It’s a utility company. Just keep the service coming, and I’ll pay the bills. We shouldn’t have to think about each other. Now I am, and not in a good way.
For years our utility providers have suggested we sign up for auto pay. We finally took them up on their offer.
I Knew It
I like computers, but sometimes worry that the computers are going to let me down, and the decision-makers aren’t going to take my side. A few days after setting up auto pay, I received this email from Xcel Energy.
Here we go, I thought. I figured something like this would happen. I called Xcel to find out how come auto pay didn’t work.
The rep told me that if I signed up after the last bill went out (I had), the auto pay wouldn’t kick in until the next billing cycle. I mentioned that when I added auto pay for one of my credit cards, their website had a big notice that warned me of a similar situation. I even made a note to manually pay the bill one last time.
“Did I miss a similar notice on your site?” I asked.
“No, our site doesn’t explain that. Because of that I get a lot of calls like yours.”
“Maybe you ought to get someone to do something about that,” I suggested.
He told me he’s tried and has had no luck. Then he assured me that the auto pay was on and the full amount would be taken from my bank account next month. No worries.
“Was there a finance charge applied?” I asked.
“Yes, but I’m already reversing those charges.” It helped to have him say he wasn’t going to let the finance charge slip through if I hadn’t said something.
I liked the guy. I told him he handled it well, even though I was thinking, Hey Xcel, get your act together.
Yesterday a Worse Version of the Problem Returned
Eight days after getting it all worked out, I get a robocall from Xcel asking us to call them before 9 p.m. I call and push the button to talk with someone and am told there’s a 12 minute wait. Click. Before hanging up I did learn I was trying to connect to the credit department. That was my hint the problem wasn’t resolved.
This morning I decided to try again because I didn’t want to continue getting credit calls. The rep told me I have an outstanding balance.
I explained what happened. Looking at my record he could see that things were now square, but then made the mistake of telling me the robocalls would continue until the past-due balance was paid, three weeks from now.
I suggested he fix that. Just like my conversation last week, he told me that he couldn’t. It was the way the computer program was set up.
This Is a Fixable Problem
Computers do what human beings tell them to do. And while the guy in the call center may not have the authority or influence to make the change, I’m certain this problem is known by someone who does have the authority to order the change.
It seems like an easy fix. Add a check box for the call center people. Here’s the text: Talked to customer. Problem has been resolved. Remove from robocall list. CHECK. Database updated. No more calls.
And as for the original problem, a well-placed sentence or two would have let me know the service wasn’t going to start until the next billing cycle.
Xcel (And Most Companies) Can Do Better
I think Xcel should fix the problem, and for a really good reason: Increased profitability.
Dealing with me costs money. Sending robocalls and auto-generated emails costs money. Demoralized employees who feel like they can’t make any changes costs money.
If, as Xcel’s rep suggested, I receive more robocalls that he told me I can simply ignore, Xcel will be providing a needless irritation to the folks at my house.
When I work with companies to help them improve their operations, I’m always impressed by the many ideas frontline staff have for making things better. They talk with customers and know what’s going on. The challenge I help companies overcome is figuring out why those ideas don’t turn into action.
Most companies have plenty of problems they could be working to solve. I think they should.