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As much as I hate computerized "customer" service, based on my recent experiences, I am starting to think maybe humans are over-rated in that area.

I recently signed up for Verizon's triple package, with FiOS phone, cable, and Internet. Before the installation, I called Comast to see how far in advance I would need to cancel my cable. The rep said you can cancel anytime you want, even the same day, but if you don't specifically request that the day you call be your last billing day, Comcast will try to charge you for two more weeks.

Fast-forward more than two weeks, our FiOS was installed, and I called to cancel our cable. This rep said there was a two-week disconnect period. I told her that was fine, but after today I was not going to pay anymore, referencing what "Mark" had told me a few weeks before. When she said she would cancel it in two days as a courtesy, I asked to speak to a manager. The manager said two weeks is standard, but as a courtesy, she would allow today to be my last billing day, but to keep in mind if I ever came back to Comcast I would need to give them two weeks' notice. I explained that I did my due diligence, and that Comcast needed to train their people better, so they would not give out misinformation. During that call, I also had arranged for someone to pick up my cable box in one week, which was the first available date.

Fast-forward another week, and I decide that rather than be a prisoner in my house for eight hours to wait for someone to pick up equipment, I would just drop it off. When I did so, that rep said that that day would be my last billing day. I thought this was some sort of bad joke. I explained the aforementioned story and said if Comcast wonders why people leave, I can be the spokesperson! After I ranted for a minute (apologizing to her, but continuing nevertheless), she said she would have the day I called be my last billing date; she assumed had I known that Comcast does not stop billing you until you turn in the equipment, I would have gotten it back to them. Who wouldn't? Do I really think that this "Lisa" has credited my final bill properly? I have pretty much lost my faith in these people, so I guess I will just have to wait until I get my bill. But be forewarned if you cancel your Comcast cable, do it at least two weeks ahead of time.

So how is Verizon? I do love the NFL Network (if only I had gotten Verizon earlier than four days before season actually ended), and I think the picture is clearer. But there are issues here too. I have not gotten my first bill, so it may turn out with the taxes and fees, which no one is able to tell you how much they will be (believe me, I asked several different people), it is not a better deal. After just over one week, one of our remotes stopped working (to be precise, the "okay" button and a couple of numbers don't work). The phone seems the same to me, although our caller ID did not work the first day (we had caller ID before, so not sure what the issue was there). The lightening-fast Internet has not materialized yet, but our computer is old and low on memory; it is fast on Brian's work laptop. I have some other complaints too, related to, you guessed it, customer service. After talking to a rep about our remote issue, I asked to discuss 1. the promotional offer that I have heard at least four different versions of, 2. voice mail set up (I did not receive a welcome packet that was referenced in a letter I just received), and 3. a $20 credit that the salesperson who sold me the bundle pack told me I would get (note that this salesperson left the company three days after he signed me up; guess he made his quota and bailed). Unfortunately, the rep said he could not help me with those questions, but would transfer me to billing, where someone could help me.

The next person I talked to said he does not have access to Pennsylvania (whatever that means), so he passed me on to someone else. This woman said she has nothing to do with billing and was not sure why the first rep told me this, but she would wait on the line with me until yet another person could help me. After about 20 minutes on hold, I told the rep I was hanging up, But the rep who was going to wait with me was not there. Fortunately, I figured out the voice mail myself. However, it remains to be seen if I will get the promotional offer or the discount. If I have spare 30 minutes, I guess I will try to talk to a human again.

I am not a fan of automated call centers, believe me. My fun on the phone with Verizon today started with an automated system. But I gave up after five minutes when the computer gal thought my remote was completely inoperable; despite my best attempts at articulating the problem, "she" could not understand it was just a few buttons that were not working. So "her" suggestion of trying the remote with another TV was kind of silly.

I just think people need to be trained better. And if companies are not going to train their employees adequately, then I think they have to pay the price, which is to honor what others have said. And be willing to offer something to make up for bad service, long waits, etc. When I was a waitress, I like to think I gave my customers a great dining experience and the best possible service. And as a project manager, I am very attentive to my clients, being as friendly as possible and trying to get back to them quickly. If I don't know something or if I made a mistake, I admit to it and try to do what I can to make up for it, as necessary. Maybe I should train these people...

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