Debated Disliked Narrated

Morning Tech Support

If the experiences I’ve had over the last hour are any indication, 2008 is going to be the year where everyone forgets how customer service works.

I have attempted to deal with three separate organizations. All three have failed even the most basic of requirements for making a customer happy.


## The Story

I am what’s been referred to as a “Day One” OLPC donator. For most people this means “donated early, got their laptop early”. For me, this apparently means “gave a sizable chunk of money as a donation, received fuck-all to show for it”. Most everyone I know – *most everyone I even told about the program* – has received their laptops by now.

But not me.

I placed a phone call, on December 20th, to inquire about the status of mine. The original promised date was “by Christmas”, and I wanted to just see what was going on.

The first call was a thirty minute wait; this may seem acceptable to you, but it’s not when the hold music only lasts a minute before it resets. It is hell, hell that is only somewhat salvageable by using a speakerphone.

When I finally had my call taken, I explained my situation. Then there was a lot of typing and not a lot of typing. Finally, my representative (“Elsa”) came back on the line.

“Sir, we don’t have a shipping address listed for this order, so we have been unable to ship it.”

My PayPal receipt says otherwise. Wait, let me repeat that with some decorative text effects. My PAYPAL RECEIPT, which is from the same PayPal account I use for every PayPal transaction I do, says otherwise.

Nevertheless, I swallowed my pride, and gave the woman my revised shipping address – it would make no sense to have it delivered to work if I had two weeks off from work, one would assume. I also got my magical confirmation number. One would ask, “Why wasn’t there a confirmation number in the original receipt?” And one would reply, “I donated so early they weren’t even including them in the emails yet.”

But here we are today. January 2nd, 2008. Still no laptop. And going to the online tracker yields endless “invalid tracking information” every time I try it.

So I call again. After hitting the option to “Track My Package”, it tells me to go to the website, and then disconnects me without missing a beat. Redial. Representative. And the same hold music is still there – and it’s even shorter this time around – and this time I have no speakerphone.

Ten minutes later, the torture ends and Arlene answers the phone. I then learn:

* My confirmation number was wrong.
* It’s been dispatched for shipping and I should be receiving it no later than the 15th.
* Because it’s been dispatched for shipping, I can’t change the address back to my office – which means receiving this should be a joy.

But after leaving that call, I refuse to leave well enough alone. I go to the checker again, and enter my new number.

Error : Invalid reference number .

## Take-Away Lessons For Support Professionals

* Do not sell someone something, ever, without a tracking number.
* If you have an exception in your system, make the effort to fix it yourself. Don’t wait for the customer to catch it.
* Do not loop your hold music to the point of irritation, much less torture.
* Your phone tree should never, ever disconnect someone forcefully. Always offer to go to the top of the menu.



## The Story

I don’t use UPS by choice; I use Amazon by choice. Amazon chooses to use UPS. Fuck me, I suppose.

In a fit of impulse technology buying gone horribly astray, I bought a Flip Ultra camera from Amazon while on the car-ride back from Maryland on the 26th. Amazon Prime means I should’ve had it Friday.

But when I came home on Friday, the package that was here from UPS was a holiday present for Katie, not my Amazon package. Curious – I had seen it was out for delivery earlier that day. What gives? Quickly, to, and…

Breathe, Dan, breathe. Surely, this is just some mistake. I mean, it’s not like UPS has ever delivered packages from Amazon to this address before. And it’s not like UPS has ever delivered any other pacakges to this address before. Like this one you just received on the same fucking day.


So I call on the 31st. I get through fairly quickly, so hurrah for that – and the woman reads me the same information about my address being wrong. Tells me I need to get Amazon to contact them. I offer a counter-solution: how about you just deliver my package? My logic intrigues the representative, who tells me Maspeth Station will be calling me within the hour to discuss this with me.

No call comes. So, I call this morning. This time, the automated system can’t understand my tracking code – but it transfers to a representative fine. And I basically have the same phone call again, with the added detail that the station claims to have called me. Ho ho, that’s rich. So I give them both of my numbers and am promised another phone call by 10 this morning. As I type these very letters, my clock says it’s 10:18.

Bravo, UPS, bravo. Don’t you fucking make me find the station in Maspeth.

## Take-Away Lessons For Support Professionals

* Don’t invite your consumer to have one corporate behemoth chat up another corporate behemoth. Show some initiative. Do it yourself.
* If you have an exception in your system, make the effort to fix it yourself. Don’t wait for the customer to catch it.
* If you promise a customer someone will call, make sure they call. Better yet, transfer them to the person in question. Something. Anything.


# AT&T Wireless

While in the middle of the UPS nonsense, I started to wonder – are my phones messed up? Will I get the call? Quickly, call myself back and forth!

And oddly, something was wrong – my iPhone cannot complete a call. Dialing out causes the other phone to ring, but my iPhone never starts the call timer. Receiving a call rings, and the call timer starts, but I can’t hear anything.

Not wanting to gum up my one working phone line with a support call, I opt to go for AT&T Wireless’s online chat. Which, if you’ve never seen before, looks like this:

I may not have any formal UI design on my resume. I may have spent most of my life in chat rooms. I may have the patience of a saint. But: who in their right mind thought this was an acceptable solution to customer chat? I can count more things wrong with this than things done properly.

* Why am I seeing everyone else’s chat? It’s impossible to follow because you have 9 representatives talking to 13 customers.
* Why are there people just watching?
* Why are there esoteric menus?
* Why is the FAQ page completely useless for questions one might truly ask frequently, such as “How the fuck do I turn off everyone else’s chat?”.

And so on, and so on, and so on. Eventually, my “question” gets picked up and the conversation goes something like this:

Agent: Thank you for using AT&T Wireless Live Chat Forums, I would be happy to help you with your iPhone question.
Agent: Have you tried removing the sim card on this phone?
Me: No, I have not ever removed the sim card from the phone.
Agent: Okay, first thing you'll need to do is try removing the sim card.  You can insert a paperclip or other 
similar item in the hole to the right to eject it.
Me: I don't have a paperclip handy; what would the step be after this?
Agent: Have you tried rebooting the phone?
Me: Yes.
Agent: Do you have another phone you can put the sim card in?
Me: Yes.

For the full effect, add a two minute pause between each message – because every one of my responses has to be “approved” by someone, presumably the same agent I’m chatting with.

And yes, I was summarily disconnected for no particular reason. Was it that I changed to another tab? Was it that my agent grew tired of dealing with me? Is the blistering hate I’m feeling seeping out of my skull and affecting my router? Who knows.

All I do know is, I will take an opportunity to stop into my local AT&T Wireless store, where they will hopefully be less idiotic in helping me fix this. At least I won’t have to wait for my responses to be cleared with the censor board.

## Take-Away Lessons For Support Professionals

* If you’re going to do online live chat, do it right, or don’t fucking do it at all.
* * This means I don’t care about everyone else’s cases.
* * This means don’t make me wait as my responses get “approved”.
* * This means give me an interface that isn’t ass.