Why Customer Service isn’t.

I’ve used Vonage as my home phone service for a couple of years now. They’ve been great. I only had one issue and that was back in February 2006 when I first switched and they were able to take care of the problem in a matter of moments. So the service has been wonderful. However, I use my cell phone exclusively now. As a matter of fact, the cordless phone I have connected to my Vonage router has been dead for about 4 or 5 months now. I just don’t use it any more. So why pay the $30 a month?

Thus I attempted to call Vonage last night to cancel this service. I am greeted with an obtuse voice menu. After fumbling through the different menu levels for a couple of minutes I finally find the place where I can cancel my account. The nice recording transfers me over to the department that deals with that…and I get a message with the office’s hours and a request to call back during normal operating hours. Nice.

So I call back today. This time I navigate the menu deftly and get a real person on the phone. He asks me for my name and phone number which I provide. He asks for permission to call me by my first name. Then he asks for my PIN. I don’t have a PIN. He looks at something and tells me that it was generated by their computer. I suggest they ask their computer what it is then because I don’t have it. So he asks me the security question on my account. Apparently I don’t know what my all time favorite movie is. (The Princess Bride for those that are curious.) So he asks some account details and finally concedes that I am actually me. Wonderful.

At this point he asks what it is that I want. I tell him that I want to cancel my account. I was actually surprised because he asked one or two basic questions and didn’t give me some big customer retention spiel that reeked of having been written by a used car salesman in an orange checkered suit. It really looked like I was finally dealing with a company that understood. Of course, he did ask why and I told him that the service was great and I would recommend it to my friends…I just don’t use it personally any more. Nothing more was asked to my further surprise. And then he hit me with it…”I just need to transfer you to another department to finalize the account cancellation. Please hold.”

I listen to hold music and some lady that is way too happy about what Vonage can do for phone service. Eventually a real person picks up. She asks me for my name and phone number which I provide. She asks for permission to call me by my first name. Then she asks for my PIN. Sound familiar? Yep. Apparently they have to verify your identity after putting you on hold. I can only assume that this is because of the threat of being abducted by aliens and replaced with a doppelganger while on hold. There must be some sort of epidemic like this going around. And of course we cannot have alien doppelgangers randomly canceling Vonage phone accounts. The impact of such a thing could throw the entire world into chaos and destruction.

So I go through all of the questions again. Finally she asks what I am calling for. Do these people not bother to forward information when they transfer a call? I understand the need to have in house verification done. I have no problem telling a second person “Yes, I did request to close my account and here’s why…” That’s fine. But don’t make me go through all the identification hoops repeatedly and start completely over every single time I’m put on freaking hold. But wait…it gets better. This lady is the passive aggressive customer retention ninja.

She makes an offer to give me a discount on the service. I decline. I even repeat my reason of not using the service. She replies with “I understand.” Then she offers me a free month. I decline. I reiterate that I only want to cancel the service. “I understand.” Another offer with a bigger discount for a longer period of time. I-

At this point I have to mention that I have been fairly patient even though I am a little irritated at having to start this whole process over after being transferred. Now…buckle your seatbelts kids…

“Lady, I really just want to cancel my account. I will not pay for a service I do not use anymore. I do not want a discount. I do not want a free month. I want this account closed. I want it done right now without any more delays or offers. If you think that might be too hard for you, put me through to your manager so I can get them to do it. And do so without putting me on hold because I am not going to start this whole story over because you guys think I might not be the same guy you talked to 15 seconds ago when you pressed the hold button.”

I know it sounds like I was being a real dick. And you’d be right. I was. But I figure after having proven my identity twice and telling the entire story twice and asking for this one thing over 8 times…I was entitled. Especially since she kept responding with that same phrase of “I understand.” She obviously did not understand because she kept making offers. I cannot abide stupidity. If the guy tells you that the only phone he has hooked up is a cordless and that the battery has been dead for 4 months because he doesn’t use the service…you aren’t going to convince him to stay. Just give it a rest and fulfill the damned request.

She did finally cancel my account. Then she asked if she could “help” me with anything else. Those quotes are not a sexual reference. I don’t really consider what she did help. Anyway, I managed to politely decline the offer and thank her for her efforts. Then I hung up while she was talking. I had to protect her because she sounded like she was about to make one last offer. If I had stayed on the phone for that, I probably would have gone Sam Kinison on her and that’d just be mean.

Which leaves me to ask…what the hell is wrong with you people that make corporate decisions? When I called to cancel my account it was simply a step to save money while I tried to get some debt paid off. I fully intended to get the service back if I ever wanted a home phone again. But after that experience, Vonage, you can kiss my backside. I don’t deal with companies that refuse to fulfill a simple request without 30 minutes of arguing about it on the phone. You can keep your service. I’ll be using something more along the lines of Skype when I decide to hit up land lines again. Put that in your peace pipe and smoke it.

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