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bellderdash

no one really likes dealing with utility companies. i don't know why, but they're always organised in such a way as t to make communication infuriating and to make any deviation from normal needs exponentially harder than it has to be. but even among utility companies, there are some that really do seem to take customer service to a new low.

to that end i present: katred vs. bell telephone

to start with, i moved from toronto, ontario to montreal, quebec on 1 july 2008. shortly before that time (the 19 june to be exact) i called bell, my phone company, to have my toronto number disconnected and my montreal number set up.

it actually took them the better part of a month and three technicians to get my phone line set up at all. but that's not what this story is about.

i made payments on my bell bill, from july on, although this was complicated by the fact that i wasn't receiving my bills. i generally paid when i got phone calls at home reminding me that i hadn't, since i knew that i was supposed to be receiving bills and had a rough idea what they should be. it did seem like i was getting calls more frequently than i should, but it took me three long, painful attempts to get my address corrected in the system.

on october 24th, i finally got a paper bill. for my toronto number, showing that a) it had never been disconnected and b) all my payments had been going towards that number, rather than towards my montreal number.

so i called. and was told by customer service (after a 20 minute wait) that they couldn't help me and that they needed to transfer me to disconnections. disconnections was able to shut down the toronto line, supposedly, but they couldn't help me with getting the balance i'd paid retroactively applied to my montreal bill. that had to be done by billing in quebec. so i waited on line for another 15 minutes (i should add that the disconnection process took almost and hour), only to be told that the person in disconnectoins hadn't done his job, and that he should have been the one to deal with the credit. so, after blowing my top at the billing guy, i'm transfered back to disconnections. and told that they can't help, but that they can get someone from the credit department on the line to deal with the problem.

once on the line, the woman from the credit department tells me that it's not their fault that the toronto line wasn't disconnected, because there's no record that i ever asked for it to be disconnected. that, she informs me, is why they tell people to make sure that they get the name and employee number of whoever they are speaking with, so that these transactions can be followed. i'm quick to tell her that no one has ever apprised me of that until now and that i want to speak to a supervisor. she resists, telling me that the supervisor won't saying anything different, but i stick to my proverbial guns (and oh, how i wished they were real guns) and finally she acquiesces to transfer me. after waiting on hold another 5 minutes, she comes back on the line to inform me, shrilly, that a supervisor will speak to me now. and then, accidentally, we'll say, i'm disconnected.

barely able to contain myself, i call back and am connected to someone brand new. the first words out of my mouth in response to the question of how they can help me is to say 'i'm going to try to remain calm'. but this is different. this woman, in twenty minutes, is able to do everything that five people in four departments were unable to accomplish in almost two hours. in that twenty minutes, i'm able to determine that the disconnection that had been done half an hour earlier- for which i had a confirmation number- didn't take. so this woman did it again, making sure that it was retroactive to 30 june. plus, she was able to determine that, contrary to what the credit department woman had told me 15 minutes earlier, there was a record of my request to have the line in toronto disconnected (and, in fact, that her supervisor would have been able to see this). she was able to put a note on the account, informing the billing department to stop calling until the closure of the toronto line is complete (when the final bill is sent) and tells me what to do in order to get the balance transfered. TAA-DAA!!

so in the last couple of days, i was bewildered by the fact that i started getting calls from the bell billing department. i called today and... well, i ended up speaking to three different people, one of whom had the audacity to try to convince me that i should just hand over the money owing up front (without waiting for the credit from my toronto line to show up). i explained, very carefully, what the competent woman had told me and every time this person tried to contradict me, i responded with 'could you please check that again'. and every time i turned out to be right (including the part about there being a note on my account saying not to call until after the 7 december).

the fact that i got connected that second time to what i can only assume is one of six competent employees in a company with a staff of thousands is purely luck. without her, there is every possiblity that i would never have had the problem resolved. but in a way, her ability to deal with the issue makes the surrounding circumstances even more infuriating. after all, she proves that an admittedly complicated situation can be dealt with by one individual in less than half an hour. what's wrong with the rest of the company? (caveat: i know that she personally wasn't dealing with all the issues- she was putting me on hold to contact different departments- but it was more of a comfort to me that i only had to speak to one individual, rather than the first call, where i had to explain the problem from scratch to a succession of indivudals.)

the ultimate irony is that, had i set up my phone line with a competitor, i would have become aware of the problem much sooner- because i would have known that getting calls from their billing department was indication of a mistake.

one of my former bosses, not a genius by any means, but a successful businessman, once made the point that a customer evaluates a company not primarily on the basis of the quality of the products or service they provide, but on how you handle problems when they arise. sage advice.

more here and here and here and here and here...

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