Monday, September 16, 2013

Online Information

Remember Lily Tomlin's character Ernestine on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and her famous tag-line: "We're the phone company, we don't care, we don't have to." Well this is a recent story and more importantly a little trick I learned during my time spent in the online customer service arena.

I needed a copy of my most recent Pacific Gas & Electric bill but I don't get a paper bill, I'm your paperless kind of guy. So I went on my bank's billing paying website only to discover that the bank software had a bug and my bill couldn't be displayed. No problem, I went to the PG&E website but they couldn't help me unless I signed in with my account number. But I didn't have my account number because, of course, on the bank website it showed as *00169. For safety purposed I couldn't see my own account number, just in case I was a hacker who had broken into the account and wanted to pay my bill.

Now I was in a nice little Catch-22; no bill without the account number and no account number without the bill. But I remembered a little trick I learned back in the 90s when I supervised customer service for . . . well that's another story.

Here's what I did, feel free to lift this little maneuver the next time you deal with the cyber version of customer service. I wrote an informative email requesting my account number. Gave them all my personal information and explained the online bill glitch at my bank. I sent it off to PG&E customer service. Then I waited an hour and sent it again. The next morning a sent the request a third and later a fourth time.

Two days later I got responses to all of my requests but from four different customer service drones.

Response #1: We cannot fulfill your request without further information. Please provide your account number. Mind you my account number was what I was requesting.

Response #2: We are unable to provide the information you requested online. Here is the address for the nearest PG&E office.

Response #3: This information is not available online but there is a phone number you can call.

Response #4: Thank you for your request for information from PG&E customer service. Here is your account number as requested.

You see they have these rules but they also have actual humanoids responding to your questions and needs; usually about 1 in 4 times you get someone who thinks for themself. Either that or they have dealt with 'customer service' in their own non-work life and they know it's an oxymoron 3 out of 4 times.

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