Saturday, March 12, 2011

Customer Dis-Service

I work for a power utility company. In the deregulated Texas market, the local electric delivery company doesn't sell electricity; we only deliver electricity. It's kind of like how FedEx doesn't sell packages, it merely sells the delivery of packages. The analogy is imperfect because (unlike FedEx, which uses public roadways to convey packages to your doorstep) we own, maintain and have exclusive control of the pathway by which electrons make their way to your home's breaker panel. And no one expects FedEx to deliver sixty packages per second, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to over 3,000,000 homes.

Anyway, the point of all this is merely that reliable electrical service is the only focus of the company I work for. Obviously, there are times when the damage to our grid is so extensive that it takes more than a few minutes to restore service to that customer. But the fact is, whenever we learn that any customer's lights have gone out, we react immediately to restore power as quickly as possible.

So it came as a surprise to me when (after an AT&T construction crew inadvertently disconnected our DSL line and we called the AT&T service department to have AT&T repair the damage that AT&T had done) AT&T's reply was to promise a repairman within the next five days. That a utility company could treat its customers with such cavalier contempt was a revelation to me. In my frustration I may have spoken some less than Christian words to the hapless Hindu on the AT&T help desk, as I tried to explain in no uncertain terms that this was no way for a company to treat those who send it money regularly. I must confess that I did derive a modicum of satisfaction (though no effective results) from my rant.

But clearly my tirade was nowhere near as satisfying as the prank these guys pulled on the Belgian government-run telephone company. (Even though these guys are speaking Flemish, be sure to turn up the sound or you'll miss some of the humor.)