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©December 2006

Carol Jane Remsburg





 Communication Age Relics







One of the things that annoy me in life are curiosities over in the age of instant information, instant communication, well, instant doggone almost everything, some modes of communication and verification of data just might be back in the last ice age.  One prime example has been since the age of emails, attachments, and scanners….why on EARTH do we still need fax machines?  They are nearly as dusty as a rotary dial telephone, yet still used and as unreliable as ever. 


Case in point?  Boy, do I ever have one.


Tonight I get home from work, early for a change just because I can't work my normal hours due to work scheduled on Saturday and work will go awantin', but that's beside the point.  I get to come home while it's still light outside and after some visiting with my family, I check my email as is normal for me.  All good so far, then guess what happens?


The ordinary pop-up for my television service, DirecTV pops up telling me my bill is ready for viewing.  That's cool with me, but I hate the way that even after requesting to still get a paper bill, I still no longer do.  Thus I have to print two copies, one to mail and one to keep and scribble an envelope sans the normal mailing code that comes with the remittance stub to properly identify my account and know it will have to be manually inputted by a somebody.


After three months of this guess what has finally happened?  My payment has gone missing, most likely applied to another's account because my print out copy doesn't have a scanner bar-code for payment processing.  Further, the bill has a CUTOFF alert. 


Worried that the payment was lost, I check my bank statement, sure enough, it was paid.  Then I call DirecTV and get a billing agent.  This is when things go bad and my adrenaline begins to surge.  While the representative was very polite, the inference I received from her was that she didn't believe for a second that I'd actually paid my bill and "IF" I wanted DirecTV to investigate my payment, I'd have to send a copy of my cancelled check.  That's all well and good, but I don't get a check back from them anymore, they ACH process payments so it shows as a debit transaction on my bank account as most major companies do now. 


It took a little convincing to instruct her on how MOST of payments by checks are now processed.  She put me on hold and was suddenly enlightened by a co-worker that it was the process.  Then she tells me that while I can fax a copy of my bank statement, which while I'm willing to do so I hate the thought of it, to a mysterious 800# where they will investigate and hopefully locate my payment sometime prior to the next Ice Age.  She clearly had little confidence that it would be found.  Further, she opted to remind me, that even if I paid my current bill, just sent to me today, prior to the 12/19 date, I'd likely be "interrupted."


As I work not only in customer service, actually customer service escalations, for another major corporation, one who is also a VENDOR for this same company, I knew what she was thinking even though it wasn't so.


Within ten minutes of the conclusion of my call to the DirecTV billing representative I had scanned and faxed the portion of my bank statement reflecting the trace payment number of my payment along with all of my account information to the mysterious 800#.  Somehow, it didn't make me feel any better or inspire any confidence.  I then zapped an email to the 'contact us' email for the company about customer service requesting, nay, requiring them to further investigate my payment and properly apply it to my account within five business days with confirmation back to me.


(Look, I'm not even ASKING for confirmation NOW, or TOMORROW even – five business days should be more than enough, two should be all that is necessary in reality.  Why, because I do those things and it's not hard to do).


So now you know my sad little story about my missing payment to DirecTV and my indignation over it.  Don't get me wrong, I know these things happen every day and certainly not with any ill intent.  They get fixed and all is well.  It's the two things that bother me about this is that I couldn't instantly validate my payment to this woman by sending her an email with the scanned copy of my payment while we were still on the phone—and I would have.  At least at that point I would know it was in someone's hands rather than sitting in a pile at a fax machine where the papers get muddled and shuffled and they can't find the cover letter to match the enclosed page and then toss it and wait for you to call back. 


The second point was the inference that even if DirecTV had lost my payment that I was responsible and should actually pay them again when they already had my money.  That infuriated me.  I was as pleasant as I could be but I guarantee you she knew that I wasn't playing.  I wasn't a deadbeat looking to scam the deadline for a payment and I've been an excellent customer with that company for nearly ten years. 


Why is it that major companies like DirecTV and my own, still rely on faxed information rather that a document of the same attached in an email which can arrive to the person who will investigate it without being lost?  Faxes get lost.  Faxes get shuffled.  Our building has two fax machines, one on each floor for nearly 200 consultants and there isn't someone standing guard over it.  If the information isn't clear about page 1,2,3 or more, and you can't identify what goes with what, it gets shredded.  At least in an email, it arrives altogether.


Please, somebody get us OUT of the dinosaur age and back on track to instant communication and validation.  Had this been the case tonight, I'd have felt much better.  Further, the billing representative's tone would have drastically changed, been apologetic at the very least.


Sigh….my rant is done for now.  And I can only hope that the cover letter with all the information stays with the document I sent, and that information stays private.




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