Thursday, August 18, 2005

The wonders of the modern corporation

"It is not just that the matter has not been resolved, it is also the reprehensible way that SBC goes about handling customer inquiries," the reader wrote. "What I am about to describe happened so consistently that I know it is intentional no matter how much SBC denies it, and in fact, I am a little embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out."

The reader realized that his initial call to SBC always seemed to result in rude treatment from the customer service representative. "When a customer calls SBC customer service a recording comes on asking for the phone number the customer is calling about, supposedly so it can be routed to the right place," the reader wrote. "The first call on a day goes to the bad cop. This person asks what you want and when you tell them they just make up a response. It has nothing to do with the problem and when you point that out, they get you to argue with them. They will hang up on you, if you do not hang up on them. In fact, when we first received the bill, it was my wife who called about it. She got the bad cop and by the end of the call, she was crying. My wife does not cry easily. SBC owes my wife a personal apology."

Calling back would, however, yield entirely different results. "If you call again immediately, the recording says that it appears you called recently and asks if this is about the same thing," the reader wrote. "You say yes and get transferred to this wonderfully friendly person that starts off with, 'How can I make you a very satisfied customer?' In my case, this good cop/bad cop routine is just a waste of time -- mine and SBC's -- as I will always call back, if for no other reason than to complain about the first call. But what about the divorced mother of a two-year-old who comes home from work after picking up her child from day care and finds a problem with her bill? She, I submit, and many customers in similar situations, will not know what to do after that first call. She doesn't have time to spend hours on the phone and will probably just pay the incorrect charge, at least eventually, when she gets letters and calls threatening to cut off or reduce service. That is stealing in my book."

Although the "good cop" always agrees to remove the bogus charge plus penalties and interest SBC has been adding to the bill because of it, the charges are still there. "I am also aware that there is actually a variation on this routine," the reader continued. "Once the incorrect charge becomes an overdue charge that appears on the bill, it does not matter how many times you call in a day, the call always first goes to the bad cop who after getting your number and before you can say anything says something like, 'You have overdue charges. The total bill is $xxx.xx, would you like to make a credit card payment now?' As with the other routine, if you try to dispute the bill with this person, he will get rude and even hang up on you. Unless you know to specifically ask for the good cop, you will never get through to the person who will discuss the bill, no matter how many times you call back. Incidentally, the bad cop has always been male, and the good cop has always been female. Whoever thought up this way of handling customers should be fired."

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