Monday, November 22, 2010

Cell phone companies suck, generally, but some bring suckage to a much higher level...

Mount Royal University has been my educational home for more than 25 years. I'm proud to have been a student for all those years and proud now to be an alum. MRU has, from my experience, always gone out of its way to provide not only a great education but great ancillary services to its students and alum.

One of the partnerships MRU has is with Bell Mobility. I already have a bias, having been with Bell since 2004 and having found that company's customer service shockingly, unbelievably poor. This is not only my experience, I understand; the gentle soul I spoke to at MRU today indicated that their dealing with Bell had been 'interesting' with the full text "utterly hellish" being quietly inserted between the lines. Given my experience and my well-developed bias, today’s events, while frustrating, were no surprise.

There is usually reason to give companies a second chance (or 20th...), as staff and policies change; one can always hope a company will see the light and actually put some teeth in their supposed commitment to customer service. Or that they will hire employees whose vocabularies extend beyond “Whaaah? You’re from Calgary? Where’s that?”

Last week, I clicked MRU's link to Bell’s site. It leads to this PDF:

It is pretty simple to follow, if not very detailed. However, the appropriate phone number and website are both there.... This is where I'll warn you that if you're not good at frustration, those communication points are going to give you a heart attack.

To the PDF; the number included - the option 4 - has a full message box; you can't leave a message and there are no reps answering (there may not actually be any reps) but the system generously offers to transfer you. However, in Bell Land, 'transfer' means 'cut you off.'

Ok, try option six, for 'any other accounts.' There, I spoke to a rep who became more and more confused as the call progressed. He did not understand that Bell's PDF was missing the information he was asking from me. "How am I supposed to know that information if it's not on your marketing?" I asked him, to which he replied "I don't know." His answer to "If you were me and you'd found this PDF and done what it said, and you got you, would you be frustrated?" was met with a change of subject....

Ok. Try customer service. Nope. They can't find any record, internally or externally for Mount Royal and, even though the website is clearly marked on this ever-less useful PDF, Mount Royal of any flavour does not appear in any search. Oh, and 'Please hold," for customer service also means "Goodbye" so prepare to call back if you haven't yet bashed your head in on your desk.

The PDF is, I found out, missing a key piece of information - something called a NODE number. This, as I understand it, is the only way to even get answers about what is on offer to Alums. If you don't have that number, they can't even tell you if they HAVE an offer for us. Apparently, even a 'yes' is protected by Bell's crazy internal privacy policies.

Speaking of privacy, the named account manger for the MRU account, one James Barlow, has a 800 number -- which is not available in 'our' area. ... Apparently, even though the man is an account manager, everything about him, including whether he even exists as a Bell employee, is protected under FOIP... I think this is crap, actually; crap that actually means, "I don't really know where to start looking for staff members and I don't know how to transfer a call."

Anyway, I called again and used the voice-activated system by saying “agent.” This last call in got me someone who actually really did want to help. I can take it the poor guy has only been there a month or two and has not yet succumbed to Bell's corporate culture (try to make their heads blow up before you actually help them, and please, see that you do that within our 4 minute call rule, OK?) He found out that there is actually no record of any agreement with MRU. This is not to say there isn't one; just that there's no record of it, despite that BELL has provided said PDF to say there is….

My new friend (I was actually ready to marry him because he was so willing to help and must be a man among men because help is on such short supply at Bell) admitted that corporate complaints does not actually have a phone number - hardly surprising considering the company would have to second as much staff as possible to answer those phones considering the probable volume of complaints they'd otherwise get.

There is a corporate complaints fax line but who knows where the fax is; could be in the middle of some junk yard somewhere in Alabama, a la CIBC.... He also said there's no number for marketing - as in the marketing department has no contact phone numbers... also probable BS but what can you do?

But, he did give me a land line for the mythical James Barlow and that line rang AND had a voicemail box with room in it. I've left a message with the possibly-real James Barlow to let him know how much fun I've been having for a couple hours this morning... If he calls back and has anything other than "I don't know," or "What's your NODE number," to add, I shall continue this saga.

In the meantime, one of the newer entries into the Canadian cell phone marketplace, WYND, has some really, really inexpensive plans on offer - $18 per month for unlimited calling and texting. Whatever Bell has on offer, I'm reasonably sure it won't be anywhere near that good – and don’t let Bell sell you on coverage; WYND uses Bell’s network of cell towers, so if you don’t have coverage with them that is ALSO Bell’s fault.

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