This couple of stories do not really have anything new but it clearly illustrates what I have come to call the f!@# You Conception of Control, that is the idea that it becomes the accepted norms that corporations may not really care about the product they put out and rely on horrendous “customer service” to keep customers from using too much of the product they pay for.
“Trying to get ahold of your insurance company means negotiating a bewildering maze of phone trees and webpages. I use Humana, but I don’t have any reason to believe that any other insurers are any different. The key point to remember is that your insurance company DOES NOT want to talk to you. Maintaining a call center is expensive, and the company will undertake whatever means it can in order to force you onto an automated system or, barring that, attrite you into submission. Moreover, the question you have, if answered properly, might cost the company money. This is bad, and the insurance company is going to do its darndest to make it difficult for you to get the information you need. On a couple of occasions I was forced to repeatedly enter my policy ID# in order to move on to the next phone tree, all with the carrot of a “patient care representative” dangling in front of me. At one step, the system insisted that I verbalize my ID#, birth date, and zip code. No matter how clearly I said any of these, I was then forced to punch them into my phone keypad. I was told at one point to represent any letters in my ID# with the star key. I was then dragged through the agonizingly slow process through which the automated system tried to figure out exactly what letter a star represented (“Press 1 for G. Press 2 for H. Press 3 for I”). At another stage in the phone tree, the automated voice refused to accept any number I pressed before it was done speaking. If I made the error of pressing a number before the sentence was finished (and the robot, for some reason, favored long, pregnant pauses), then the system would stop for about 15 seconds before telling me that it didn’t understand what I was trying to say. It would then repeat its entire spiel. When you finally reach “waiting for the next patient care representative” stage, you are invariably treated to ridiculously terribly music punctuated by a voice patiently explaining how useful the website or the automated system would be, with the implication that you’re a moronic ingrate for needing an actual operator. On one occasion, I made it through the phone tree only to be told that the call center was closed.
Perhaps my favorite roadblock was on the (otherwise useless) Humana website. Shortly after creating your account, the website insists that you read a series of statements about the confidentiality of your health care, and that you click “I agree” at the bottom of each statement. If you don’t scroll down and read the entire statement, it refuses to let you move on. Ingeniously, one of the statements didn’t show any scroll bars on the page. It simply didn’t allow you to move forward. Clicking on “I agree” only makes you more angry, with the eventual (I assume) purpose that you will hit your keyboard so hard that your computer will break, thus saving the insurance company any additional difficulty.
None of this is accidental. The point is to irritate and confuse the customer so much that he or she eventually hangs up. It works, too. We would all like to think that we have the wherewithal to fight through the system, but often we don’t. We run short of phone minutes, or we get another call, or we have to do any one of the myriad things that amount to normal, everyday life, and we end up hanging up. This is what the insurance company calls “a win.””
“I’ve never once gotten any money taken off of my bill from AT&T despite every single one of those months being filled with dropped calls and overall shit service. If I called to complain I might be able to get something back — but I’d have to do that each month. And even if I didn’t drop the call when calling them up, have you ever tried calling one of those customer support numbers? Kill me.
And I loved when AT&T tried to spin their recent termination of unlimited data plans as a good thing for customers. Almost all customers will be paying less under the new plans, is how the company line read. Sure, right now. But in a couple years (when you’re still under contract, by the way), these plans are going to screw you. This is all about AT&T taking precautionary measures so they can make more money down the road.
It’s not about saving their customers any money. It’s a lucky side-effect of their larger agenda to get data consumption under control. It’s total bullshit.
Vogelstein’s takeaway seems to be that all customers should get used to high prices and declining service as wireless demands continue to increase. Sadly, that’s probably true.”
And I am sure I could find further examples from the airline industry as well.