Simon Higgs Phones In the Latest From Phone Hell

The Simon Higgs saga continues. Some things are getting resolved, but bad customer 'service' seems to be eternal.

I left off yesterday (Day 6) saying something about going off and trying to find a life. Well, that got interrupted about 30 seconds after I pressed the send button.

I got a phone call from a manager at Comcast saying that they were going to fix everything that afternoon. That they were going to send a tech around to check that everything works. And, of course, I had to be home when they showed up. Well, OK then. I can postpone getting a life for a few more hours.

Then about half and hour later I got a call from Ed at Comcast's executive offices. I filled him in on the previous phone call, and he sounded rather upset that he hadn't been told about it. Especially, as he was supposed to be calling me with the latest information. He said he was supposed to be updated on what the local office was doing. Anyway, he assured me that everything was going to get taken care of.

I figure if two people call me from Comcast that regularly don't talk to the public, they do intend to take care of this. The problem has left the dysfunctional realm of the customer service people who answer the phones and is now in the hands of someone with the authority to a) listen to the customer and b) take some action. More on my thoughts on this later.

About noon I noticed that, indeed, something was being done. For those not following this from the beginning, my Verizon number has been active on Comcast's network since Day One. Which is what I want. It was also still up and running on Verizon which is what we were trying to fix. Now, what is the most logical thing that Comcast can do at this point? Remember, their billing system said the work hadn't been done and that the old number was still active. So instead of correcting their billing system, they made sure that their billing system was correct by changing the physical line plant to match. They did this by disconnecting the old number. Except they didn't disconnect the old number because, remember, that disappeared on Day One. Yup. They disconnected the new number. The one that I was porting from Verizon to Comcast which, all along, had been working. Poof. It was gone.

If that wasn't bad enough, at exactly the same time, Verizon's pair with the same number on it went dead. OK. So I got 48 volts out of the line but no dial tone. And it's supposed to be going away anyway.

I now know they're working on this. But the number is now dead on both networks. I'm sure that if it wasn't my number I would be laughing. Really. This whole experience has been like finding a new episode of Monty Python or Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. But it is my phone line and it's supposed to work. So I'm really bummed in a semi-bemused state of unbelief. I resign myself to waiting for the tech to show up because I know this guy has the magic numbers to the people who can fix this.

Three hours later, I'm in the garage putting some varnish on a coffee table I'm building, and the phone rings. Randy from Comcast's NOC was on the phone. After I explained the whole saga to him, he told me about other problems with this port that I didn't know about, including the obligatory communication errors between Comcast and Verizon which had compounded the problem. Yet another comedy of errors triggered by an incomplete port. After explaining to him that my working number (that had not been correctly documented in the billing system) had been disconnected, he surprised me by telling me he just called me on it. Well, that's a rather good sign. I guess this was the opposite solution to yesterday's referral solution. Disconnect and reconnect.

While I was on the phone with Randy, two Comcast techs showed up. They were able to confirm directly with the Comcast NOC that the port had finally been done and was working. They made some additional test calls from other networks just to verify the incoming routing wasn't getting hung up in Verizon land. So, now my number works on only one network. Yay!

The people that I've dealt with at Comcast have been great. Mostly. The two techs that showed up were friendly, knowledgeable and very professional. Randy at the NOC was exceptional for the few minutes that we talked. The people that called me from the executive office were courteous, friendly and professional. These people I'll classify as “engineers”.

Who else? Ah yes, that leaves customer service. Um… how do I politely say this. These people have serious problems. Several times, those answering the 611 calls were downright rude and copped serious attitude problems before I was able to explain the situation. Several flatly refused to provide the level of customer satisfaction that every company requires of it's staff. The bottom line is that I've been called a liar every single day of this ordeal by customer service staff. Even by trained supervisors. It leaves a really sour taste. NONE of the engineers did this.

I feel I am qualified to talk about this. My background includes some help desk experience. Fortunately, I'm a tier 3 person, like Randy, and don't have to field calls directly from the public. Having said that, one of the programs I've worked with in the past for fielding calls from the public was “Apple Voice”. Like most things at Apple, it's supposed to be a company secret, but it's really just documented (and Apple-branded) common-sense. Sorry, that just sounded really bizarre, but anyway, the program has the potential to solve a bunch of ugly problems. The basic concept is that the customer service people adopt a friendly sing-songy voice to talk to the customer. I hated the idea at first. It's very “up” and “Disney”. But I've discovered that it creates a non-threatening connection with the customer which actually turns out to be very important to long term customer retention. The other part of the concept is that the customer service people actually listen and take note of what the customer is saying. Like I said, it's really common-sense.

It's a significant contrast to how I was dealt with. The customer service staff were unable to deviate from what they saw in front of them. I understand this, but several of them were completely bloody minded about enforcing completely wrong information. Nothing annoys me more than someone telling me something that I know is wrong and then going out of their way to refuse to listen to what I have to say. This happened on several occasions because Comcast's billing computers were wrong. And you've seen through my experience what it looks like from the outside world when they attempt to fix the problem with wrong information.

So my phone number is ported and now works properly. At last! Day 6! Like I told Ed yesterday, that will make me a happy camper.

I would like to thank all the people who have helped with information and suggestions. And also to those that have forwarded this message to other helpful people that remain behind the scenes and who I may never know about. Thank you.

But… it's not over. I've just noticed that they still haven't put the referral on my old number like they promised.

Oh my God. I've just had a customer service person, a very curt/rude one with a bad attitude, tell me that they're not going to put the referral on after all because they gave my old number back to Verizon. They're totally adamant about it too. As in “I don't care if you ordered this, you can't have this and I'm not budging on this, ever”. This person also can't find a work order in the system for this. You've got to be kidding me. There are at least two work orders, a repair ticket, and several escalations that I know about… and, of course, they can't find a supervisor for me to talk to and so we escalate this once again into never-never land. This formally concludes Day 6.

So now it is Day 7. Sorry, I've got to have a life today. I'm booked mixing some music today, and having lunch with some friends. Hopefully the referral will be working when I get back.

Well, I'm back and it isn't. And it's after hours and too late to sort out today.

Remember what I said about being left with a sour taste? A number of people from Comcast have spent the time and gone out of their way to try and make me a satisfied customer. I know what this took and I do appreciate this. But one idiot customer service rep has managed to undo it all. I know how to solve this customer service problem at Comcast, but I just don't know which is more appropriate to recommend – .45acp or .357magnum?

Copyright © 2003 Simon Higgs, reprinted with permission

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