Apartment living

There are many benefits to living in an apartment. Invites to parties are easy to come by, home-delivered entertainment in the form of door-to-door religionists is frequently provided and there’s quite often an exhibition of balcony coitus on display if your evening plans fall through.

There are, however, some downsides to this assortment of varied delights being so conveniently packaged. Between yourself and the various tradespeople who take care of things related to the building sits an ogre calling themselves a Building Manager. Often this person is actually very good at what they do, but this is not always the case.

Due to constant issues with the garage door on the property, the electronics that drove the door were replaced. As well as the motor the electronics controlled. As well as the door that the motor moved. All at once.

In response to this, the following delightful communication was sent by the Building Manager (who we shall call Bob) to all residents:

On the day of replacement, Theo from SomeDoorCompany will be present in the building from 4:45pm through 5:00pm to provide replacement door remotes. Please note, if you have model X of the remote currently, you do not require a replacement.

Lucky me! I was in possession of a model X remote so I didn’t need to hinder Theo in his quest of getting to the pub by 5:15! Bob had ensured that I could spend my Thursday afternoon at work whilst also ensuring he didn’t need to bother himself with considering the convenience of the people who paid his salary via exorbitant Body Corporate fees! Thanks Bob and Theo!

Little did I know that at both Theo and Bob were professional, fully-trained idiots.

Upon my next attempt to leave my abode in my metal chariot, my model X door remote was as effectual as a Taser at a hair removal salon – the lights turned on but the results were fury and disappointment as opposed to a clear avenue for excursion being revealed.

Thankfully SomeDoorCompany’s contact details were recorded on the wall near the impassable door, so I did what any reasonable person would do and called them. Lo and behold, Theo himself answered and began the most futile conversation I had that week to date:

UA: Hi! My remote no longer works with this new door. I’ve got a model X remote that matches the photo provided by Bob and was told in writing that it would work fine.

Theo: You must be using the remote wrong.

UA: The remote has one button. I am pressing it. How exactly is that using it incorrectly?

Theo: It must work. I tested them all before I gave them out. It’s not my fault you didn’t come collect a new remote.

UA: How exactly did you test the remote I’m holding Theo? It hasn’t been out of my possession for 2 years and this door has been here for less than 2 days. Did you break into my apartment? Do I need to call the police?

At this point, Theo begrudgingly admitted that there was a problem “with something” and that he would arrange for a remote to be made available to me via Bob. At this point a queue formed behind me, with several other residents discovering their model X remotes were also impotent despite promises made to the contrary. Thankfully Theo had provided details of how to manually open the door – he’d put a placard containing the super-secret, super-secure 2 digit override code in plain view of the public.

As Friday started, I realised that I didn’t particularly feel like being home and listening to the new neighbours knock their pot plants off their third floor balcony whilst attempting to imitate whatever pornography they had last streamed so I called Bob to get my hands on a new remote. At this point I discovered that, not only was Bob a professional idiot, he was quite an aggressive one as well!

UA: Hi! Theo told me he was going to pass along details so I could get my hands on a new remote, as the model X one I have does not work.

Bob: Yep, Theo told me about you. You should have just shown up and gotten a new remote. I’ve only got spares left so you’ll need to wait a week and pay $50 for a new one.

It’s your fault for thinking my instructions were accurate

Let’s just analyse that statement shall we? Paying thousands of dollars per year in Body Corporate fees, including payments into a fund dedicated to building improvements and maintenance and management fees that pay Bob’s salary entitles me to neither a replacement remote nor remotely competent instructions? At this point Bob was not my most favourite person in the world, to the extent that I would serve him $3 wine from Aldi and say he was drinking it wrong when he remarks it tastes like paint thinner.

Of course, I could only respond kindly to that brilliantly reasoned statement from Bob:

UA: Bob, I followed your instructions, I’ve paid my Body Corporate fees and I expect the door I am one of the owners of to open when I need it to. Where is the remote that was allocated to my property?

Bob: Mate, do you want to be able to open the fuckin’ door or what?

Profanity! Diversion! Impropriety! Advantage: Arsehole!

UA: I have made my expectations with regard to the door very clear. I have also made my expectations with regard to management of the property quite clear. Answer my questions, have a remote in my hand today delivered to my office or I shall have to act on the presented information indicating your company’s inability to perform the tasks you have agreed to undertake. If yourself and/or Theo have failed to keep records of who you dispensed replacements to and how many you gave to each property, you’ll need to sort that out – I’m not paying for it.

Bob: *assorted stuttering* Yes Mr Arsehole. I’ll have a remote to you today.

UA: Good. I’ll have a spare set of keys for the common doors whilst you’re at it.

2 hours later one of Bob’s colleagues showed up at my office with a remote that was neither a model X nor inoperative. I thought this was the end of this interlude and a victory. I was only partially right.

I received two letters the following week, both from Bob’s employer. The first was addressed to “The Resident”:

Theo and SomeDoorCompany will no longer be servicing our doors. SomeOtherDoorCompany will be taking over – new contact details have been placarded around the building.

The second, however, was actually addressed to me directly:

Bob has moved on from our Property Management practice. Reginald will now be handling all inquiries and has taken over Bob’s desk and mobile numbers.

Yep – victory!

 

 

 

Don’t be an arsehole!

There are a few rules that should always be followed when dealing with an entity that has done the wrong thing. Counter-intuitively, they’re summed up thusly:

Don’t be an arsehole!

This is, of course, a complex statement.

There are a few simple rules that should be followed.

Never make things personal

The person you’re dealing with is another human being, attempting to do their job and deserves the presumption of their intent being to do everything they can to help you. It’s extremely unlikely that the person answering your questions had any intent of actually causing you inconvenience (or worse) and they’re in a position that is charged with assisting you in spite of the difficulties that the bureaucracy they operate within. A modicum of understanding goes a long way here – help them help you.

Avoid the word “you” where at all possible. Use the name of the company and use the word “we” when asking about next steps and getting a resolution.

Facts only

Keep the conversation on point, focused on what has happened and what has been done thus far. Don’t confabulate or otherwise embellish the situation as this actually weakens any position you hold and will give any detail-focused manager the means to draw an aspect of your case into question.

Keep emotion out of it

Getting angry, aggressive or otherwise emotive is unlikely to lead to any outcome other than the conversation being terminated. Customer service staff are generally given the option of terminating a call or interaction in response to profanity, aggression or any form of threat (amongst other things).

Acknowledge.  Resolve. Right.

Three simple words, and the easiest template to go into a situation with when correction is required.

For the avoidance of doubt, the company’s representative should acknowledge the problem that their conduct has caused, resolve the issue that you have been afflicted with and right the relationship with their customer. The last of these is the most variable, with some companies refusing to accept that the time of their customers has any value, which conveniently leads to…

Keep track of your time

The only reason you are spending any non-zero amount of time is due to a misstep on the part of the provider in question. Should you not comply with the expectations of a bank, airline, insurance provider or any other of a multitude of professional organisations the penalties involved are specific, punitive and executed with efficiency. The basis of said actions is the additional cost or loss of revenue the provider claims to be subject to.

The reverse is very rarely acknowledged by large organisations without specific prompting, and said specific prompting is an incredibly powerful tool.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Have all of your facts, research, previous communications and expectations in front of you, a pen/keyboard to record proceedings as they progress and to take notes regarding developments in the company’s position. Do not allow any statements to go unchecked or unrecorded.

Listen very carefully, for they shall say this only once

The person you are interacting with may make mistakes or misrepresent the intentions of the company inadvertently. Recording these aberrations when they is important as to demonstrate the lack of coherency in the company’s approach and reinforce the need for your time to be appreciated.

Set your goals early

As fun as it is to hear your drunk mate (who we shall call Theo) tell you that “I paid my bloody bill on time! Those bastards at Telstra are going to pay for cutting off my internet!”, there are a few things wrong with that statement.

  1. In all likelihood, there was a poorly constructed process that resulted in Theo not being able to participate in some odd fantasy football league for 20 minutes and no “bastards” were involved.
  2. “My internet” is incorrect usage of the term. If Theo has any sort of private network containing things he has obtained via an Internet connection, I’m betting that cutting it off from the rest of the world may save the eyes and mental health of many.
  3. The statement is entirely qualitative and unactionable

Technically Theo has made the provider “pay” if they promise to deduct one cent from the balance of his next bill. Of course it’s highly likely that Theo will return to the local pub at the next reasonable opportunity and call a bunch of people at his provider of choice bastards again for only paying him such a paltry amount whilst drinking VB and waiting for the nearest pool table to be free in the hopes of making his mate Keith circle the room sans pants for being a crap shot.

Know what you want in terms of restitution from your target prior to picking up the phone, typing an e-mail, searching for the company via Facebook Messenger or Tweeting at them with a profane hash tag.

Ask why

Things happen for a reason. Theo drinks VB because it helps him forget that barracking for Melbourne in the AFL is about as rational as expecting proper journalism from A Current Affair.

There will be some reason for whatever egregious transgression you’re enduring being inflicted upon your person. The question of “Why?” is incredibly powerful and tends to result in escalation and awareness from staff with greater means and/or latitude in helping you get a resolution and/or compensation.

Be gracious

The most important aspect of any interaction is the outcome. If an awkward date results in you eventually marrying the love of your life, that’s surely infinitely more preferable to having an awesome date that featured free drinks and roaming midgets carrying lines of cocaine for your enjoyment that led to warts and 3 different restraining orders.

If the company you’re speaking to has done everything they can to make things right, met your expectations and shown their clear intention to keep you as a customer then there should be due consideration given to said intent.

Fuck telemarketers and scammers

Telemarketers are a whole subject in and of themselves that will be gotten to in due course. None of the above apply to scammers – the more psychological trauma you can bring yourself to inflict, the better.

31 cents

We reject your reality and substitute our own

Telecommunications providers are odd creatures. The vast majority are hell bent on placing customers on 24 month contracts, selling additional services of questionable value and treating existing customers with indifference whilst typically offering significant incentives to new customers to shift loyalties.

Even though mobile technology is constantly evolving and mobile networks are constantly being upgraded and expanded the back end systems of some providers seem to have been manufactured in 1976 and regularly need a bloke named Keith to hit them with a shifting spanner to keep things running.

After cancelling a credit card I provided this particular telco with my new credit card details via their online portal. To my surprise, I received a delightful SMS indicating that immediate payment was required to maintain my service as the company was unable to “Direct Debit” my credit card.

Of course Direct Debit isn’t possible against credit cards, but what the provider was actually trying to tell me was that the payment had not been approved. I made a manual payment in response to this delightful revelation and made a note to chase up the card issuer to ensure there wasn’t a problem on their end.

Shortly thereafter, the cause became clear. The provider in question decided that supplying my new card details were not in line with whatever revenue or operational policy was in place at that time, with repeated attempts resulting in the old (now cancelled) card details being retained and no error being provided. To add to the ridiculousness of this, I had been charged a surcharge for making a manual payment. Up with this I did not put!

Online chat makes things happen

I’ve generally found that attempting the conventional Contact Us form or call centre paths are simply futile with this particular telco as a consumer. A little known fact is the increased level of access provided to staff who take care of web chat and social media channels and one that often provides a quicker, simpler and more optimal outcome for those of us who won’t put up with things going wrong and shoulders being shrugged in response.

After explaining the situation to “Dave”, the situation was resolved in his mind as I would not need to make future manual payments and would not receive SMS messages alleging that I was incapable of operating a credit card correctly.

Acknowledge. Resolve. Right.

When a supplier stuffs something up, I have the following simple expectations:

  • Take ownership and acknowledge the issue
  • Resolve the issue
  • Make things right with the customer

Excellent companies do all of these in one seamless motion and should be praised for it. In this particular case, none of these were done – the surcharge being an issue was not acknowledged, the time involved in sorting this issue out was not appreciated and no refund was offered for the surcharge.

At this point, I had to tell “Dave” that he needed to make things right and the company needed to pay me for my time. Deflection resulted, with the telco’s payment service provider being blamed, “Dave” claiming he could not give me what I was asking for and being told that I would need to invest more of my time to get any further action on the issue.

Stating that my next communication would result in fees being levied against the company due to the complaints process, “Dave” very quickly changed his tune. A request for a $40 credit and a refund of the surcharge was very quickly granted, however “Dave” managed to ruin his attempt at getting positive feedback for his resolution with a single statement. Specifically that future failures to pay will result in a late fee being applied and no waiving of said fees or surcharges.

If we bugger it up again, we’ll charge you for our ineptitude

This may be a canned response to issues involving waiving of fees, but it exemplifies the issue with far too many companies. The only reasonable response to this is (of course), “If the company does fail to follow my payment instructions again, complaints will be filed and the TIO will charge the company handsomely.”

For some strange reason, “Dave” disconnected at this point.

All in all, I’ll count that as a win.