Communication Breakdown

A few years ago, a salesman (who was also a cousin) from one of those new telephone companies talked our newspaper into switching our local and long distance service to them. Promising huge percentage reductions in our phone bill sounded great, but whenever we needed work done on our lines (which in our growth stage was frequent), they had to call our old service provider (you know, those Big Guys that used to be our only choice).

Weeks later, one of the Big Guys would show, pull out a piece of paper and say, “Oops, looks like your provider ordered the wrong phone line to be worked on. They’ll have to call back and send another order through and then we can come back and work on it.”

“Hey,” I said to this same technician who had serviced us when we were with his company. “You used to show up the next day and if we had to add or change our order, you’d do it on the spot. Now it takes weeks of bureaucratic requests to get anything done.”

He then gave me a wry smile, leaned back and whispered to me: “You’d get that kind of service again if you would switch back to us.”

So, after a year of hassles, we finally switched back to the Big Guys and all was well again. Except the other company kept billing us for service we no longer had. The bill got up towards $40,000 with fees, interest, penalties, etc. I kept slipping the bills under the windshield wiper on my cousin’s car, who parks in the same lot as I do. He said they had a new billing computer and they were having trouble communicating with it.

Last summer, another new phone company wired our building and promised even better rates. Always willing to support the little guys (as we are), we signed up. But they had a miscommunication between their sales and production departments, resulting in our office having no phone service for a week. Talk about stress: I spent each day on my cell phone, working my way up the management chain of this new phone company, begging for help. Finally, I got the cell phone number of the company’s vice-president, who was in a convention in New Orleans. Soon, service was restored and my employees could once again talk to our customers.

A few months ago I went home and found that line not working. Thus began a four-week odyssey of calls to customer service reps and conversations with technical people who came to my house.

For two days, I did have service, but I started getting calls for some woman I did not know. Then, when I called my daughter, she looked at her Caller ID and asked if I was dating this same woman. I assured her I wasn’t. My next call was from the mystery woman herself, who told me she too had been without service for two weeks and I somehow ended up with her line.

My line went silent the next day and stayed that way until one of the techs who reappeared at my house asked what business I was in.

“Newspapers,” I said.

“I didn’t say this,” he said. “But if you wrote a story about this, you’d get service real quick.”

That afternoon, I called the media relations department and explained to a nice woman I was writing a story about several households – including mine – being without service for weeks at a time. The woman didn’t believe I had been without service for a month. “Let me check into is and I’ll call you tomorrow,” she said.
The next day she called and said her boss had verified my story, dispatched three trucks to my street and told them not to go home until I had service restored.

That night, I picked up my phone and called my daughter. She was happy to hear I had moved back home. Now that I have phone service, I think I’ll stay.

President of Schroder Public Relations in Atlanta, GA

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