Corporate Customer Service: an Oxymoron?

DOM Team | | ,

There are times you have no other option than to be an absolute pain in the backside as a customer. In fact, I could argue we should perhaps all do it a little bit more.

Last year I recall having a torrid time trying to get my broadband switched from one provider to another. I’ve no idea whether it’s the same here, but in the UK you have to present your new provider with a MAC number from your existing provider to allow passage from one to the other.

Think of it as a digital baton, if you will.

It’s a marker to let isps and phone companies know that your line is clear. In the UK, high speed internet over the phone is much more common than cable internet. Also, cable TV is not as remotely ubiquitous as it is here.

I wanted to switch providers due to the one I was with being rather useless and me not wanting to pay for a 12 month subscription as I wasn’t going to be in the country much more than four. We all know how phone calls to these people bounce between departments and the useful idiots that run them. I was no different.

I don’t remember how it got to this, but a larger lump sum than had been agreed suddenly appeared on my bill than I was willing, or had arranged, to pay. Subsequently, I just got myself a MAC code and decided to scarper.

The only problem was that I couldn’t. My new provider couldn’t get the thing to work, and the main telephone company claimed there was still a marker on the line, which meant they couldn’t authorize said new provider. Phone calls ensued more frantically and furiously than had before and less progress was being made than on your average English national soccer stadium.

Two months had passed before I finally had no other option but to get in touch with the overlord of telecommunication services in the UK – Ofcom. They were the arbiters of disputes such as this – a governmental/customer service watchdog that you could turn to when all hope was lost. A week after my initial report to them, I was called by a special representative of the offending isp whose department had been set-up to deal with complaints after they’d been sent to Ofcom. It was the second customer service layer – the real deal.

You see, all the while they’d tried to keep a hold on my marker in an attempt to get me to pay the amount that we were in dispute over. Once you read the small print, you find out that what they were trying to do is illegal. You have to free the line. If there’s a payment dispute, take the offending party to court, but you cannot blackmail payment out of a customer by witholding service.

By the time we’d got round to agreeing payments, I was only a month from coming to the States. Being a pain and arming myself with the facts paid off. Sort of.

But it seems that Sprint are playing a slightly different game with their more awkward customers. According to this article, Sprint have told approximately 1,000 customers to go co-co for calling customer service too often.

Sprint has recently sent out some letters letting customers know that their service will be terminated effective July 30, 2007. Sprint is ending some contracts because customers are calling customer service. Based on the letter it is because they have “received frequent calls from you regarding your billing or other general account information” and based on the number of calls they have determined that they are “unable to meet your current wireless needs”.

They are setting their customer’s balances to zero and waiving any early termination fee with a month’s grace to find another carrier. And that is the very least they can do considering it is Sprint who is terminating the contract.

But, you start wondering why you can’t set the balance to zero and waive any early termination fee if you regard your phone carrier as being a bit too difficult to deal with.

Although, I have to say, I maybe would’ve preferred my isp to fob me off rather than trying to keep me locked in.

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