Friday, April 5, 2013

Tick vs The Call Centre

Normally, wading through the red tape of bureaucracy leaves me as angry as a drunk uncle at a wedding, but today, for some reason, I found myself laughing.

Our front-loading washing machine has been a piece of crap. We’ve had five service calls on the bloody thing in less than two years. A broken appliance is frustrating at the best of times, but when you’ve got a baby in the house, a downed washing machine ranks pretty high on the list of First World Problems. After the first two break-downs, I “invested” in the Extended Warranty. It’s been money well-spent, as we’re looking at a cumulative repair total of more than a thousand bucks so far (more than the washer, as it happens). Sadly, for each repair bill that gets shunted off of me and onto the insurance company, I pay a price you can’t measure in dollars: I must phone a customer service centre.


Phone Booth and Cellular would have been a lot scarier if, instead of kidnappers and snipers, the protagonists were forced to deal with a call centre.

The latest successful claim covered the parts but not the labour, in defiance of the extended warranty contract (yes, I’m one of the weirdos who actually READS the contracts in front of him). So not only did this repair mean a call to summon the Magical Repair Man, it would also involve a call to banish the Evil Bill Collector.

I started with Assurant, the insurance company. (What a stupid name. Assurant. It’s like “assurance,” but different, so I’m supposed to feel an instinctive confidence.) After the obligatory “your call is important to us” hold time, I connected with Dennis from Kingston. I explained the problem. After giving me some pointless and unsolicited advice (“Don’t pay the bill, you have an extended warranty!” Well, duh, Dennis), he told me it’s Whirlpool’s issue. They only pay what Whirlpool okays.

Smelling a rat, I called Whirlpool. The courteous lady there informed me that they had no data on the claims details. I didn’t believe her and told her so. Suddenly, after a couple minutes of hold, “no data” became a comprehensive listing of every single dollar authorized and claimed over the last two years. I guess when she said “no data,” she meant currently in front of her face. She forgot, apparently, to hit ‘Page Down.’ This report said that Assurant had entered a ‘0’ in the “pre-authorized labour amount” column. She suspected a clerical error. But guess what? She couldn’t correct it on her end. Assurant would have to do it.

So I went back to Assurant. I listened, bemused, about how my “call is important to them,” and eventually got through. Sadly, I didn’t get Dennis again. I really hoped I’d be able to tell him his obsession with keeping his Average Handle Time down is really hurting his Customer Satisfaction Rating. Instead, I had to be satisfied with telling his female co-worker that he was monumentally unhelpful, and hoped she could do better. Initially, she didn’t. It’s Whirlpool’s problem, she said. Talk to them.

Any other day, I’d have freaked out. This time, I found myself suppressing laughter. You can completely understand why insurance companies show a consistent profit. Dodge, duck, dip, dive, dodge. Deny, deny, deny. Obfuscate, finger-point, and stall. How many claimants just give up rather than suffer through the process?

I have a huge advantage: I’m a stay-at-home dad. In a way, it’s my job to do this kind of garbage so the working women of the house don’t have to. Who the heck wants to work eight hours, get home, and waste an hour talking to phone monkeys? When time is at a premium, you compare your time and your sanity against 140 bucks. The side that wins depends on your stress level at the moment and your yearly salary.

Granted, my sanity erodes during these bureaucratic calls, too, but at least I don’t have to deal with lunatic customers, looming deadlines, arbitrary workloads, and unreasonable bosses. Yay for me! (Bad for you, Wage Slaves.)

(Oh. Regarding my little drama: For those who care, I did badger my way to a supervisor at Assurant, and the problem is solved at my end. Whirlpool and Assurant can finger-point at each other forever; just leave me out of it.)

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