Ironically, we are celebrating Oklahoma’s Centennial this year. To wind up a year of celebration with a bang, Mother Nature delivers the worst ice storm on record for our state. A cool 45% of the state lost power in this storm, and over 6,000 linemen and other utility people came running to our rescue, some arriving as early as last Monday night. Our power companies and electrical co-ops have had pure H-E-L-L these last 11 days, but my hat is off to all of them – you know why?
Because they kept us informed. Pure and simple.
Not only did they coordinate information dissemination with our local news (both TV and radio) but they routed tens of thousands of calls on their outage lines to LIVE BODIES all over the country who were patient, sympathetic and helpful. None of this automated outage reporting bullshit…no, we got REAL PEOPLE to talk to who acted like they cared that we were cold, in the dark and frustrated beyond words. Not once was I stuck on hold for more than 3 minutes. We were encouraged to ask questions, to call back for updates and were given updated information from the field for our specific addresses when we did call.
When it started looking like I might have power by the weekend, I called AT&T to report my outage with them. (I didn’t figure I needed to bother them until I had power; even though my phone line doesn’t require power, I was more interested in my DSL which DOES require power.)
First omen – automated outage reporting system. I never did talk to a live body on that call, but to their credit, it was pretty easy to navigate and a few minutes later the system told me they would send a service technician on Wednesday, December 19th between 7am and 7pm. My confirmation number was my telephone number. Cool – easy to remember. Ok, so I wasn’t thrilled with a service date that far out, but hey – I’m sure they had thousands of other Tulsans to reconnect, so I wasn’t tripping.
So, yesterday morning I called to verify I was still on their list for the 19th, punched buttons until I got a live body, and yes, I was, and no, I didn’t have to be home. All the work they needed to do was outside. (How they knew this, I didn’t know, since I never talked to a live body before that call, but ok – they’re AT&T and they’ve got smart computers. Whatever.)d
Yesterday afternoon, an AT&T representative called to ask if my line was down. Uh…yeah…? Came down with the power lines. “Oh…[heavy sigh]”
Me, “Does this mean you’re not going to be here by 7pm?”
Her, “Ma’am, I honestly cannot tell you WHEN we’ll be there.”
Me, “Say what??!!!”
Her, “Ma’am, we have thousands of customers in your area without service. We have brought technicians in from Texas and are working as fast as we can. I have no idea when we will get to yours.”
She was not kidding.
So, I packed up the kids and headed to McDonalds to get online and get my email. But no – McDonald’s DSL was down, so no wi-if hot spot – AND no purchases unless you’re paying cash. Ok fine – back to the house.
At 6:30pm, I called AT&T yet once again (yes, I am a glutton for punishment) and punched buttons til I got another live body named Joe. Joe said, “Yes, the system still thinks they’re going to be here before 7, but it’s obviously wrong. No ma’am, I have no updated information for you as to when they will be there. Yes, we are the #1 telecommunications company in the world, but ma’am, we’re dealing with a NATURAL DISASTER here.”
Me, “So you’re telling me that you have just left your normal, everyday outage reporting system in place, and it spits out repair dates that are meaningless, and you have no disaster recovery plan that includes communicating up-to-date information to your customers. Excuse me, Joe, but how is that ‘my world…delivered’? Joe, babe, I hate to break it to you, but that is just plain irresponsible. You tell me the system repair date is no good because of the number of outages you’ve had reported, yet you also tell me that you cannot give me a better idea of when you will get to me because you are not collecting repair data from the field. That is outrageous, Joe.”
Joe, “I’m sorry ma’am.”
Me, “Joe – let me give you a tip to pass along to your superiors in the customer service department. Customer service is not just about repair dates, waiving charges for downtime, or apologizing. Customer service is doing all of those things in a manner which conveys to your customer that you value their business, that you realize they depend on you for the services you provide, and knowing that their opinion of whether they are receiving good service from your company rests squarely on HOW THEY FEEL when they have to interact with your company. I realize we are in the middle of a natural disaster – in fact, I’d venture to bet I realize that much better and more personally than you do, Joe. I would far rather have been told you would get to me in the order my outage was received than to be told a date and timeframe as if you knew what you were up against and were handling it, when you don’t and aren’t.”
Joe, “I’m sorry, ma’am.”
How is it the #1 telecommunications company in the world can’t communicate within itself, much less with it’s customers? And has anyone there heard of ‘under promise, over deliver’??
Your World. Delivered.
My World. NOT Delivered.
Ok Suz, look at it this way. You have taught a customer service lesson to someone that desperately needed to know there is a REAL person on the other end and sorry just really doesn’t qualify as a helpful answer. In my opinion, it’s right up there with “I don’t know.”
You’ll love this. Gave a lesson to the very nice young man at McDonalds. I order Tor a Happy Meal. He tells me the amount. I hand him my debit. He smiles and says “oh, you can do that yourself right there” while pointing at the lil credit card slider. Hmmmm I think, not what I had in mind.
I slide the card. It doesn’t work. Ok, I must be slow, flip it over, nope, not that way either. Flip it back . . . third times a charm!! We score a Happy Meal!!!
I look at said young man and explain . . “ya know, you have great customer service. You smiled when I walked up, very pleasant to deal with, understood my order, repeated it back . . wow! BUT . . . you lost me. I tried to hand you my card. YOU have a slider. YOU get paid to be here. Why? Because of your customers. Now, if I hand you my card, it takes you less time to slide it then it does for me to do it three times. Now I’m pissed . . stupid machine and you my friend . . . your customer service lost it’s appeal. Too bad isn’t it, over something so small. Funny thing. I have never once asked MY customers to slide their cards. I get paid to do that. Think about it, you’ll have happy customers that look for you because you’re the best!”
Yes, you know me . . . I did that! lol
Teaching the world . . . one at a time! 😉 And in case no one told you today, I love you. You’re the best!
Maybe we should start a new business – kinda like that show on BBC, “How Clean Is Your House?” Ever seen that show? Hilarious duo go around white glove testing people’s homes and the clean them up and teach how to keep them clean along the way. Only we’d be cleaning up customer service snafus. We’d be famous sooner than later, that’s for sure. LOL