Monday, January 20, 2014


Black Holes

I loathe the telephone.

I particularly dislike the telephone when I have to talk to a customer service representative (CSR) about an issue - not necessarily a problem but any issue.

For much of my "professional" life I was a writer: newspaper reporter and technical writer; even when I lacked "writer" in my job title, written communication still was a major component of the job. I am accustomed to setting things forth "by the numbers."

Add that to the fact that contacting a CSR by phone often - usually - means tying up the phone for more than a few minutes listening to music-I-don't-like-on-hold until a CSR finally answers the call. Never mind that I think about the menus I'm forced to navigate or the really aggravating "Press 1 for English." I'm calling from the U.S. to - supposedly - a call center in the U.S.

  1. This is the situation.
  2. This is what I want to do/have done.
  3. This is how I would like you (my correspondent) to respond.

I try to deal with the CSRs via email - either from my own email service or via the CSR's "communicate via the Web form" function.

Usually this proves highly satisfactory.

But lately . . .

I repeatedly sent emails to two organizations and repeatedly failed to get a response.

Humana (Medicare)

I'm new with Humana Medicare. My previous Medicare provider, AvMed, delisted my Primary Care Physician (PCP) forcing me to find a new PCP. I decided to also find a new Medicare provider. (Apparently my AvMed PCP's practice failed to make its required Return on Investment - ROI - to satisfy AvMed so his practice was delisted. Great doctor but an office staff that was sorely lacking.)

When AvMed was my provider, I could, and did, communicate via Web mail; I would send a message via AvMed's Web site and get a response to the site (requiring me to log on to AvMed to access the mail; inconvenient, but "secure").

I naturally - and foolishly - assumed that I would have the same reasonably efficient communications with Humana, my Medicare provider du jour.

I wrote and waited.

I wrote again and waited.

I wrote a third time and noted that if Humana failed to respond this time I was taking the non-responsiveness issue to Medicare.

FINALLY I received an email telling me that Humana answered my query and that I should log on to my Humana account to read the response. I logged on and - no response. I wandered all over Humana's Web site to no avail.

Defeated, I called Humana's call center. A nice sounding CSR heard my complaint - WHERE'S THE EMAIL? - and told me she couldn't help me but she would transfer me to Humana IT. After about 15 minutes of ring-no answer and commercials for Humana I gave up.

I went back and logged on again to Humana's Web site, tried multiple options and finally the elusive response email appeared. "Sorry we didn't answer before; we were busy." In the end my question - asked at least 3 times - was satisfactorily answered.



Still, Humana's much delayed response was better than netTalk's.

NetTalk is an Internet telephone provider, a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service.

Based on netTalk's Web site, the service meets all my requirements. I did some additional checking and found that netTalk's customer service was less that five star.

I sent netTalk an email with two questions.

No response.

I resent the email.

No response.

Finally I sent a third and final email to netTalk: "Since you can't respond to a person who wants to buy your product, I don't want to think how you treat people already signed up for your VoIP service."

NetTalk's VoIP service MAY very well be an excellent product; certainly the price was right, but if a potential customer cannot get two simple questions answered, I would be foolish to sign up.

I'm "stuck" with Humana for a year; hopefully our two-way communication will improve, otherwise, despite some financial benefits offered by Humana will be sacrificed for better customer service.

As for netTalk, it lost a customer even before it had the customer's business.

The price was right and it sounded like a perfect product, but lack of customer service was the show stopper.

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