Customer Service.

Just over a decade ago, I needed a car & I didn’t have much cash & I didn’t want to take out a loan because I had just finished paying off my grad student loans & I wanted more time to savor the feeling of not owing anybody any money. This was in August. I did have a job. And I had a wad of Lucent Technology stock that I inherited from my dad. Don’t get too excited. We’re not talking millions here. Five figures, tops. Low five figures. Very low.

So I sold some of the Lucent stock & I did my online research & I went to the dealership & I bought a new car & I paid cash for it, which they say is the way to go whenever possible. It was the most expensive thing I’d ever bought to date, except for my higher education. And one of the most prudent financial decisions I’d ever made, as it turned out. Three days after I took the car home, Lucent stock started tanking big time, so if I hadn’t sold it when I did, I would have lost half of its value. Sadly, Lucent never, I believe, recovered. My car lasted over ten years.

When it died, and I mean bit the proverbial dust & had to be towed & was too expensive to fix anymore, I had been saving for a new car so I had some money in the bank, although not all of the money I would need. But a lot of it. So, I loyally bought the same make of car, brand new, 2009 model, one of the Big Three & right around the time when their CEO’s were embarassing themselves by flying in their private jets to Congress to beg for money. The sales manager came out at the end of the transaction, took my hand firmly in his, stared me in the eyes and said “Thank you,” in such a heartfelt manner, I felt like I’d just ensured the continued existence of the entire dealership. Well, I thought, no one can say I haven’t done my part for our flagging economy. I felt positively patriotic. Plus, it was a much nicer model than my last car & came with all sorts of bells & whistles, including free OnStar for a year with 120 hands-free call minutes, plus Bluetooth hands-free calling that could be linked to a cell phone. I drove the car home right before Thanksgiving.

As it happened, I didn’t have a very sexy or even Bluetooth capable cell phone. I had a very proletarian but serviceable cell phone that was free with the cell phone account. But as luck would have it, I’d had the phone for two years & renewed my contract so I was entitled to a phone upgrade. As further luck would have it, I went to a Christmas party shortly after this & did something I did not think it was possible for me to do: I fell in love with a cell phone. This particular phone belonged to my friend Lee Anne, who is the daughter of my friend Jenny. They had just upgraded their phones & we used the same service provider, so if I wanted to, I could get a phone just like Lee Anne’s. I’m fiercely trying to resist being completely geeky right now & telling you the exact make & model of this phone. Suffice it to say, it looked like a normal cell phone on the outside, but opened up to look like a little laptop computer with a full keyboard & speakers. It was too cute for words. It was garnet red. I was smitten.

So, I bought one. It wasn’t completely free, but with rebates, etc., it cost only $25. I even got a custom skin for it made from one of my photo collages. And it was Bluetooth capable. Heck, judging from the owner’s manual, it was capable of almost anything. Rockin’.

After some bedtime reading of my phone & my car owner’s manuals, I was ready to link up my Bluetooth capable phone to my Bluetooth capable car. My tech coolness quotient was about to leap ahead by several points. I was stoked. But there was one little glitch: the Bluetooth part of my car didn’t work.

You know that you are a blossoming techno-geek when you are an older woman dealing with a group of very helpful, very sweet, younger men who should know more than you do about tech stuff, but in fact don’t have the foggiest idea how to help you fix your tech problem & are willing to admit that. They really tried, though. Phone calls were made, other guys were consulted, the factory was consulted, websites were visited, but either the consultee didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about or they didn’t have any idea how to fix the problem. The technology of my new car had clearly exceeded the current grasp & experience of the car dealer’s service department, not to mention the factory’s service department. Finally, my main service dude got ahold of some techie at the factory who stated unequivocally that there was no way to fix my Bluetoothless car. Didn’t say why, didn’t offer any explanation. Just. No. Way. But the techie had clearly never dealt with The Accidental Amazon, for whom the concept of No Way is completely unacceptable. Sure, I had lived my entire life without hands-free dialing capability in my car, but now that I was told that I could have it, now that I had two shiny new toys that should give it to me, I wanted it. Bad.

I told my service dude I would research after-market solutions & see what I came up with. I did. But that “No Way” really, really bugged the crap out of me. I’m the A.A., after all. I survived cancer. No Way is simply not in my vocabulary. Besides, we put a man on the moon. How can there be No Way to put Bluetooth in my toothless car?

I decided to call my sales dude. So I did. Yesterday. Using some of my OnStar hands-free minutes. He suggested I call the manager of the service department. I did. He said he’d look into it & call me back. He did. A few hours later. He checked with his sales staff. Then he checked the sales brochure for my particular car. It turns out that despite the fact that all the sales personnel told him that all the 2009 models of my car were supposed to come with Bluetooth, the sales brochure from the factory told a different story. There are two versions of my car, the SE & the SX, I believe. Something like that. You know how they do that with the capital letters. Anyway, the SE was the one that came with Bluetooth & I had the SX. Or vice versa. Bottom line, I did not in fact purchase a Bluetooth capable car as I had thought I had. As everybody had thought I had, except for the service manager. Nor could Bluetooth be installed in my car, per factory specs, at any rate. I had hands-free calling, for now, until I used up my free OnStar minutes. But if I wanted to use the minutes that come with my cellphone plan, I would have to get my own Bluetooth kit or earpiece or whatever for the car. Darn. Another fond dream up in flames.

Here’s the important thing, though. The Manager of the Service Department finally was able to resolve the issue. In less than an afternoon. Courteously and good-naturedly. Guess that’s why he’s the manager. Weeks have gone by since I first brought this issue to the attention of the dealership, the factory, On-Star, etc. But I finally called the right person, i.e., the person who knew how to resolve the situation. He apologized for having to disappoint me. Au contraire, I said. Thank you very much, I said. I told him I’d lived my entire life without having a Bluetooth capable vehicle so I imagined I could muddle on without one. I told him I was just very grateful that he’d finally come up with the right answer. He told me a funny story about having a Bluetooth capable car himself & forgetting to hang up a call properly in the car before getting out of the car. I told him I’d priced some Bluetooth stuff & it wouldn’t cost me much at all to get an earpiece or even a speaker kit that can be put on the visor. We parted on that somewhat rare and perfect note — one of customer service that had been well-served and well-executed.

In this age of telephone voice menus that never get you to a real person, lousy website design and out-sourcing of tech support, not to mention sheer incompetence, rudeness and stupidity, one can no longer assume that people who work in customer service have any clue or interest or training in how to perform customer service. It’s refreshing to be treated thoughtfully and earnestly by people who are indeed supposed to be helping you. What a concept. Thanks, guys!


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This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Friday, January 30, 2009 at 01:01 am, filed under Life & Mortality, Making A Difference and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to “Customer Service.”

  1. I know, Limma. Amazing, isn’t it?

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