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Tuesday, August 09, 2011


I'm not at all embarrassed to say I've been a customer-service kiss-ass for years. In person or on the phone, I make sure to learn the person's name, say please and thank you, and just try to project an overall pleasant and positive demeanor.

Most of the time.

Two weeks ago it was Best Buy, and today I'm aiming my rifle at DirecTV.

I understand a company's desire to maximize profits by keeping phone lines open around the clock, and having off-hour calls routed overseas where cheap Asians are "glad to answer that question" for me in just one moment makes good business sense on paper.

But what about during regular business hours? This is an American company with all of its major offices in the United States. I'm no research whiz, but I imagine it has more customers in the U.S. than in any other country. So is it good customer service for DirecTV -- or in this case its minor-league outfit in South Florida, DirecPath -- to send all of its customer calls somewhere where there's a sometimes-difficult accent barrier and a risk that the rep would be unfamiliar with any potential local logistical issue?

The answer you're looking for is, No, John, it's not.

Yet that's what this enormous company appears to have done, outsourced its entire calling operation to the Philippines. These people sure are friendly, but there are obvious translation issues, and when they happen repeatedly during one conversation -- not to mention all three of them that I've had in less than a week -- that extends the call and at least quadruples the frustration. Adding to that is the long-distance transmission delay that causes one of us to start talking over the other one pretty routinely.

It is an overall nightmarish process, and while you could take the annoyingly cheerful If-that's-the-worst-thing-that-happens-to-me-today-I'll-be-OK approach, there are others who want to whine about the erosion of neighborly customer service and I am one of those people.

Anyway, the purpose of my call at 3:45 p.m. was to make sure my installation was still on the schedule. On Monday, I was given that 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. window, and told I'd get a call 30 minutes before the installation tech's arrival. As I write this, it's now 4:15 p.m. and still no call. You can bet I'll raise holy satellite television hell if this install doesn't go down today.


Friday, August 05, 2011

This Just Happened

I've never claimed to be the smartest man on the planet, nor would others make such a claim on my behalf.

But I do feel like I've got a good handle on reason and logic, and I try to make sure I'm aware of people, places and things around me at all times.

And if someone else's complete lack of awareness has a direct impact on my well-being, then I try to have a conversation and I'm usually not confrontational about it.

So here I was, pulling into my apartment complex driveway, a left turn through busy oncoming traffic at rush hour on a Friday, paying exclusive attention to each of the three lanes I was hoping to turn in front of to get into my complex, as a driver in each stopped and waved me on. Those were some friendly motorists alright.

What I was paying slightly less attention to, however, was that the car that had pulled in ahead of me had stopped immediately upon coming off the busy avenue, leaving me enough room to just about get my hood ornament into the driveway. The rest of my car was left hanging out into traffic, and when the woman finally pulled ahead and stopped a second time, leaving me barely enough room to go around her and not hit the traffic island separating the single eastbound and westbound lanes coming into and out of my complex, I raised my hand as people often do when they simultaneously express curiosity and annoyance.

The woman got out of her car and before I could even pull around or roll down the window to ask what was up, the hate just started flowing from her mouth. I heard F-bombs. I was called many names. I was called a cracker-ass.

It amazes me that people so often skip diplomacy and resort to immediate confrontation. Her tone was such that it seemed I was being unreasonable for not wanting the ass end of my car to get torn off by the moving traffic behind me, for wanting to continue driving toward home, for not wanting to be stopped behind a car inexplicably now parked in the only lane that could deliver me toward my desired direction.

When I finally did have room to pull up to her, down came my window and I looked at her and asked, more out of curiosity than out of an attempt to be abusive or sarcastic, "Are you really screaming at me?" Because it's a Friday and I'm feeling a little nutty, I asked it a second time.

In all seriousness, I have no idea what prompts people to knee-jerk their way toward the angry defensive and immediately react to strangers with only piss and hate. And I'm very grateful for that.