Broadband optimize

Customer service means being timely

Paperwork stinks. Bookkeeping stinks. Nobody gets into a business because either of those tasks are fun. They have to be done, though, and in a prompt manner. Procrastinating makes you look unprofessional, and does a disservice to your customers.

Paperwork stinks. Bookkeeping stinks. Nobody gets into a business because either of those tasks are fun. They have to be done, though, and in a prompt manner. Procrastinating makes you look unprofessional and does a disservice to your customers.

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I got a bill in the mail last month that took me aback. A cable television and Internet service provider was billing me for charges due. Not necessarily an unusual occurrence, but I didn’t think that I had an account with that company anymore. I had also never received a bill for so little money. Comcast was trying collect fourteen cents.

My fiancée and I used Comcast when we were living in Chicago…last year. The week before we moved to the East Coast, I called Comcast and arranged for my account to be cancelled. I dropped off my cable box in July before we moved and paid our final bill, thinking that was the end of that. And it was. Until February, when after hearing nothing from Comcast for six months, I received a Disconnection Notice billing me for $0.14. Two days later, another bill came in.

I was amused. Comcast had sent me two paper bills for this overdue fourteen cents. The envelopes aren’t individually metered, but considering they both include all the usual regulatory and advertising filler (and the obligatory return envelopes) I figure there’s a good chance Comcast had burned more than fourteen cents trying to collect on my account.

I decided to call customer service. They couldn’t be serious about this, could they? The representative who fielded my call was very polite and laughed along with me when I pointed out the absurdity of using a $0.42 first-class stamp to pay a $0.14 charge. She responded that I could use either the online or phone-based payment system to settle the charge on my account at no additional cost.

That would have been fine, but it seems my account doesn’t exist in Comcast’s systems anymore. Trying to look up my account within the automated phone system doesn’t work, and the Web payment system can’t find my records either. Comcast has forgotten about me, except for one stubborn billing system that doesn’t talk to anything else.

I’ve invested more than $0.14 cents' worth of my time by this point. I just want Comcast and this problem to go away. My solution? I decide to use my bank’s electronic payment system to transfer payment directly to Comcast. That was how I paid my bill before I moved, and I still have them in my list of payees. My bank won’t transfer an amount less than one whole dollar, though. It’s worth those extra few cents to me to shut Comcast up. I’m also curious to see whether that obsessive billing machine they have drops a refund check into the mail.

Why pay Comcast at all, you ask? Well, as far as I can tell from my records, I actually owe the money. It appears that my last transfer to Comcast in July 2008 was fourteen cents light. This discrepancy was never mentioned, though. Not when I turned in my equipment, not when I called to give the company my new address in Virginia, and not for the last six months. It’s a company’s right—its duty, even—to collect what it’s owed, but it seems capricious to me to invest so much effort to recoup an insignificant amount. The fact that my account doesn’t exist in any of Comcast's payment systems anymore only adds insult to injury.

Whatever. Comcast can keep the difference. An electronic funds transfer means I have documentation that the payment is settled, and that’s all I want. I can tell you though this last little taste of Comcast’s customer care has left me unimpressed. I could never get away with waiting half a year to bill my clients. But then, there’s nothing I could teach the number one residential broadband provider about managing a business, is there?

The day after my electronic payment to Comcast went through, I got another bill.

For $0.14. That’s three, and counting.

32 comments
tonycopp
tonycopp

what a waste of time for that 14 cents,shut-up about it already and save a life.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

paid a bill to Wamu credit card and due to dyslexic issues inverted the change paid xxx.59 instead of xxx.95, so I was 36 cents short. On the next bill they just canceled the amount with the note, courtesy payment, sweet. Now that they have been taken over by Chase I need to try it again on purpose just to see if Chase is as nice as Wamu was.

cupcake
cupcake

This past weekend I was hanging out wanting to watch a movie. Ah-ha! Pay-per-View. My son and his buddy are play Wii on the "big" tv, so I order on the one in the den. Halfway through the movie, I hear the kids head outside, so I pause the movie and move to the big screen. Then I call TimeWarner. Because this has happened in the past and I was told to call and have them "transfer" the purchased movie from one TV to another to avoid being billed twice (you purchase the movie for 24 hours. After being on hold for about 15 minutes... sigh, in the middle of watching a movie... I finally get to a rep. I explain what I want. Silence on the other end. Then she says, 'I don't think I can do that'. Wow. I explain the whole debacle from the first go round. She tells me that I have to buy the movie again! I am starting to lose my patience. I say no, if I buy a movie I should be able to watch it anywhere in my house during the 24 hour time period. THEN..!!!... she asks me what I think she should do! I very calmly tell her 'Cancel the billing on the first movie and I will simply buy it again from the second tv'. She says she has to ask a supervisor if she can do that. At this point, I am thinking that the 25 minutes on the phone and the fact that I had to tell her how to do her job should equate to a free movie. At least. Another couple of minutes pass and she finally comes on to tell me that she's canceled the billing for the first purchase and I can go ahead and buy the movie again. Sheesh. At this point, I just want to be off the phone and get back to the movie. But I have a note in the bills folder to look and make sure I don't get charged twice for the movie when the statement comes later in the month. You can trust these people.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

We have 2 Xerox WorkCentre machines on lease from Xerox. It is my job to keep tabs on these machines and when supplies get low, make sure we have replacements ready. I noticed our black toners were low, as well as a few other replacement parts that were nearing their end. So, I called Xerox. When I got to the supplies department, I asked for what I needed and was told there's a hold on the account. They gave me the number for the hold department, so hung up and called the number. The rep. in the hold department couldn't tell me why there was a hold and lifted it, then transferred me back to the supplies department. I placed my ordered and that was the end, I thought. 3 weeks passed, and our shipment hadn't arrived, so I called back to Xerox to ask the status of our order. I was told no order existed for our account! So, I tried to order the supplies again. Once again, I was told there was a hold on the account, was transferred to the hold department, and after being on hold for 30 minutes I hung up. Later that day, I called the hold department again, once again the rep. didn't know why there as a hold on the account, so I was transferred back to supplies. Toners are ordered in 1 department, while other supplies in another. The toner department told me there was still a hold on the account, yet somehow I was able to order the other supplies I needed through the other department. Within a week I got the supplies I needed, except for the black toners because there still seems to be a hold on the account, yet nobody can tell me why. Here's another kicker, when I got the supplies I ordered, I was shipped double the amount that I ordered. Somewhere in all this mess, the order was entered twice. I am still low on black toner, so hopefully someone can tell me why there's a hold on the account, or lift the hold so I can place an order.

melanieellsworth
melanieellsworth

How funny that almost the exact same scenario happened to me with a Verizon phone bill! $4.52 was paid (and I had the cancelled check to prove it) in August '07, and in April '08 I received a collection notice saying I owed the $4.52 plus another $30 in service fees! I also tried to look up the account in the system (I, too, still had them in my favorites) but my account had no record! I finally typed a letter to both Verizon's corporate office and the collection agency with a copy of the cancelled check to prove this was an error. I've never heard back from the collection agency, but you never know...April is upon us again in a few weeks!

ganyssa
ganyssa

I had purchased a cell phone from Verizon. It had a 30-day return on it, which I availed myself of. I verified the return, and it arrived at Verizon's delivery location in plenty of time, complete with identifiable signature, which I kept - you never know. Two months later, I started getting collection calls at work. I told them that I had returned the phone, and I had the delivery confirmation. They told me to call Verizon, which I did. I was informed that returns didn't count until they were put into the computer, and the phone was probably 'still on the shelf' at the return location. Until the phone was in the computer, it was unreturned, and my payment was late. I continued to receive calls from Verizon - at work - for two months, even though they admitted that they had received the phone. The month they quit calling me coincided with the month that my cell phone contract expired. I now have AT&T.

Bizzo
Bizzo

A whopping $0.86, take them to a small claims court!! Could you have sent them the money in pennies using one of their pre-paid envelopes? Edit: I'll be honest, I couldn't subtract :(

williamjones
williamjones

...I haven't seen a return payment envelope that was postage-paid for a *very* long time. Comcast certainly doesn't do that kind of favor for its customers. Thanks for reading!

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

what you are to do is tape the return envelope to a brick and send it in.

KSoniat
KSoniat

Early this year I started to receive dunning phone calls for a person named Thomasina. I called both local and national offices which were calling me and explained I was not, nor did I know Thomasina. I understood they needed to use what info they had to try to reach her and the local people were very nice, though it took a while for the national office to quit calling. Last week the national office started calling again. I ignored the first few calls, but eventually called and REexplained I still wasn't her. They acted astounded and asked when was the last time they called. It was the previous three days - and I had recorded messages on my home machine to prove it. They acted put-out at ME and bordered on rude. If there is a next time someone is going to get an earful.

mmoran
mmoran

... takes all calls on the landline. It says "Please leave your message. If I'm home and you're someone I want to talk to, I'll pick up. If I'm not, or you're not, I won't." Anybody I actually want to talk to has my cell number.

KSoniat
KSoniat

But I don't want ANY indication whatsoever that I have any connection with outstanding unpaid bills - and I've always heard you should address these people even if it isn't you. The local person was real nice and apologetic - the national was a call center and couldn't give a rats @**.

reisen55
reisen55

And my amusement was how simple it was to solve. Our architect had a nice Dell Dimension and called Dell for onsite service - he had lousy sound and wanted to listen to opera. Dell sent a service tech over, replaced the entire motherboard and the same lousy sound came over again. When he told me this tale, I spotted really bad speakers. Pieces of junk. And an amplifier right next to the computer. Simple - cable from system to amplifier resulted in METROPOLITAN OPERA SOUND QUALITY - beautiful. BUT CONSIDER that Dell went to considerable expense to send a tech, replace a motherboard and do all the freaking paperwork that did not have to be done in THE FIRST PLACE and then mulitply that by the number of service calls they make. Incredible My own SLA for my clients is simple: RSN REAL SOON NOW. Works for me and they like it too.

diego2984
diego2984

Techs always forget to go to back to basics when isolating problems. They make life always complicated for them.

deepsand
deepsand

Never mind that you've way more experience than the support person, you're treated as if you're a tech virgin who can't possibly know squat about the matter.

derek
derek

Customer service is a big issue today and I am trying to work on a solution... with big vendors like AT&T, Comcast, HP, Belkin, etc.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The collection attempts started about two years after I got to Valdosta, GA. When I pointed out that I had never done business with their company and asked for a copy of the check, they were "unable" to provide it. After I refused to pay until I saw the check, they forwarded the account to a collection agency who tried to collect through the military. After about a year of crap, the AF legal folks finally got a copy of the check. At that point it became very clear how stupid the whole deal was: * The check was written by "Susannah Smith" * It was dated a year before I arrived in Valdosta and a good 8 months before I even knew that was where I was going. *The only data on the check that even closely resembled mine was the [u]phone number[/u]. The accounting folks at this firm were apparently in the habit of doing reverse look-ups on phone numbers to find addresses. In my case, they didn't even blink at the name (or sex) change either. They went bankrupt about a year after we got this settled and are no longer in business. Seems my case was only one symptom of a much larger problem. edit: grammar

deepsand
deepsand

It is reasonable for the holder of a debt to attempt to reach the debtor at all known points of contact used by that debtor. However, once advised that said debtor is not and will not be reachable at a particular address, telephone no., etc., the debt holder is obligated to cease using that particular contact point. In this case, the debt collector in question obviously over-stepped the bounds.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

I get notice of overdue bills for previous tenets all the time. The crazy thing is, I keep getting them, but the names change. once I return to sender one bill, I get another one from another company for a different person. I have yet to receive the same name and company yet. Seems all the previous tenets were A-holes about paying their bills. At least I don't have a phone line in the house. That would suck getting collections calls for other people's messes. (though it is nice receiving the paper for free :) I am not about to open their mail, but I do keep the newspaper...)

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

would be to tell them to send it to a collection agency. Then negotiate with the collector. See what they will settle for. 7 cents? Maybe they will pay the 14 cents for you? LOL

williamjones
williamjones

This week, I recount how a fourteen-cent discrepancy came back from the dead to haunt me. Have any of your providers let you down lately?

TUFOP
TUFOP

I had ordered a family plan online with T-Mobile. Three phones and I selected one of T-Mobile's package services. I received two phones and two phone numbers. After two weeks of speaking with customer service I was told by a customer service representative that she would "take care of everything". I received the third phone and all three showed up on my bill with their usage. The problem was that I had unlimited calling within the phones of the family plan and after a couple of months of close inspection I found the third phone, which was added because T-Mobile told me, "Our web site sometimes makes that mistake". To make a long story short, I cancelled T-Mobile and paid my bill and went with another provider and I am still with them today after four years. Six months after cancelling T-Mobile and receiving a cancellation number I started to recieve bills for two weeks worth of service on one phone. I gave the cancellation number to T-Mobiles customer service and the next snail mail bill I received was from a collection agency! I gave them the cancellation number and wrote a follow-up letter to make sure there was no mistake on the collection agencies part. To my surprise, T-Mobile passed the two week bill to a second collection agency and I went through the same routine. T-Mobile then transferred the bil to a third agency and fourth agency and each one, never contacted me again once I supplied the cancellation number and an explaination in writing. Finally T-Mobile ran out of collection agencies and I am left with the task of entering a protest with all of the big three credit burea's. This has been going on for over two years. I have never had a problem with my current cell provider. They are known for customer service and the difference is palettable.

kgunnIT
kgunnIT

My wife pays our bills online using the online bill pay through our bank. Well, about a year ago, my wife made a payment on one of our vehicles. She entered in the amount and submitted the payment on time and all. Well, two weeks later we get a notice that we owe $0.01. Yes, 1 penny short. Two days later, another letter saying we still owe the penny, plus a $15 late fee!!! The next day I call the credit union we have our car loan through and talked to customer service. I pointed out that we had never missed a payment or been late. I also pointed out that our payment was ontime, it was just a simple typo, which it was, and it happens. They were kind enough to remove the late fee, but the customer service rep told me I still need to go in to our local branch and pay the penny, as silly as it sounds. Otherwise, he said, the account could show up as delinquent on our credit report. When I got off work, I drove down to the local branch, went up to the counter, and asked if I can make a payment on our loan. She pulled up the account and asked how much, I said 1 penny. I gave here the penny, which I found on the floor in my car, and asked for a receipt. Our payment was now paid in full. Question is, how much did they spend to get that penny? Well, 2 letters at $0.39 each, plus the paper, ink, envelopes, and time to print and send out the letter. Plus the service rep who talked to me on the phone, the clerk at the counter, the paper for the receipt, etc... All that said, I do understand what happened. Most financial institutes use auto-billing processes. Any account that has any amount oustanding after the due date gets printed automatically, regardless of the amount. You'd think they would put something in place, such as any account with outstanding balance over $1.00 or something. In any case, customer service was very helpful and friendly.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

If a high enough percentage of their customers just pay the penalty they are making quite a profit. I haven't seen this from the credit union though. But the cable company sure does it. We used to get the bill in the mail about two days before it was due. When I complained to the company the clerk told me, "You know the bill is due. You can always pay it on time."

deepsand
deepsand

Billers have various & changing P.O. boxes because they are using 3rd party processors, typically banks; those P.O. boxes, known as drop-boxes or lock-boxes, are those of the processor, not of the biller. As contracts with processors expire, are replaced, and/or the volume dictated needs of the processors change, so too the P.O. box addresses.

KSoniat
KSoniat

I've heard companies actual have PO boxes in podunk towns because it takes a few extra days to get there. I noticed with on-line bill pay they would change the address every quarter meaning if I weren't on my toes it would get "lost" and be late creating more issues. It is so hard to pay on time with all the seemingly purposeful issues they throw at you. They want us to be late - more profit for them.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

I think they don't have roadblocks in place because of scams. If someone could make it to where they weren't paying, say, $.99 on each bill, and if everyone knew that, theoretically, the company could be out alot of money (if it is big, i.e. ATT or Comcast or whatever). Just a thought, though. Doesn't make sense. Maybe they should make the cutoff at the cost of a stamp. If it is less than that, then they are just losing that money anyway.

deepsand
deepsand

Over/under, or over/short ranges have been long employed in billing/payment and deposit/withdrawal processing. Such ranges can be employed at a transaction level, a batch level, or a combination of the two. Transaction level waiver ranges are typically +/- $0.99 or +/- $1.00

Arcturus909
Arcturus909

I wanted to pay off a Mastercard and get rid of it. The final bill was something like $15.20. I sent them a cheque for $20.00 so that any interest accrued between the statement and the payment would be covered. Sure enough, the next month I got a bill that showed a positive amount of $7.87. Now I felt safe to cancel the card, but I was curious as to what they would do with the credit amount. Would they put interest on it (not likely)? Attempt to pay it out? I left if for about six months, and the statements kept arriving and the amount never changed. Nobody called and nothign was said. Tired of the game, I called and cancelled my card. The statements quit arriving and I thought everything was done. Four months later, I got another statement with a $30.00 annual fee charged on it! Now I owed $22.23 to Mastercard. I was quite annoyed because I pictured all sorts of hoops I would have to jump through to fix this. Turns out they were really accomodating and understanding, reversed the charges, cancelled my card AND sent me the $7.87! And I only had to call one number and was only on hold for less than a minute.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

Mastercard pissed me off, I will never use them again. I originally put $25 on a MasterCard (pretty new card), I got the bill and paid it a week before due. The next month's bill showed a late fee attached. so I was charged again. It was in the mail the next day, paid in full. I did not use the card at all, except for the original purchase. Anyway, the next bill came in with a late fee. I looked it over closely, and there was a 12 cent charge added to the bill, the day of its payment due date. Even though it was zeroed out a few days prior, they added a small charge. Even funnier, I paid $15 for the previous late fee, and the minimum to send in was $10 (it was over $10 by $5). So, I called to try to work this out. They refused to fix the problem -- I cancelled the card and paid their late fee only because it would cost me more in time/money to take them to court. I have yet to have problems with my other 2 cards.