Sunday, June 14, 2009

Customer Service - Part 2

I was thinking more about our conflict with the telephone installer yesterday. I believe that it comes down to a culture clash - corporate vs entrepreneur point of view.

His attitude was that he didn't cause the problem, AT&T didn't cause the problem, therefore it was not a problem. Fixing the problem may or may not have been in his job description.

My attitude was - our phone dosen't work - we need to fix it. I don't care who we blame, but there is no other choice, no plan B, we need a working telephone.

It became a battle of the wills and since the phone now works, guess who won. But in all fairness, if you work for a big corporation where there is always someone else to pass the buck to, solving someone elses problem on a Saturday morning is not going to be high on your priority list.

My background as a business owner is that there is no one to pass the blame to, so problems are solved no matter what it takes or whose fault it is. Period.

In this case there were several possible solutions. Completely rewiring the apartment with new phone jacks was one solution, but when we narrowed the problem to an open circuit in a ten foot area and he would still not wire around the problem, I knew I was going to have to force him to find the problem. Total time 90 minutes, and he said it was the most difficult problem he ever had. I wish all my problems could be solved in ninety minutes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Customer Service

My mother now has a telephone in her bedroom. This may not sound like a major accomplishment, but it was. You see she had just moved, and having spent two hours on the phone, and having to wait a week, she was in no mood for the installer to tell her that she would not be able to have a phone because there was a problem with the wiring in the building.

I called and made an appointment for the installer to return, confident that we could solve the problem. I would like to know what he was thinking, and whether he really feared for his life when my wife, my mother, and I surrounded him and assured him that he was not leaving until we had a working telephone.

I remembered a story about my former employer who had just bought a new furnace. A few weeks later, on the coldest day of the year, it quit. A repairman came out, took a look, and said he would be back the next day. My boss, pulled a Colt 45 from a drawer, and laid it on the table and said, “If I’m freezing, you are too.” The furnace was repaired within the hour.

I didn’t have to stoop to that, but it did cross my mind. After a few more threats and with my help, the problem was solved with the phones working within about an hour and a half.

This situation was complicated by the fact that my mother worked for SW Bell for 40 years retiring about 20 years ago. She knows that people would have got called on the carpet and probably fired for things that are now standard operating procedures. Things like putting a customer on hold for thirty-minutes or an installer telling a customer that a wiring issue was an insurmountable problem, would have resulted in dismissal forty years ago. Times have changed.

Having suffered through 10 years of dealing with Sprint, I was ready for anything, but long time AT&T people are still getting used to lousy service.