The improbable happened. I got great service from CenturyLink.
Less improbable was the Kansas City Chiefs’ come from behind win in Super Bowl LIV. It was the third time in as many games they came from behind to win.
On any given weekend during football season, any NFL team can rise up and beat all odds to get a win. That is what happened on a recent Saturday with CenturyLink. And the moral of the story is horrific online experiences can be saved offline.
The NFL is now using Amazon Web Services (AWS) to predict the success of any given pass play. It uses factors such as distance in air, distance to sideline, and proximity of defender(s) to come up with percentages. It brings numbers to highlight amazing athletic feats, like when Patrick Mahomes made a completion to Sammy Watkins for 38 yards with 3:44 left in the 4th. According to AWS it had only a 13.2% chance of success.
CenturyLink’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) rating is 59 out of 100. For context, the average customer satisfaction score for internet providers is 62 out of 100. CenturyLink scores below most in a sector that is already very bad. So let’s say CenturyLink starts at a 59% chance of success on any support incident.
I try rebooting the router and it is still does not work. Ugh. Have to call CenturyLink for help.
The journey starts as expected, frustrating. There’s no number on the modem to call for help. The Google search comes up with one, but it turns out to only be for sales, with no support option. Finally find a place on CenturyLink’s website to chat for support.
I do not begrudge the chatbot asking me for information. It just took 30 seconds to two minutes for the bot to respond each time I gave it a piece of information. Name …30 seconds…phone number…43 seconds…address…two minutes, etc. I also detail the problem and the steps I have taken so far. My chatbot buddy then says it is transferring me to a live agent. It feels like I’m making progress…almost.
My chatbot friend said, “transferring you a live agent.” But I am actually transferred to a queue to wait for an agent. Six minutes later, “Joy” introduces herself. She says she will read what the chatbot collected and get back to me. That takes four more minutes.
Having made me wait four minutes while she supposedly read the chatbot transcript, Joy then asks me for all of the same information again. And she is obviously not just working with me. (There are significant delays between the most basic of questions.) It takes another 17 minutes for Joy to finally decide to test the line to see if she can reach the modem. But, nope, she can’t. We need a technician. Then Joy asks me for my name, phone number, and address again, so she can enter the information in the service call system. For those of you keeping score at home, this is the third time she has asked for this information.
The appointment is scheduled for the same day, between 1pm and 5pm. That’s a pleasant surprise! But I still have wait at home all afternoon with no access to Netflix or Disney+ (The horror!). And my long, frustrating online experience leaves me doubtful the service call is going to be simple or pleasant. But within 10 minutes of disconnecting from the chat, I get a text from CenturyLink confirming that a technician, “Jerry,” will arrive between 1pm and 5pm.
My friendly, local CenturyLink technician takes the ball. I get a text from Jerry himself letting me know he will be there at 1pm.
I pull into my driveway at 12:25 and Jerry is already there.
Jerry is polite, efficient, professional. He fixes the issue in about 20 minutes. And he explains what the issue had been. And he gives us confidence that the issue will not recur.
Two hours later, Jerry texts me to check whether everything is OK, and he provides a URL link so I can get support faster if there is another issue.
On the field, one member of the team can drop the ball at any time, but with a team effort, the win can still be saved. CenturyLink did all it could to cause friction by using a slow, inefficient chatbot and an even slower, poorly-trained live agent. But one friendly, competent employee saved the day for this customer.
It just goes to show that on any given day, the people talking to your customers face to face have the power to overcome a bad online experience…as long as they bring their A game.