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Disastrous customer service

By Andrew Pollack on 12/09/2003 at 01:35 PM EST

* Note added: Wow guys -- I'm seeing a TON of hits on this. About 5 times normal. Similar issues? *

I now have to write a check for more than $1500 that I should not have. Admittedly, my contract with Genuity (now owned by Level 3) gave them up to 60 days to disconnect service -- but did they have to take it?

Level 3 -- I hope it was worth it. You're now on the top of my list of companies not to recommend for telecommunications to any of my customers, clients, or associates.

You see -- I called the local telco, who informed me clearly that for them there is less than a 5 day turnaround on disconnection. I realize in Boston or New York that may not be the case -- but here in Maine they can disconnect any one of the 10 lines pretty much whenever they need to. That tells me no effort was made at all. They simply were not interested in any approach other than billing for every possible minute. So be it -- if I can avoid it, they'll never get another dime from me or any customer I can influence.

I'm reminded of last Sunday's episode of "This American Life" entitled "The Middle of Nowhere" (real audio here). This American Life Senior Producer Julie Snyder found herself in a ten-month battle with her phone company (MCI Worldcom), which had overcharged her. The description of the nightmarish customer support described did irreparable further damage to the reputation of MCI (as if that hadn't already happened).

What kind of a fool angers a customer over so little money?

Here's an example of what I mean. After not being able to get what I consider acceptable interaction from the billing people there, I sent a message to disconnect. What I expected was one of those "what's wrong" or "how can we help" or at least a pleasant "Thank you for the last year, and for spending more than $13,000 with us." No, instead I got a nastygram with a lovely threat in it. To me, this pretty much sums up dealing with these guys.

For your edification, I've attached as an example Lisa's reply to me along with my original message to her. Enjoy -- and as you read it, think about how your boss or your partner (or your customers) would react if you treated customers this way.

If you'd like to read this exchange.... please note that account numbers, and Lisa's direct contact information have been obscured, since I really have no desire to make her life any harder than it obviously is already. I don't believe I've made any other changes, redacted the comments, or in any significant way altered the content of either message.

For the record, those payment had been made - they were later "found". Its now nearly 90 days since I sent this note, and today I finally have a final correct bill for payment later this week. Also for the record, one person there who I finally got to speak with (I'll note her initials C.J.) was actually helpful enough to help me finally get this straightened out enough to pay them.

          "Bxxxxxk, Lisa" <>

          09/17/2003 12:28 PM





RE: NCT Northern Collaborative - xxxxxxxx

I have forwarded this to your sales rep, Robert Hxxxxs to handle as I am not able to effect a disconnection of your services. Robert can explain this better than I but according to your contract you will be responsible for invoicing for
up to 60 days past cancellation. This is in effect whether your contract date has expired or not. In the meantime you have two open invoices on your account that need to be paid. Since we can not "disconnect" your service your disconnection letter becomes a demand letter for payment. Our next option will be to send this to a third party for collections.

To avoid this action please pay by the date on your letter and/or contact me to make arrangements to pay ASAP.



Lisa x. Bxxxxk
TEL#: 720-888-xxxx
FAX#: 720-888-xxxx

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: September 17, 2003 10:08 AM
To: Bxxxxk, Lisa
Subject: Re: NCT Northern Collaborative - xxxxx

Hello Lisa;

I have decided to close my account and end service with level 3 / Genuity Managed Service, LLC. This can be made effective immediately. Please forward to me a final invoice, a termination date, and any instructions I need to follow to make this happen. I have already arranged for other service, and have cut over all functions to that service, with the exception of a single backup dns server which can be removed shortly.

As I am well past my 1 year service contract date, I expect this will not be a problem.


*** Andrew Pollack, Northern Collaborative Technologies
*** AIM: AndrewJayPollack
*** 207-829-2131

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