Thursday, August 17, 2006

New Phone Technology


I have what I consider to be a technologically backward electric company: No online billing.

You can PAY your bill online, but not receive it that way. they also have the now standard options to have the bill payed automatically out of your checking account. But then you sometimes read about some pool soul that was billed for an entire company, or worse by mistake. When I lived in Virginia the electric company was Virginia Power, but I heard that they also had a customer by that name, and occasionally Mrs. Virginia Power received payments from other customers by mistake. So not all billing errors are bad ones. Except you still have to spend hours and hours straightening them out if you don't want to go to jail.

Today's event was nothing like that. I simply called the electric company to find out when (or if) they were going to repair the five foot deep hole in the parking lot of my building. The one they dug two weeks ago to repair an underground cable. Oh they covered the hole, but they also promised that a truck would be along to repave the area, over which people walk their dogs, ride their bicycles and so on. Maybe they are just waiting for it to settle. But I wanted status. So I called.

After the normal multi-level "why are you calling?" menu I was put on hold to wit for a live human being. I was told I might have to wait six minutes. Not bad as these things go. But then, and this is the cool part, they told me if I wanted to, they could just call me back when there was someone available to talk to.

WOW! This has never happened (to me) before. this is the sort of technology that could have been implemented 20 years ago. Really, isn't that about how long these automated phone systems have been around? I mean really, the menu part of the system seemed like a good idea at one point, but hen companies realized it was a way to ignore you, without technically ignoring you. Most of these systems transfer you around almost endlessly, and some of them achieve the nirvana of automated phone support by never actually giving you the option to speak to someone at all (but always leaving that possibility just out of reach).

In less than six minutes my phone rang. I asked my question, and was told that a repair truck would be dispatched. Leading me to believe that if I had not called nothing would have been done. Well, I sort of already knew that.

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