Got lost in cyber space (again). Set up plain vanilla home telephone service for a family member a few months ago. You know, the old-fashioned kind with the long curly cord. The big name phone company’s website said I’d have to call to activate residential service, even though I was a long-time cellular customer. Fine. I used my cell phone to call the 800 number and received a generic message inviting me to “Please hold for the next available agent”. After about 15 minutes of alternating commercials and heavy metal music, a second automated message told me that “Due to high call volume, we cannot take your call at this time. Please try your call again later”. After three rounds of this I finally connected with a living breathing person around 11:00 pm.
Received a letter in the mail thanking me for my business, and was told to sign up for an online account using the pin number on my billing statement. Only I never received a bill. So I couldn’t register online to see my billing information without either their pin number or the amount of my last bill. Arghh!
Today, after two months of playing musical phones, I went online again and found a phone number for billing support and dialed in via Skype. The computer asked for my phone number, which I keyed in. Then it looked up my record and after a few more touch tone answers, connected me to a very helpful woman. She asked for my email address and said she’d email me a copy of my overdue bill. Only she misheard the email address and sent it into the ether. But, she’d told me the amount of the last bill. A key piece of information recognized by their computer system! With this data I was able to finally register online and access my account.
Signed up for Easy Pay which automatically deducts charges from a specified bank account or credit card. Great! That took just a minute. Then received an email thanking me for signing up for Easy Pay, which was pending and could take up to two months to activate. It was suggested that I go back online to pay my present bill via an immediate banking transaction. Double arghh!
I know I’m preaching to the choir here because we’ve all had problems finding supportive humans on the other end of the phone or computer to help troubleshoot our problems.Eliminating PC’s is not the answer. What I want to know is how the heck do older folks, or those without internet access or technical savvy even begin to navigate the system? I think they’re just getting run off the road in our automation nation.
Think: Have computers made your life simpler or more complex? How do they benefit you? How do they confound you?
Say: The next time you find a real live helpful person on the other end of the line, thank them for their excellent service.
Do: Assist someone who has limited computer skills in navigating the web. Volunteer or teach a course at a senior citizen center, public library, or offer individual tutoring.