February 24th, 2004


Customer service -- breaking up is hard to do

Yesterday I called to cancel my east-side phone number. (I've finally got a 206 cell.)

When I called to cancel the other service, Verizon made me dance through voicemail hoops to even get to a human. I pressed '3' to get to close my account, and here's what happened:

Thirty seconds of silence. No, not a hold message, not recorded muzak -- silence.

Now at this point I'm already convinced that this is to make me hang up before confirming that I want to close my account. Stinkers. But then it rings for a moment, and a male voice which I can describe as nothing but "honeyed" came on.

"Hello sir, how can I help you?"
"I'm calling to close my account."
"Oh, did we do something to make you feel that way?" he asks soothingly. I am a little annoyed by the "feel" instead of an active verb like "close", but I let it go.
"No, I just don't need it."
"But what did we do -- I'd really like to make things work out. I think we can make this work."

At this point I was getting a bit creeped out. It's like I'm breaking up with him personally here.
"No, really, I just want to close the account."
"So can you tell me what it is that you don't like?"
"Look, I do data mining for a living, and I don't really care to be a point in your dataset."
"Oh, well, sir, I'm *sorry* -- did I do something to *offend* you?"
["what?" I think.] "Look, I just want to close the account! Please, just make this easy. I have a lot of other things to do today."
"Oh, well, okay, sir, I don't want to hurt any feelings or anything. I just want to make sure you're satisfied." You'd think he was trying to talk me off a ledge here.

After a few more emotion-laden exchanges, I get him off the phone. But I'm left with a few questions: Is this how he acts with every caller? Is this weird attitude part of the script? Is he getting commissions for those he can keep on the program? What if I'd called at business hours -- would I still have gotten the "help keep the poor guy from making a mistake he'll regret later" angle? Is he an American, or is this one of the Hyderabad phone service guys who has learned his American pop-psych really well?
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