Best customer service ever – Thanks, Verizon Wireless

I still can’t believe it. Our Verizon cell phone bill was $19 lower than last month. The guy who called me was actually telling the truth. Verizon actually called me and lowered my bill. Maybe other companies struggling through the economy these days could take a page out of Verizon’s book. Like Citigroup – instead of adding new fees, maybe try actually helping you customers. Credit cards, like cell phone companies, are largely interchangeable. It’s pretty simple for me to switch to AT&T; or to another credit card company. If Citi adds a fee to my card, I’ll close the card immediately. But now Verizon has actually given me a reason to stay with them. AT&T;, meanwhile, is forcing smart phone owners to buy a data plan in the name of better customer satisfaction. And I’ll probably spend more money with Verizon soon – when they have a phone with a data plan that meets my requirements, I’ll upgrade, and there’s another $30 a month or whatever it is. Anyway, thanks, Verizon. This is one of the coolest things a company has ever proactively done for me.

What on Earth is going on?

I’ve been sitting here trying to think how this could be a scam, and I don’t think it can be. Verizon Wireless just called me, offering a plan review. I was skeptical, but figured I might as well listen. He told me that they could drop 150 minutes from each phone on our plan, and save us $10 a month. We don’t use all our minutes, so that was fine. It doesn’t renew our contract, it doesn’t give us fewer text messages, it doesn’t change anything. Just fewer minutes, cheaper plan. And the guy was obviously from Verizon, because he knew what my plan was, could see my usage, and didn’t ask me for any information. Has this happened to anyone else? I think I’m still in shock. Unless I’m missing something, this was just fantastic, proactive customer service from Verizon. And our contract is up – we can jump to another carrier whenever we want. I assume that’s why they called. Maybe the competition is finally strong enough that it makes sense to go after current customers instead of just trying for new ones. Anyway, this sure makes me more inclined to stick with them while I wait for them to jump on the Google Android bandwagon.

That’s not the way to win fans, Comcast

I posted the other day about the funny exchange I had with Comcast’s online help. In the middle of last night, someone (or, more likely, some script) posted a comment.

Thanks for sharing this post and I apologize for the experience. I will make sure that this is passed on the appropriate department for evaluation. Most importantly, we would like to have our customers have a good experience. I am also sorry to learn that you are deciding to cancel your cable service. If you are interested, I can reach out to my contacts and see if we can offer a lower-rate package including both services for you. If you are interested, please send me the phone number listed on your account so that I can assist further. Thanks again for sharing this post. Best Regards, Mark Casem Comcast Corp. National Customer Operations

First of all, it’s nice that Comcast is looking at what people say about them online. This makes good business sense. But that’s where the good decisions end. What mistakes did Comcast make? Let me list them for you. First, they clearly didn’t read the post. The comment responds to the general gist of the post, but not the details. That, coupled with the timestamp, suggests that this was not a person but an automated script. Engaging dissatisfied bloggers in conversation about how you can provide better service is great. Spamming blog comments with vague promises to fix things is not. If Mark Casem wants to personally sign the comment, then I want Mark Casem’s email address, not some generic help address. Sure, this means that Mark Casem is going to get a lot of junk mail, but there are always costs associated with doing business. Comcast’s IT department can get a better spam firewall. Second, they could have contacted me directly. Every blog has an “About” page. Mine is right here. It tells you how to contact me. Some people already have. A ten-second personal email would have been so much more effective than this. Third, if a package is available at a lower rate, why don’t you just give that to people? Sure, it costs you some money on people who would have never known about it. But don’t you think it might create some customer loyalty? When Verizon Fios comes to DC, if they’re offering a better deal, do you think people who have been overpaying Comcast are going to stick around? It is somewhat ironic that a complaint about how the customer service people are nearly indistinguishable from a well-designed IM bot gets a response from another customer service person who is indistinguishable from a computer program. Or maybe it’s not ironic but appropriate. In any event, it’s unhelpful. Too bad Comcast didn’t make a real effort to engage me. I would have happily spoken to a real person, and would have blogged about the good experience. I know I complain a lot, so I make an extra effort to also talk about the things that go right. But you missed your chance this time, Comcast. I’m not emailing your help desk. If a real person comes back here and talks to me about my problem, not about the problem that other customers who use the same keywords have, I’ll talk. Edit to add: As you can see in the comments, Mark Casem replied directly with his email address. I’ll be contacting him later today, and I’ll let everyone know how it goes.

OMG, Comcast, LOL

I just got my HTPC today, and we’re thinking about canceling our cable. With over-the-air HD, Hulu, and Netflix, I’m not sure we really need cable. I wanted to see how much our internet would cost if we dropped the cable. I figured Comcast would charge us more if we had only internet. So I went to their live support chat. user Jonathan_ has entered room (4:16 PM) Me: What would my high speed internet cost if I cancelled my cable TV? analyst Ferdinand has entered room Ferdinand: Hello Jonathan_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Ferdinand.38369. Please give me one moment to review your information. Ferdinand: Hello! How may I help you today? Me: If I cancel my cable tv, how much would my internet connection cost? Ferdinand: I understand that you want to know the cost of your internet service if you will cancel your cable service. Is that correct? Me: Yes Ferdinand: Please be informed that you have reached the Comcast Internet Technical support. I would be happy to transfer your chat to the appropriate department. Is that okay? Me: Sure Ferdinand: Please wait, while the problem is escalated to another analyst analyst Ellise has entered room (4:18 PM) Ellise: Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Let me go ahead and work on this for you. analyst Ferdinand has left room Ellise: By the way, how are you doing today? Me: I’m great, how are you? Ellise: I am glad to know that. Ellise: I am doing quite fine today. Ellise: Thank you for asking. Ellise: It is kind of you, Mr. Renaut. Ellise: Please stay online. Ellise: I will just review the previous chat transcript. Me: ok Ellise: Mr. Renaut, will you please verify what package you currently have? Me: I have digital cable plus high def and high speed internet Ellise: Is this a triple or a double play package? Me: no Ellise: Thank you very much for that information. Ellise: For security purposes may I verify the last 4 digits of your social security number please? Thank you. Me: XXXX, although I’m not sure why you need that just to tell me what my bill would be Ellise: For the security of your account, Mr. Renaut. Ellise: Just a moment, please. Ellise: Mr. Renaut, if you will cancel your cable service, you will save $80.45. Ellise: You have the option to call the local office for confirmation. Ellise: Would you like me to give you the information of our nearest local office to you? Me: I’m not canceling yet, I was just curious Me: nope, just wanted the price Me: thanks very much Ellise: You are most welcome. Ellise: I am glad I was able to assist you today. Ellise: I would appreciate if you will take time answering the online survey right after this chat session. This will help us know how to improve our services. Ellise: Thank you for contacting Comcast! We appreciate your business with us. Ellise: If you need assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us through live chat or e-mail (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Comcast also offers excellent FAQ and help forums located at to help you reach a resolution independently. Have a great day! Ellise: Analyst has closed chat and left the room (4:28 PM) Things to note:

  1. The whole thing took 12 minutes.
  2. I told Ferdinand my problem once before I arrived in the chat, once after, and then confirmed his restatement.
  3. I’m not convinced that either of the two CSRs could pass a Turing test.
  4. Who knew that everyday pleasantries would be so appreciated?
  5. There’s no chance Comcast doesn’t raise the price of our internet if we cancel the cable.
  6. The price difference she quoted me is digital cable plus the HDTV converter. According to Ellise, if we cancel our cable, we still pay 25 cents a month to rent our remote control.
  7. It is utterly absurd to charge 25 cents for the remote as a separate line item on my bill. Why not just build it into the price of the cable so I never see it?
  8. It was not me who chose which chat room I entered – I answered their questions to the best of my ability. If I’m in the wrong chat room, it is Comcast’s fault.
  9. The survey after the chat is worded in such a way that I can’t tell them how ridiculous they’re being without lying. I answered their questions honestly, and gave them the highest score on every question. But they never asked the really important questions. If your survey is constructed to get high scores, it’s not really helpful, is it?
  10. I really wish that, when she asked if it was a double or triple play, I had answered, “That’s what she said!”.
    In any event, I’m glad I contacted Comcast customer service. I haven’t laughed that hard since last night when we watched the episode of The Office that aired after the Super Bowl.

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Nice job, First USA

I got a call a few minutes ago from my credit card company, which at one time was First USA. I think it still is. Anyway, the CSR told me that someone had tried to make a charge on my card, and it looked like fraud. Sure enough, I didn’t recognize the charge. I finished with her without giving any information – never give out information, even your home address, to someone who calls you. You have no idea who they really are, even if your caller ID tells you it’s the person you think it is. I called the number on the back of my card, and sure enough, the first call was legitimate. I suspected it was – she knew about two real charges I made yesterday and one this morning – but I’m glad I checked. A few more minutes and the card is on hold and my new card is on the way. It’s a bit of a nuisance, but I’m really impressed with the service. It is mildly annoying that my online account access is disabled until the new card is activated, so I can’t check to make sure there weren’t other bad charges, and I can’t go back and make sure I remember any regular bills that get paid on the card, but in a few days I’ll have my new card and I’ll be able to get back in. It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised by your credit card company. Too bad it doesn’t happen more often.

What happened to the service industry?

Our condo building has a video entry system that allows people to ring the doorbell out front and get buzzed in by the unit they’re visiting. It’s a pretty cool system. Except that it stopped working a few days ago. We suspect it was during the big lightning storm. So I’ve been trying to get someone to come take care of it. First, I called the electrician who’s done some work here. He’s hard to get a hold of because his worthless Nextel phone tells me “The Nextel subscriber you are trying to reach is unavailable at this time” every time I try to call. After I hang up, I think it says, “If I had a soul, I’d send you to his voicemail. But because I’m a cold, unfeeling machine, I won’t help you at all. Ha ha ha ha ha!” When I finally got him, he said to call the company that put it in. He apparently works for them, but is willing to do freelance on the side, probably against their wishes. But whatever. So I called C&A; Electric. They said they’d call back to set up a time to come by. They did not. That was Tuesday. I was in NYC on Wednesday, so I called them Thursday. They were apologetic. They said they’d call to schedule an appointment. This time, they actually did, 8AM Friday. Then they called back to ask about the problem, and decided to send someone else, not the guy I talked to. I thought, “whatever, as long as someone shows up.” At 8:45AM Friday, no one had arrived. So I called. They were again apologetic. But they didn’t know when anyone would arrive. They promised to call back with an update. They actually did call, and pretty quickly, and told me that someone would be here at 10. They made good on that appointment, but didn’t fix the problem. The two guys looked at the unit, and complained about some stuff, and fixed nothing. They think one of the three modules that makes up the portion of the system that is outside has gone bad. Since they are unable to fix this, they suggested I contact the manufacturer. So I contacted Aiphone. I talked to a tech support guy via their little web chat interface. He was (shockingly) unhelpful. He wanted to know if I’d verified power to the unit. Now, I assume the electricians did that. I mean, wouldn’t you assume that would be the first thing they’d try? But I don’t actually know if they did or not. When he found that out, he pushed me off onto the dealer who sold us the unit. I have no idea who that is, so I tried to contact the developer. He’s not answering his cell phone. Not that he ever does. So, I have now spent the last three hours getting absolutely nothing accomplished. Hooray! Is it too much to ask for a company to actually stand behind the goods or services that they sell?

An internet company with customer service?

This story has popped up on at least a half dozen sites I read more or less regularly over the last few days, and it’s pretty interesting. Zappos, who are as far as I know the ONLY place to buy shoes online (I mean, the only place it’s worth your time to buy shoes), hire new employees, train them for four weeks, then offer them $1000 to quit. This means that they only get employees who actually want to be there. I’ve said over and over how Dell was so much cooler when they still cared about customer service, but it’s a little more surprising to see this coming from an industry where there’s a lot more room to play with the prices. I would expect Zappos to be able to better compete on price because there’s so much markup on shoes (One of the few things I learned about the money side of the business while working at Boater’s World in high school – the store makes tons more profit on shoes and clothes than on electronics). Dell, meanwhile, has a much smaller profit margin on their computers, so it seems logical that they’d have to compete with HP and the others on something else. I’ve never bought from Zappos, in part because I have weird feet and it’s often hard for me to find comfortable shoes. But if their customer service is as great as people make it out to be, maybe I should try.

Dell again

Wow. Another email from Dell. The best part are these consecutive passages:

. . . I will provide you the information.

As a Customer Care I am unable to provide you the information . . .

Please don’t think that my anger here is because Dell has outsourced their customer service. I truly don’t care if the CSR is in the United States or India or the moon or anywhere else. I don’t care what his or her first language is. The only thing that’s important to me in a CSR is being able to fix my problem, preferably in a minimal amount of time. That’s it. Hence the anger. None of the people who emailed me could fix my problem. What’s even more exasperating is that each of them has chastised me for asking my question to the wrong person. It’s a little frustrating to be directed to talk to a person who tells me that he or she is not the person who can help me. Anyway, I’ll get a computer eventually. And I still hate Dell.

Dell is fired

I’m trying to purchase a computer from Dell. Well, that’s not exactly true. My new employer (Started the new job today, went very well) buys from Dell. The process is that each employee builds a computer at, then emails the boss with the specs, and he buys the computer through the corporate account. Sounds simple, right? Well, first of all, Dell doesn’t let you just email specs. I can’t imagine why not – surely they’d be happy to let kids email specs to their parents, or perhaps they’d even be prescient enough to foresee my situation. But no. They let you save, and they even let you tag to and all sorts of other social sites, but apparently that’s just to the initial start page for the computer, not the customized version. So, I thought I’d just get one of their online chat CSRs to help me. Again I failed. Or, rather, Dell failed. They had no chat representatives available. Do they let me get in line and wait for the next one? No, they force me to resubmit my request. I tried about five times and gave up. So I was directed to email them. This steaming pile of crap is what I got in return. Their response was much longer, but that’s the only part that wasn’t boilerplate gobbledygook. Next I tried calling. I hate calling companies. If I’m calling you on the phone, it’s because your website failed. Anyway, I was greeted by loud music and an unhelpful robot voice that refused to give me a person. I tried a different customer service number, because I think I might have gotten the wrong one the first time (I don’t remember why I thought that, but it made sense at the time). This time I got another unhelpful robot, but this one gave me a person. Hooray! Until I asked her my question. Turns out she was tech support. I have no idea how the robot got me to tech support when all I wanted was customer support, but that’s neither here nor there. She transferred me to the correct CSR, who said a great many things, none of them helpful. So I gave up. I’m going to ask someone at work tomorrow. And I’m going to continue to tell everyone I speak to about computers to avoid Dell.

My Discover card sucks

Here’s another thing to add to the list of reasons I won’t get another Discover card.  At least, not until I exhaust all the credit card companies and have to start over.  My problems with Chase are well-documented here, and I’m not too fond of Citicards these days, either.

Anyway, Discover.  It’s not enough that they charge sellers such a high percentage, causing many places to not accept them.  But recently, they changed my card number.  They did it under the auspices of rolling out a new card, but what they’ve really done is change the card design, and probably renegotiated my terms of service. 

It’s not a huge deal – I just have to tell a few places that I have a new card number for my monthly debits and whatnot. But what really bugs me is that they’ve revoked my access to my old billing statements.  They’re treating this as a new card, and they’ve transferred the balance I had on my old card last month onto the new card.  And I don’t mean a revolving balance – I don’t ever revolve a balance anymore.  I mean just last month’s charges.  Now I have a bill that just says, you owe $X.  It doesn’t give me a breakdown of the charges.  I’ve requested a paper bill, but I really shouldn’t have to.  What if I want to go back and check a charge from two months ago?  I have to call and get another paper bill shipped.  I stopped getting paper bills a while ago because they’re dumb.  I have enough paper in my life already.

Anyway, this is very annoying. As soon as I spend my accumulated miles, this card is getting canceled.

Edit to add – Comments have been disabled. Perhaps instead of complaining about your Discover card on a three year old blog post, you all should work towards getting yourselves out of debt.

Edit again to add – Comments are back on because I’ve moved blogging platforms and don’t currently have a way to disable them. If it becomes a problem, I’ll make a way to turn them off.