Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wrong calls and missed calls of Atlanta

I used to get many wrong SMS to my mobile, intended to be sent to Keith. After communicating with those who send them, I realized my number was previously indeed used by someone called Keith. Seems in the US (or at least in GA), they are recycling the mobile number. That means, when I leave, my number will be given to someone else too. I often got missed calls too. After realizing what happened to Keith, his mates stopped messaging or calling my mobile. But worse is yet to be discussed.

There comes the marketing calls to my land line! First they want to sell me security services and auto-insurance. In many cases, they are just bots calling you. Some are in fact scammers. One claimed that they found that my auto-insurance is faulty (I do not even drive!). Another claimed something to do with the US tax authority. They transmit your call to a human, if you answer them patiently. Those humans are far worse than the bots.

The chat goes like "Hello, this is Cathy, how are you doing today?". If you say something like "Hi" or "Hello", the chat proceeds to the next level - immediately to the marketing/sales pitch of the bot. If you say something that cannot be processed by the bot, it will disconnect. Sad part was, the bots called me more frequently than real connections did. :D

One thing I learned was, it is easy to receive calls from these bots. But when you really want to connect to a hospital billing service, it is a night mere. I did this mistake of giving access to two of my debit cards to Piedmont Urgent Care, by WellStreet.

I initially give them my debit card. But later the insurance company sent me a large bill - after paying just 25% or so of the original bill of the hospital. (I learned that the health care in the USA is very expensive. You better not get sick. If you get sick, you better not visit the doctor if at all possible. On top of that, my insurance is a joke - unlike the Swedish one I had in Europe. I should have got a real working insurance). So I asked them to use my HSA savings card to charge me instead of the debit card I previously authorized them to charge, by visiting them again. They accepted my request. What happened next was funny! They charged my debit card despite the request for change well on time and then they also authorized payment for the same amount from the second card (HSA) too, with a pending payment scheduled!

I learned it hard way. Never give access to multiple cards to any vendor. If it is a single card, it has all these security measures in place, mostly. A vendor cannot charge you twice in a single card. The duplicate transaction will usually be failed by the bank. But when you give them access to multiple cards, they of course can charge both your cards, since you are giving away this protection offered by the bank. 

I called the billing service to sort this out, to make sure they are not charging me twice. First, the bot notified me that I must call them Mon - Fri 9 - 5. Then I called them during that time. It starts with this long useless message, "Hi there, Welcome to the WellStreet Urgent Care Services. As our valued customer, your time is very important to us. Listen carefully as most of our options have changed lately. We will be happy to help you.. bla bla bla.. To continue in English, press 1"

Then eventually, once you followed all the shitty things you were expected to do by that moronic phone bot, you get the message that all their customer representatives are busy and cannot attend your call. The bot indicates you to leave your full name, phone number, and details so that some one would get back to you in 24 hours. No one did. Worse, once I somehow managed to get hold of a human after hours of attempt - she disconnected after I mentioned the situation! Probably a honest mistake - she may have mistakenly dropped something, though I suspect that was the case. Eventually, after frustrating days of calling - which I came to realize that there is no customer service exist - I sent them an email to the billing department and the public relations. They immediately cancelled the duplicate payment with an apology.

Finally, email worked better than the phone. Seems they are hiring uneducated and untrained staff for the customer care and billing hotlines. Sometimes these employees are not much better than the bots. Hence coming to my conclusion, here it is easy to get a call from a useless bot. But when you really need to get something done, it is impossible to get hold of a responsible human.

When I was in Sri Lanka, it was easy to assume that the developed countries handle these issues in a better way. When I was in Portugal, it was equally easy to assume that if I am in an English speaking country, the situation would be better. So here I am, in the USA, a developed and English speaking country. Nothing much changed. Bad customer service is everywhere - whether you are in a developed English speaking nation, or a developing alien-language speaking country.

I should of course give credits to awesome customer services offered by many other organizations here - for example, dealing with the GA Power for electricity was always smooth. They have a working web site, and the most helpful social media team ever who is willing to go beyond their duty to give you assistance. So it is all about the teams finally. Not the country actually. Hope for better.

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