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What The $&%*@$^ Has Happened To Customer Service??????

If any of our subscribers tried to call me on my office lines between November 12th and November 25th , instead of reaching my office, they got a message that said my phones were "out of service."

Now when your phone line goes down at home, it's inconvenient. But when you have no phone service at your business, it's a little more serious. Fortunately, I had my cell phone with me when I went to the office on the 12th, so I called the company to which I had switched three months before, and their automated voice response referred me to a web site where, I was assured, I would receive an answer within 36 hours and get 60 minutes free long distance for my trouble.

No - that wouldn't do at all. So I tried a different number and sat on hold 35 minutes before I finally got a person who said they had no record of my being their customer (though I had just paid their bill two weeks before) and that I'd have to call my local provider.

I won't bore you with the whole, lengthy, three day, three telephone company, 14 person saga - but by the time I finished, I am now firmly convinced that customer service in the telephone world is full of fluff, and very little substance. Their voices were very cheery and positive as they informed me that my lines had been completely disconnected, for some reason, but they would discover how and why, and would fix it as soon as possible and that they were terribly sorry for the inconvenience. (Inconvenience??!!!) Four times I was told the problem was now solved, that the last person I talked to didn't understand the problem but this one did, and service would be up "momentarily."

It took two weeks.

Little wonder, then, that I was on the defensive when I called my financial institution one day during this fiasco to find out if a check had cleared. Susan answered the phone, and told me that, unfortunately, their system was down, but she took the information and said as soon as it came back up she would call me.

"Sure, she will," went through my mind.

And darn if she didn't. Less than ten minutes later I had my answer.

I decided to test the system.

I called our local credit union, and asked if I could talk to someone about interest rates. I was told, very politely, that the particular person I needed was on a call. Would I care to hold on, or would I like a call back? "I'll hold," I said, thinking, "Aha! Here comes the long wait on hold." 30 seconds passed, and the voice came back on, saying she didn't know how long Miss Z.... would be. Would I be kind enough to leave my phone number and she'd call me right back.

"Sure, she will," again the thought.

And darn if she didn't! Just about five minutes, this time.

Called the third institution - another where I have accounts. Told them I was having trouble accessing my account on the Internet - asked them if there was something wrong with their web site. The young man I was referred to tested while we talked, and then held on while I ran it again, making sure I got it right. When I thanked him, he responded, "No problem. It's always a pleasure to be of service - especially when things go right!" We both laughed, and I hung up feeling good about that bank.

Bottom line? I found customer service. We still have it in our financial institutions, and can be proud of that fact. It restored my faith in the fact that you folks are still doing the quality job out there that has kept the banking system with some of the highest marks in corporate America for customer service. Please keep up the good work!

As for my phones - as I write this, I still have no voice mail, my FAX line rings on my desk, one of my main lines rings on the FAX, and the 800 line still rings on my cell.

I haven't gotten up the courage yet to call the phone company back to fix them.

Copyright © 2002 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 12, No. 9, 12/02

First published on 12/01/2002

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