Call Center Fiasco

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

It’s Black Friday; Big Box Store advertises smartphones for a dollar. After standing in line for over an hour, we learn that because I have a business plan, they can’t sell us phones. However, all we need to do is change to an individual plan, and they send us to Carrier’s store to do that.

Carrier isn’t offering any deals, so their store is empty. But the staff can’t change my account; only I can do that. I stay in their store and make the call. The agent has to set up my new account first, and I provide the requisite information. Then he has to do a credit check, which requires me repeating the same information. Next he moves the phones over one by one. Each time I must answer the same questions, repeating information I’ve already given. Twenty-five minutes into the call, my new account is set up with three of our five phones. Suddenly the agent starts mumbling something about not being able to switch over the last two. “The system kicks me out every time I try.” His supervisor can’t help. They need second-level tech support to fix it. He promises a resolution within twenty-four hours and tells me I’ll receive a phone call when it’s complete. We leave the Carrier store.

With half my family already in line at Big Box Store, the rest of us join them. When it’s our turn, Big Box Store can’t access my Carrier account. Apparently it takes time for the change to migrate through Carrier’s system. We’ll need to come back on Saturday. Feeling sorry for the hassle and appreciative for our patience, Big Box Store promises to hold the new smartphones for us and even sets up an appointment at 4:00 p.m. so we won’t have to wait in line a third time. Having spent three hours at Carrier and Big Box Store, we leave without our new smartphones.

Twenty-four hours comes and goes with no call from Carrier. I wait a couple of hours more, and then I call them. The agent knows nothing about my ordeal yesterday and can’t comprehend the nonsense I’m spouting. Eventually I convince her to move the last two phones to my new account. She has the same problem. She seeks help, but no one can assist her. I spend nearly an hour on the phone, and she promises to have the problem fixed before our 4:00 p.m. appointment.

Doubtful, I wait an hour and call Carrier again. The problem is still not resolved, and the agent ultimately gives me two options: I can call back Monday and talk with someone from the department that can fix the problem (they don’t work weekends), or I can “escalate” it now, with a promised resolution within seven to ten days.

“That is unacceptable,” I tell the rep. (My wife thinks that’s funny.) The call continues to drag on, and we need to leave for our appointment at Big Box Store. My wife drives as I continue to talk, but Carrier and I make no progress.

Big Box Store is ready for us. With phone number one remaining as is, phones two and three are quickly upgraded – if “quickly” means forty-five minutes. They try in vain to upgrade the last two phones but can’t. Big Box Store reps reach out to their help desk and contacts at Carrier without resolution. We’ll need to wait until Monday.

Two days later, I spend fifty minutes on the phone with Carrier as I drive to a meeting. The rep keeps saying, “I’m almost done – just a little bit longer.”

I say, “But I need to go,” and repeatedly try to arrange a call back. The rep doesn’t comprehend, and eventually I have to hang up. That afternoon, I spend an hour and fifteen minutes on the phone with another Carrier rep during my return trip. That rep can’t resolve the problem either.

By Tuesday, however, Big Box Store can access the last two phones. They update phone number four, but number five takes another day.

This column isn’t a rant about wasting much of my holiday weekend upgrading phones; it’s a lament about a company that spent six hours of agent time trying to fix an internal problem with their computer records.

Now all I need to do is get them to resolve all the billing errors they caused in the process.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at

[From Connection Magazine Jan/Feb 2015]

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