customer service

This thought is about good customer service vs. bad customer service, IMHO. After some time to cool down from getting worked up the past few days about my dissatisfaction with my local phone service provider Starpower, I’ll share with you this contrast, and not go all out with an internet campaign to bring down Starpower, and their unreasonable policy to make me pay for my mistake so dearly.

Here I sit [after an hour’s wait on the outer loop b/c 3 lanes were shut down due to an overturned vehicle before the Tollway, during my morning commute from Bethesda to Chantilly; so I needed a driving break, and coffee] at Panera Bread, at my first opportunity to login on the ‘net via their new + wonderful free WiFi (wireless) internet service at selected locations. I was warmly greeted by this message as I powered up my browser:

High Speed Internet Access Site

Pike 7 Plaza

Welcome to our Panera Bread bakery-cafe, where we bring the tradition of freshly baked bread to neighborhoods in cities throughout the country. As you may know, our bakery offers more than a dozen delicious varieties of bread, as well as bagels, croissants, muffins, and pastries.

Our talent, expertise, and efforts are directed toward providing our customers a friendly gathering place in which to relax and share the tradition of fresh-baked bread every day. We are now pleased to offer our valued customers the chance to enjoy unrestricted complimentary high-speed Internet access using their own wireless-equipped laptops.

…happy surfing!

In contrast, my interactions with Starpower have been haphazard and disappointing over the past year, whenever I’ve had to talk with them about my local phone service or my high-speed internet cable service. Initially making the switch because of their bundled package, at first it looked like a good packaging to get it all.

Most recent disappointment (listed in reverse chronological order):
I get a $200+ bill for my local calls, b/c I had used extra minutes on my 2nd line (fax) to use dial-up internet service for the 3 weeks while my cable modem was fried due to thunderstorms. The service plan on this 2nd line was a value plan for something like $4.50/mo, and 2 cents per minute, per call. (I do have unlimited local calling on my 1st line for like $16.80/mo) So I mistakenly connect up my computer modem to the 2nd line, rack up maybe 10,000 minutes over the course of 3 weeks (yes, I’m an internet addict, if you can’t tell by my web site presence, I’ll spell it out for ya) and they’re making me pay for my mistake in entirely dearly. Talking with a Starpower customer service rep, he wouldn’t budge an inch, said I’m accountable for the cost, no way around it, and offered to switch me to the unlimited local calling plan for the future. I don’t need it for the future! I need a mutually acceptable price for my 3-week glitch in how I used their phone lines. It doesn’t cost them $200 for me to have used extra minutes on the 2nd line; I would have paid like $16.80 or even up to say $50 for this month’s spike in use, but all the way up to the outrageous cost of $200?! Can you say price gouging for a customer’s innocent mistake? They would prefer to lose a customer over a short-term financial gain. Too bad. Yes, they’ve lost a customer. I’m switching over to ComCast. I’ll consider my options on being more vocal about this, definitely filing a letter with the company and the local commission.. wish they’d come to their senses for the sake of customer service and customer relations to put a maximum on their “value plan” so they can still do the 2 cents per minute per call on top of the lower monthly fee, but not exceed a fair and reasonable amount. I thought the principle of business is to serve the customer. [AND, I’m talking with wife about just foregoing having landlines at home all together, and just using wireless cell phones.]

Second disappointment:
Thunderstorm season hit after rain season this year, and one of them sent a power surge of sorts that zapped out several ethernet ports on my little home LAN network. Fried the port on my new Dell PC, fried 2 ports on my switch hub thingy, and fried the 1 port on the cable modem. I called Starpower customer service to run through their diagnostic process, and they blamed the problem of my not having internet access on my computer – when in fact I had bought a brand new ethernet card, and tested the port to confirm that it was working. Their resolution was to make me wait at home for a 16-hour window 2 weeks out from the time of my call, where they would send a technician to diagnose the problem. I don’t have that kind of time to be waiting at home without high-speed internet and unproductivity in the meantime. So I kindly countered that maybe I should cancel my cable modem service. Without batting an eye or hesitation, the rep said okay. That’s it? They don’t want to keep customers? They want to keep their rigid policies + stick it by the book? [3 weeks later, I proceed to call Starpower back up, requested high-speed cable internet service, they were running a promotional for $19.95/mo for 3 months, and the cable installation guy came in 2 days, within a 3-hour window, AND he shows up early; at least somebody in the chain knows how to exceed expectations!]

First disappointment:
Going with their bundled offering of local phone service + high-speed cable internet, I looked forward to simplified billing and working with them on my communication needs simply and easily. Well, not so simply, my friend. I got 2 separate bills for over 6 months, one for local phone service, one for cable internet; had to cut checks to different places, and no convenience nor service for online billing or automatic debit. While I made one call to initiate installation for both services, I had to pay separately twice a month. Hassle city. (Since that time, months later, somebody finally figured out how to consolidate my bills)

As the Dustin Hoffman character said in the movie “Hook” (with Robin Williams playing Peter Pan): BAD FORM!

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