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Front Porch: Scheduling tech service is special hell

Thu., Sept. 26, 2013, midnight

In “Inferno,” poet Dante outlines the nine circles of hell – lust, gluttony, violence, etc. – but he clearly needed to add a 10th. I nominate getting lost in the labyrinth that is known as customer service for that ignominious honor.

I have just emerged from it, and I am exhausted. First the disclaimer. It was my fault that I hadn’t backed up my computer. That’s on me. But then, getting past my security software, came the virus, a nasty piece of ramsomware that locked me out and beckoned me to pay $300 to unlock it for 28 days so I could pay fines for all the copyright infringement and other illegal activities the “FBI” said I was doing. I don’t think so.

But, alas, that began my five-day journey into that 10th circle of hell. It would be too tedious to recount the entire litany here, particularly since I suspect readers have hellish scenarios of their own to recall. But let me offer a highlight or two. I arranged for a virus fixer guy to come to my house on a Saturday. Would a time between 9 and 12 work for me, asked the third customer service representative I talked with. Why yes it would. I got stood up. I began calling at 12:30 (“we are experiencing a greater than normal volume of calls; your wait time will be approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes”). When I did get through to a living breathing soul, I was informed the technician would call before he came.

No, no, no, said I. The time has come and gone already. No call, no technician. Forty minutes later, I finally learned that my scheduled time was 9 p.m. to midnight that very night and that indeed he would call before arriving. Who in hell schedules a service call at midnight, I asked. The service technician will call before he comes was the reply.

That’s another problem. Particularly on weekends, calls such as mine are handled by call centers located in other countries and where, I have since learned, besides language and comprehension matters not being optimal, the phone representatives are not allowed to vary from set responses. If a question is asked for which there is not a scripted answer, one is selected that seems close enough to hopefully mollify the caller. It doesn’t.

So I wait. By 1 a.m., no technician, and I resume calling. The good news about calling in the middle of the night is that wait times are considerably shorter. But system upgrades were being performed on the other end which, when they automatically kicked in, disconnected my calls – which happened three times. I got to bed after 3 a.m.

Much more calling on Sunday. I was assured the Saturday technician had called and left a message that he was unable to make the appointment. Didn’t happen. Another technician was scheduled for Monday, and he would call to set the time. No call.

A lot followed, but skipping mercifully to the end, seems that the mother ship gave technician one and technician two my fax number as a contact number. I had numerous times repeated my home number as the one to call, but to no avail, apparently. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with the scheduling people, who conferenced in the technician, that a service time was actually set up – and actually took place.

Side note – on that Monday we were visited by two technicians. The first one, who I had been assured could handle the virus cleanup, was not a software guy. He was a nuts-and-bolts guy. The second one was the right guy and, I must say, did a great job, above and beyond the extra amount I had to pay for him to come.

This whole thing started early on a Thursday morning and ended on a Monday night. It’s not that I felt socially burdened not being able to email friends and family or play video games or surf on those days. I work as a freelance writer – and I need my computer! Please picture me at a computer at Kinko’s trying to recreate from notes and memory a story I was on deadline for. ARRRGGHHH!

And one other whine – of the about a half-dozen people who said they or their supervisors would call back to check on how things went, no one ever did.

Yes, don’t waggle a finger at me, the lack-of-back-up issue was of my own doing, and I have since remedied that with a daily service that backs everything up every single day and stores it in the cloud somewhere so I can access it no matter what’s happening with my computer.

Still, if Dante were writing today, there isn’t a chance in hell he wouldn’t include the customer service maze in that group of circles of his.

Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at upwindsailor@comcast. net.

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