Wednesday, May 21, 2008

One Ringy Dingy

Major rant here. Anyone remember Ernestine, Lily Tomlin's character on the old Saturday Night Live? Well, she looks like a model of customer service from where I'm sitting.

I've been trying to reach TDS Telecom for the last two days. This is our phone company and our DSL Internet Service Provider. The Internet connection has sucked for the last two days - either nonexistent or slower than dial up.

At first, I just wanted to check whether this was a problem with our computer/personal account, or whether it was a system problem. So I tried three different "customer service" numbers, and every time ended up in an endless voice mail loop - when I could get through at all, given that several times I just got a busy signal. This is the Phone Company. How can they not have enough lines available to even put me on that stupid voice mail?

At some point, the recording did suggest that I try "power cycling", which I had already done, several times, and then suggested that if I had further questions I should check their website. Just one question here: How the hell can I check their website if the problem is not being able to connect with the Internet?

I finally reached a person by going through the loop and pushing the buttons that connected me to the option that said I wanted to make a payment. I figured if any line was going to pick up, that would be it. The operator was patient with my impatience and transferred me to the same endless voicemail loop I had been in before.

So I thought I would call the "local" office. This is 30 miles away, but it is a real building with real people in it. At least it was a year or so ago when I had to return a defective modem for exchange. I looked it up in the phone book. Local prefix on the number, looked promising. Called the number and, ended up in the same voicemail.

So in a last desperate attempt, I called directory assistance, and told them I wanted a number for the local office that would connect me with a living breathing person, not a recording. I got a different number with a local prefix.

I dialed this number. I did not dial "1". I did not dial the area code. The phone rang, then a recording came on telling me that to call this number I did not need to dial 1 or the area code, please try again.



Well things seem to be up and running again. Turns out a major cable was cut near Chicago, which screwed things up royally all over and wasn't TDS's fault. I'm sure that they were all going crazy trying to deal with it, and I have a great deal of sympathy for all the poor working stiffs on the front lines. But, I would have been a lot happier (and would have tied up their phone lines a lot less) if they had just put a recorded message up front on that help line explaining the situation. One call - I would have shrugged my shoulders and said, "Oh, OK, bummer, I guess I'll just have to wait." And I would have. The thing that sent me ballistic was the apparent impossibility of getting any information whatsoever about what was going on. So even with sympathy for the difficulty of this particular situation, I still think they need to work on their customer service plan, starting with "What is the most effective way of keeping our customers informed in the case of a major outage?" Oh, and I still don't get the logic of telling someone whose internet connection isn't working to "check the website for more information." But I dunno, maybe that's just me.


Elizabeth said...

I have TDS, too, and something is very very wrong with them. My email seems to be working ok, but all my internet browsing is awful. Sometimes taking forever, sometimes timing out, sometimes giving the No Server Found message. I hope they straighten it out post haste. I NEED my internet!!! (That sounds pretty pathetic, doesn't it?)

YarnThrower said...

That must be soooo frustrating!! Some of those "customer service" loops make me soooo angry. I heard from someplace that some of those automated systems are able to pick up from your tone of voice if you are getting frustrated, so what I've started doing in order to speak with a real person is to start shouting jibberish into the phone, in an angry sort of tone, regardless of my state of mind, but just to see if it will take action based on my voice tone. This has worked several times for me, and the voice on the other end says, "I can tell you sound a bit frustrated," and then transfers me to a real person....but it sounds like TDS might not have the technology to be able to do that :-( I hope things get better soon.....

Elizabeth said...

I found out from a message at TDS that there's an internet outage near Chicago cause a ripple effect slow-down all over. It's been frustrating!

Laurie said...

I'm a lurker coming out of lurkdom. . .I, too, get frustrated trying to call customer service. I've heard that if you hit the 0 endless times when the voice mail starts, you may actually skip everything and get a PERSON.

I'm working on a shawl, too, and need to post it! Love your scarf. Did you consider crocheting around the edges to make it flatten out?