Our internet connection went down today. I figured it was a routine need to reboot the router and modem, which I did. Still no connection. A few more tries … and still no internet. And no telephone, since our telephone is VOIP and won’t function without WiFi.

Finally, I had to face the horrible reality. I had to call Charter, get through their voicemail system, get a human being on the phone. Without the internet, we are isolated. Everything requires WiFi. Our cell signal is weak, unstable, with frequent dropped calls. WiFi is like electricity these days. A necessity, not a luxury.

I did it. I won’t review the whole day except to say I burned through the entire cell phone battery and finally got someone who understood the problem. And then … as inexplicably as the problem arose … it fixed itself. I then had to navigate the system again to tell them to cancel the service call. I should have just let them come.

I have reached the end of my patience with voice mail systems.

It got me thinking about the whole “customer service experience.” They always want you to do a survey after a call, but they never ask the right questions. They want to know how the person you (finally) spoke did. Which is usually fine.

What no one asks is “how hard did we make work to get a live person on the phone?” “How many times you were disconnected?” “Are you mad enough to dump our service at the earliest opportunity?” That last one should matter.

No matter how many times I go through this, I always come out of it tired, cranky, and frustrated.


Every voice mail system starts out saying “Our options have recently changed.”

Your options have not recently changed. “Recently” is a few days or weeks ago. After that, it’s not recent. Change your message!

If I know the number I need, let me press it. Don’t make me sit there while you explain in stultifying detail every permutation of your voice mail system. Everyone is familiar with voice mail. It’s not news. I am not stupid. My time is valuable, just like yours. Don’t waste it.


Whatever your organization does, make sure the first choice in your list is the thing most customers want. Probably not your address, business hours, website address, or the opportunity to hear about your new services — or take a survey.


If you are a personal service provider — doctor, dentist, veterinarian, massage therapist, hired assassin — scheduling should be on top. At least half your calls will be people who need to make, change, or cancel (or some combination thereof) an appointment. Don’t send me to a sub menu with more options. Answer the damned phone.

If you are a utility — cell service, telephone company, ISP, power company, water — why do think most people call? Because our service isn’t working. No power, no water, no cell service, no dial tone. No WiFi. No cable. Do not tell me to use the website. If I could get to the website, I would not be calling you.


Do not force me to spend half an hour listening to a robot tell me to do stuff I’ve already done (and didn’t work), or misunderstand what I’m saying.

Whoever picks up the call must immediately tell me: “Is this a general outage or is it me?”

  1. If the former: When do you expect service to be restored?
  2. If the latter, transfer me to tech support. Don’t ask me to make another call. Don’t give me that damned robot again.

Today’s outage was their issue, but they assured me they didn’t know it. Really? Seriously? You couldn’t ping the line and know there was a problem? You couldn’t figure out that the phone and modem weren’t working from your state-of-the-art central facility?


Option 2 must be Technical Support. Something isn’t working or not working as it ought. Have a human being answer the phone. Even if it involves waiting, don’t make your already upset, angry customer wade through another set of prompts. Take responsibility. Be a person.


Option 3: The bill. Which we already paid, can’t pay, shouldn’t have to pay, is actually someone else’s. If you put us into another voice mail system, it will make us angry.

We do not want to leave a message for someone to ignore and never call back. We want to straighten out what we hope is a simple misunderstanding. If you send us to more voice mail or an answering machine — and you don’t return the call immediately — expect to never get your money, or lose our business. I have dropped providers many times and will do it again.

If you annoy me, I will hold a grudge. I am a paying customer. Act like you want my business.



I hear so many companies complaining how bad business is. Never do I hear them wonder if their own action or inaction might have something to do with it. Maybe the problem is how badly you treat your customers.

Consider this. Blowing off customers does not endear you to us. If we can, we will go elsewhere. At the first opportunity, we will drop you so fast you won’t have a chance to say “Hey wait, I’ve got a deal for you.”

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine (finally) got FIOS as an alternative to Comcast. FIOS was (a bit) more expensive and had a smaller offering. She changed services anyway. She said: “I hate Comcast so much, I’d happily pay more to anyone just to be rid of them.”

I feel that way about our cable provider, Charter Communications. They think they are invulnerable because we have no choice, but WiFi based services are coming of age. There are more choices today … and more coming soon. It’s a matter of time. The ill-will you are amassing today will ultimately bury you as it has buried providers before you. The good-will of your customer is your only long-term asset. 

It’s a cautionary tale for corporations who think they “own” the market and the customers.


Talk to me. Be friendly. Make me feel valued. Calm me down. Avoid throwing gasoline on my fire. If you are in a service industry, provide service. That is why I pay you.

Categories: Communications, Customer Service, Humor

Tags: , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. Customer service is really the “pits” today. Our internet went out last week and the same situation. Someone actually came to the house and did a little rewiring and advised us to get a wifi phone with several satellites. Our internet comes over the phone so the more extensions you have the more it drains the internet. We did a speed test to see how long it would take for uploads and downloads. We are paying for about 15 whatevers and we were working only at about 5 whatevers. You can check your speed by going to . So we bought one of those wifi phones with 4 satellites. Our speed did improve to the 15 whatevers.


  2. Not too long ago, I had reason to call a local bank I normally don’t deal with. it is a small, community based bank and when the phone was answered by a LIVE PERSON, I was so shocked I couldn’t say a word, The bank person nearly hung up on me before I could get any words out.


  3. The very worst is the automated voice that asks you state your enquiry. The system NEVER understands what you say. Some companies here now use ‘Speak to a real person’ as part of their advertising.


  4. My personal favorite is: “Your call is important to us” and “This call may be recorded for training purposes.” I so have to wonder what, exactly, training purposes are they talking about. And if my call is so damn important, why do they have me on terminal hold? Please Press 2 and get back with me, Marilyn. 😀


  5. I think they make it this difficult to contact them because they really don’t want you to get through because they really don’t want to hear your problem. If by some chance you call a company and get a human, it makes you look at the number because you think you misdialed. I recently found a local computer repair business that gave me outstanding service at an even greater price. I found myself wanting to share their info with everyone I know because it is so seldom you find good old-fashioned customer service.


    • I agree. I think they want to make you go away and that’s the whole point. My doctor doesn’t use voice mail. I’d keep him if just for THAT. My favorite is when they send you an email and ask you to call them back, but give you the general voicemail number so to return the call, you have to go through 20 minutes of anger and frustration. It’s also insulting.


  6. Computer answer systems are the Devil’s work. I’m glad my company doesn’t use one. Though to be honest, whenever I phone a company up these days I’m a bit taken aback if a human suddenly answers – I expect to have at least 20 minutes to get my thoughts in order so I know what I’m going to say!


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