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THE DISCONNECT….. By Jeffrey J. Van Houtte

The phone rang, answered, placed on hold. I looked at my watch. Two more rings, answered by a pleasant sounding female voice asking what she could help me with. I explained to her that I wanted to look at other options for my cable and internet service. She replied quickly, “Please hold”. The void was filled with tin drums and background sounds of birds and the ocean. Two minutes passed and the Caribbean sounds were replaced by the sounds of a string quartet. I am not sure if the decision makers chose the channels of their music on hold service by level of anxiety it would cause said customer or if they were running an experiment on how long said customer could stand it without hanging up or blowing their head off. I digress. The music stopped and then pure teeth gritting silence, then a click and a bored-sounding male asked what he could assist me with? I reiterated what I told his predecessor “pleasant sounding female”, that I just received my monthly bill and noticed that the price had increased by almost $60. Bored-sounding stated that I was emailed in August. That is all he said. I replied, “About what? The price increase?”. Monotone reply, “Yes”.

Computer keys clicking through the speaker of my smartphone. Monotone coughs, clears his throat, excuses himself and says,” I have looked at your account and I see that you had a special bundle that expired the first of September. That is the reason why your bill was higher.” I thanked him for looking and then asked what he could do to decrease the $197.00 bill to a more affordable option. He asked if I have a landline. I stated that I did not and was not interested in the home phone service as part of the bundle since I use my mobile. He offered me a bundle that included all the channels I wanted, plus high-speed internet, and phone service. The best part the price for the newly bundled package was $2.00 less than what I was currently billed for. I am sure you see where this conversation was quickly heading. I closed my eyes, counted to five, then in a calm, friendly voice thanked him and politely requested to speak to another representative. His response, “Please hold.” The representative I was transferred to was extremely helpful, her tone of voice expressed to me that she truly cared about my concerns, and most importantly she took the time to listen to me and truly heard me. Ten minutes later I forgot about “pleasant sounding female” and “Monotone” and was enrolled in a bundle that met all my needs and was $30.00 less than my current plan. I would say that “helpful” did an outstanding job with satisfying the customer’s needs or “pain point”. Customer service is changing and we as patrons face it each time we wait in line at a local fast food restaurant, or at the checkout at the supermarket. Wal-mart is the best example. I could not count on one let alone two hands or two feet that I have been ignored while checking out my purchases or the cashier is too busy looking at their phone or talking to another employee who also should be paying attention to their customer. Mobile devices, the internet, technology, are all blamed for the disconnect. I agree that our society relies on all those listed in order to feel apart of the world. The next time you are in a store or walking down the street observe others and I guarantee that most if not all those people you see walking past are engrossed on what their friends are sharing on Facebook, Twitting on Twitter, or the latest cat video on youtube or Instagram. These social media outlets serve a purpose and I am as guilty as the next Snapchatter. When we don’t know how to handle a situation we turn to the internet for direction. Before the internet, people turned towards people. Being social meant going to someone’s house to play cards or go out dancing at the club. We distance ourselves from others and then when we do socialize personally we do not know how to so we turn to technology. People need people. Without that truth we will not know how to socialize with each other. The two people I spoke to at the cable company did not connect with me, did not listen to what problems I had, and how they could assist me with trying to solve that problem. Is technology solely to blame for this? No we are. Listen to people, hear what they are saying, and help them if you can. Be there. That is all that is needed is presence of self.

The Disconnect....  

Customer service is no longer about making the connection with the individual and their needs.