Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Corporate Incompetence

Living halfway around the world from the American scene does not guarantee immunity from frustrations resulting from the staggering incompetence of corporations based in the home country. Two exemplary examples of corporate idiocy recently experienced by expats living in Thailand are Verizon and Bank of America. I sincerely wonder if corporate protocols for hiring of persons working in customer service are intended to recruit morons whose sole "raison d’etre" is to offer nonsensical replies to inquiries that are being made at the cost of overseas calls.

For several months I attempted to correspond with Verizon due to their decision to stop allowing me to pay a bill online. The decision was never explained, so I reverted to sending a check after receiving the bill each month. I noticed that when the bill arrived, it was always after the due date, which of course incurred a late fee tacked onto the next invoice. To correct the error-laden address that they were using, including the omission of the name of the destination country, I sent the correct information, accompanied by personal letters along with the monthly payments. The address was never changed, and yet the invoices miraculously arrived at my house in “Bakgnonk” (Remember, no country) about three weeks after being posted. I credit the delivery to clever postal employees in both countries who are likely as intelligent as the Verizon representatives are dim. After several months of dealing with the pride of Verizon, I sent a cancellation payment with an explanation. To date, I still receive invoices, sent to the apparently unchangeable address that they have chosen to enter permanently into their database.

The experience with Bank of America is similar, but these geniuses have chosen the “Let me transfer you” method of dealing with a customer’s problem, which they have not been properly trained to solve. Last night, as we tried to explain why the address in their database needed to be changed, we were transferred no less than nine times, and this was after the new information had been entered. Apparently, the standard three-line address space was insufficient for entering overseas information. What they absolutely could not understand how to do was look up the information associated with an overseas resident American citizen holding a U.S. credit card, and connect it to their rewards program. All we wanted was information about how to use the rewards! After a full half hour of being put on hold and transferred between representatives, there was the sudden and aggravating click of a disconnected line: The ultimate problem-solving pass-the-buck technique, exhibited so well by B of A. I could imagine the representatives at corporate headquarters staring dumbly at their screens, unable to process the information, before sending the hapless customer on to another zombie.

It is little wonder that huge corporations cannot solve the small problems. The front lines are manned by bottom-line fodder who are good at clicking on established links, but have little or no problem-solving skills. It is after experiences like these that one better understands why so many corporations fail. What is amazing is that they can exist at all.

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