Saturday, February 7, 2009

Customer service - a tale of two wireless phone companies

Back in December 2002 we broke down and decided to sign up for a wireless phone plan, basically for emergency use. The "more bars" company was running a special. We picked out small simple phones at the local company store. Once home we discovered we only got a weak signal in our neighborhood. But as the intent was to have the phones for when we were on the road, that was OK. We humorously noted that we got a stronger signal at the little rural town we liked to go to for breakfast than in our city.

A year or two later we got a notice from the city about a public hearing for a request for a permit to place a cell tower in our neighborhood. Our city has quite a number of very vocal paranoids that are convinced we'll all die from electromagnetic transmissions. I knew that they'd be trying to stack the ballots as it were with calls and letters to the city. I decided to become civicly involved and wrote a letter to the city in support of the tower, stating security concerns. The local police department was recommending that residents always have their cell phones with them as they walk through their neighborhoods. My neighborhood was a dead zone.

Somehow the company got their permit and put up the tower. We finally had a strong signal at our house. That all ended around January 2, 2009. We were back to even worse signal strength than the beginning. A call to the local store confirmed that others in our neighborhood also had called in to complain. We called the national number. Call one to them ended up with them just taking a report. Call two a couple days later got them to ask a few more questions and promise to follow up. That call did provide the information that the cell tower near us was a partner tower. They promised to look more into it and give me a courtesy call in two days. A week after that call (with no courtesy call received) we got a four bar signal one night but then the very next day we got absolutely nothing, in fact when checking out the service we received an unauthorized message. Call three got them to listen a bit more and finally passed me on to a technician. That technician admitted that the partnership had been canceled. I asked if they were in negotiation to become partners again. They weren't. What was her suggestion to me? To upgrade my service. How would paying for a more expensive plan help getting a signal. I informed her that instead I would be changing carriers.

At work there was a flyer about state employee discounts through the "Can you hear me now" company. I sent an email to the state employee representative mentioned on the flyer. Seven minutes later I received a return email with plan details. She also left a voice message for me.

We changed plans and purchased new phones at a local authorized reseller. Both employees we dealt with there were knowledgeable about the "Can you hear me now" company's product and services. Based on our phone usage at the other carrier they knew we'd only be interested in the bare bones plan and phone. We got no up-sell at all.

Our first bill came and it showed activation fees when we were told the fees would be credited back immediately. I called the "Can you hear me now" company and within 5 minutes I was speaking to a live person. That person was empowered to resolve the issue after checking with a supervisor. I also received an email confirmation with the new balance noted.

Epilogue - two days after we switched I got the courtesy call from "more bars" It was a satisfaction survey.