Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fun With Customer Service

Over the past couple weeks, I've been in contact with several companies to set things up for my last year of college. There's been a lot of phoning and emailing and some meeting in person, and while customer service politeness has been pretty even across the board, helpfulness has been a real rollercoaster between companies.

The natural gas company was by far the best-- when an online application failed to go through, I gave them a call. In addition to processing the application for me, they explained my options for the coming year, how natural gas distribution works in Atlanta, and what to expect in fees and service over the next few weeks.

A problem with my bank's website led to a 40 minute phone call where the person on the other end very much attempted to be helpful, but we could never get past the point where the buttons present on his screen were absent from my screen. I was trying to wire money internationally to St Peter's College where I studied for the past year, but the phone call ended with the bank representative promising to get IT to fix the website.

The St Peter's financial office was really great to work with; after a few weeks of emailing I worked out with them that I could pay my bill internationally by buying a meal plan from the college cafeteria. The mindset at St Peter's seemed to be that a student's main source of stress should be their studies, not finances or other logistics.

With no laundry hookups in my apartment, I decided to test out a local laundromat where you deposit your clothes in lockers and they are returned clean in a couple days. It's a sleek facility and I set up an account and delivered my first order with zero human interaction. About half an hour later, I got a call from a customer service rep to confirm my order and to answer any questions I had starting out. It was a nice gesture.

My recent visits to the Emory Financial Aid office have been illuminating in their own way, but I can't help but feel that some of the problem-solving flexibility that comes with human customer service has been lacking. When I run into problems with online forms, I'm referred to the same forms to find a solution for myself. In a way, I suppose, it makes sense because I'm hoping to receive money from Emory Financial Aid while I'm paying money to all the other companies I mention here.

In summary, thanks to customer service, I feel at the moment a great deal of goodwill towards my natural gas provider and varying degrees of satisfaction and frustration towards the many other companies and financial institutions that are a part of living life on the grid.

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