The conversation is predictable: first you wade through the cloying chatty voice response system and wait on hold for 10-15 minutes. Every 20 or so seconds, the Muzak rendition of “Long and Winding Road” cuts out, and a perky voice comes up. But no, you’ve been fooled again, it’s just another advertisement letting you know how wonderful T-Mobile is, then it’s back to the Beatles-lite.
Sometimes, the perky voice tells you that “due to higher than normal call volume, our wait times may be longer than normal…” You muse that call volumes are always “higher than normal” at T-Mobile and channel quotations from The Princess Bride.
Eric – a live human – eventually does pick up, but by now, you’re so conditioned to ignoring the sound of perky, well-trained voices cutting in that you ignore him, and he’s said “Hello…?” into the awkward silence three times before you realize that it’s your turn to respond.
You give him your name, phone number and social security number (didn’t you type those in to get to him in the first place?) and explain that, for the past three years, you’ve gotten effectively zero reception at your house. That the T-Mobile map claims you should be fully stoked, and previous tech reps have indicated that “there seems to be a service ticket open, but it shouldn’t affect your reception”. But still, here you sit, staring at the sad empty triangle where your four bars of service should be.
You try to head him off and explain that, whenever you call, you get escalated to the point where an advanced service technician says that what you probably need is a signal booster. That sadly, these magical boosters are backordered, but that they should be getting a batch in some time next month if you’d like to try calling then. That no, they don’t maintain a wait list, you should simply call back when they’re in stock. That, like with every previous iteration, you are now calling back, bitter hope springing eternal.
“I understand sir. I’d like to go through a few diagnostics first.”
Are you calling from the phone now, sir?”
Uh no. Remember the part about not having any reception?
“Very well. Have you tried restarting the phone?”
Over the past three years? Yeah, once or twice.
“I understand. Let me hand you off to one of our advanced technicians.”
So front line tech support consists of asking you to reboot your phone. You try not to sound unimpressed and agree to the handoff.
“Hello sir, this is Chelsea, what can I do for you?”
You go through the story again. Chelsea check for service bulletins and discovers that there’s one for your area, but that it shouldn’t affect you. She asks if you have wifi, and would like to use wifi calling. No, you explain – you pay for T-Mobile, and would really like them to provide what they’re paid to deliver.
She suggests that maybe you need a signal booster and you agree, wearily. But alas, the signal boosters appear to be backordered. Maybe you could call back at the end of summer, when they should be in stock?
You actually laugh out loud at this point. It’s a gentle laugh, not the one of a customer who’s been unhinged by a dysfunctional relationship with his cell phone provider. No, you’re not going wait – you say it politely, empathically – this is going to have to be ‘goodbye’.
“I understand entirely, sir.”
Chelsea says it like she really does understand, like she feels your pain. Note to self: advanced tech support consists of being able to sound like you feel the customer’s pain.
“But before you go, may I transfer your call to our loyalty department?”
You’re not sure you like the idea of a “Loyalty Department”, and point out that discounts, or whatever they offer for loyalty, won’t fix the fundamental problem of “no service”. But sure, you agree to one more handoff.
At the handoff, you get Jack, who’s so enthusiastic and pumped up that you wonder momentarily whether he achieves this state with medication. Jack clearly loves T-Mobile and, when he’s older and has grown into long pants, will have no problem finding work as an evangelical preacher. You start explaining your lack of service, but before you get to your first verbal punctuation mark, he’s got an idea:
“Hey – why don’t we just try sending you a signal booster?”
Uh, that would be great, but…
“Are you still on Greenwood Ave?”
“Excellent – we’ll get it in the mail this afternoon; I’ll waive the express shipping charge, and you should have it by Wednesday.”
You think about asking what happened to the backorders and hold your tongue. Sure, fine. Wednesday – great.
“Anything else I can do for you?”
There are many things you’re tempted to ask. Is the leaving-an-abusive-relationship script really the model for all telecom support? What happens if you still say you’re going to switch – will they send you roses and a card promising to change? So many things. But no, Wednesday will come soon enough.