Outsourcing. It seems like virtually every corporation has moved its customer service operations out of the United States. Each time I have to call Comcast or Verizon or some other large company, I speak to someone in India or Cairo or Dagobah.
But Century Link is the worst. Period. They’re customer service is so bad, I’ve come to an inescapable conclusion: they’ve moved their customer service not to Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, but to the fiery pits of Hell itself.
I’m no stranger to bad customer service interactions. Whenever I call the customer service department of a large company, I grit my teeth and prepare to have my brain worked over with a metaphorical meat tenderizer. But there’s one interaction with Century Link customer service that, to this day, makes my buttock hairs rigid with fear.
The call started off innocently enough. After navigating a sea of automated menus and waiting on hold for about five hours, I spoke to a customer service representative about setting up new phone service. It was all going swimmingly and I began at last to see light at the end of the tunnel.
The rest of the exchange went something like this:
Customer Service Representative: Okay, sir. I’ve got you set up for the Phone Plus Plan, which includes caller ID and voice mail. Your monthly premium will be $35 per month. Now, I’m just going to transfer you to [unintelligible series of words] department, which will finish setting up your service.
Me: Wait, what?
[silence as call is transferred]
Me: Hello? Hello?!
New Customer Service Representative: Hello, sir. My name is Brian. Can I please begin by having your date of birth and social security number?
Me: Uh…which department have I reached?
Brian: Hello, sir. My name is Brian. Can I please begin by having your date of birth and social security number?
Me: No, I already heard you. Can you please tell me which department you work for?
Brian: Sir, I have to stick to the script. I’m not allowed to talk to you about anything different than what appears on my script. Now, can I please begin by having your date of birth and social security number?
Me: But I was just talking to Century Link and I thought I’d set my service up completely.
Brian: Sir, I just need your date of birth and social security number.
Me: Brian, which department of Century Link do you work for?
Brian: I don’t work for Century Link, sir. Now, can I please have your date of birth and-”
Me: But I was just talking to Century Link. To set up phone service. And they connected me to you.
Brian: Yes, sir.
Me: So I need to know how you’re related to Century Link and what you have to do with setting up my phone service.
Brian: Sir, I’m required to collect personal information using the script I was given. I have to follow the script and collect the information from you.
Me: Brian, what company do you work for?
Brian: I don’t know, sir.
Me: You don’t know what company you work for?!
Brian: No, sir.
Me: Then why the heck would I give you my personal information?!
Brian: Sir, I’m required to collect–”
Me: Brian, for all I know, you work for some evil, sphincter-eating cult and you want my personal information so you can break into my house tonight with a pair of disemboweling tweezers and some ketchup and have at my colon! Goodbye!
And then I took a shower. Because that conversation made me feel violated.
My only explanation for this phenomenon is that, desperate to cut costs, Century Link decided to move its customer service operations to an otherworldly plane of fiery torment. Some middle-manager probably packed a sacrificial dagger and a goat into the back of his Suburban (as middle-managers are wont to do), dragged them into the office, and slapped them down on the stone altar right between the coffee maker and the copy machine.
Then the whole office probable chanted something in backwards Latin and drew pentagrams in goat blood on all their manila folders until a fiery portal emerged in the middle of the altar, into which they cast a few dozen VOIP phones and headsets.
Nothing quite encapsulates the phrase “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” like listening to a six second loop of hold music for four hours.