t help me. “I’m only here to answer the phones. I don’t have any information.” What kind of organization employs someone to answer customer calls without arming them with the necessary information a customer might request? I know what you’re thinking. Must have been a small, understaffed organization. Would you be surprised to know that it was a federal government department? It was so wonderful to be reminded of how our tax dollars are working for us! Makes you feel as warm and fuzzy as a cold shower.

And if you think the federal government is the only organization that provides poor customer service, don’t get me started on telephone, Internet and cable companies.

Again, over the past few weeks I’ve had to deal with two providers for my dad’s cable. His current provider sent two people (actually more predatory goons than people) to his house to harass him until he signed a three-year contract. They offered him lots of great deals, and after he signed a contract, they began to cut some of his channels (their “free” trial period was over) and continually bombarded him to upgrade his package. My dad has wanted to break his contract with that provider since day one. He felt he was manipulated. And he was. Shame on them.

I’ve complained bitterly on his behalf. And I haven’t been able to change one thing. These people simply don’t care.

With six months to go on his current contract, we found my dad a better provider for his cable service. Or so I thought. Okay, I’ll admit, perhaps I’m a little naïve. I fell for the courteous, laid back approach. And I suppose for the sappy words of a salesman who I thought was genuinely concerned about my 85 year old father’s cable and television needs. I had no idea that customer service had been redefined. When did this happen? Did you know? What we get now has nothing to do with service. Quotas and how to meet them is the only thing that motivates these people.

I was specific with my instructions to the new provider. Do not call my father with other ‘great deals’. He does not want them. Do not pressure him in any way. No sales pitch. No phone calls. If you need to speak to someone, call me. Please make a note on your file. I heard the man on the other end of the phone agree. “Definitely. No problem.” I could picture him nodding his head as he typed my instructions. So I was soothed into believing he got the message. What a sap?

The pressure began exactly one day after I made the deal. Phone calls initially confirming the service order. Fine. Another phone call came asking if I’d thought about telephone and Internet services. I had. We didn’t want any. Thanks. Then a phone call to my father with telephone and Internet service deals. Then more calls to him, then me, and then him again.

When I phoned to complain, the woman on the other end said she would put another note on my father’s file. She said, “our marketing department doesn’t sometimes read the file.” I shouldn’t be surprised and yet I am.  

We get the governments we elect and the service we tolerate.  Take a look at these two recent articles, one about government run amok and the other about how we’re happy to pay for television. Really?

Someone has to demand better. Better quality, better service. If that someone has to be me, so be it. I will go on fighting, making suggestions, raging against bureaucracy. I simply couldn’t face myself in the mirror if I weren’t that squeaky wheel.  

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