In the continuing chronicle of assisting my 92-year old mother and smoothing out her stay-in-place lifestyle, I try to visit her at least once every 10 days or so.

The latest visit went in normal fashion. I delivered tacos, checked over her mail and thought I’d completed my mission. Then mom mentions that she can no longer get her old movies that she loves to watch on her cable TV. Because watching TV is her primary activity, I figure she should get the programming she wants.

I will now describe my interactions with her cable/internet company. I first went to their website seeking to find a telephone number to call for support; no phone number on their webpage. I pulled a copy of her last bill; again, no telephone number. You can internet chat and email but I’m old enough that I prefer person-to-person live interaction to get things done.


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In this increasingly digital age where everything is emails, apps, texts and online chat, our industry needs to remember that just because our systems and devices are IP, Wi-Fi and high tech, doesn't mean that our customers are on the same technological level. Not everyone understands technology, but they all want it to work. As our population ages, more customers will need our personal attention to assist them with their systems. If you want to sell additional services to them, your personnel need to talk with the clients — emails are not going to cut it.

With the explosive replacement of humans with machines for customer service (think about your bank — how many tellers are left?), person-to-person communications are now precious and vital tools. Try finding your company’s telephone number on your website and on search engines. Then call your company and see what or who answers the phone. You might be surprised.

Your existing and potentially new customers want a live person, not some electronic maze they have to navigate to achieve a simple request. 


Using a search engine, I find a possible telephone number for this provider’s customer service. I get the automated answering/querying machine that asks me for the account’s zip code, and input my mom’s only to be told that no customers exist in that area; interesting, since they have the monopoly on cable in my mother’s suburb. I keep pounding in numbers, trying to reach customer service, while my blood pressure rises and my headache roars. Finally, I find a human.

The channel that carries the old movies has become a premium channel and requires an additional charge of $10 per month. My mother, who is a 1930s depression baby, said she didn’t want to pay for it. I told her that since all she does all day is watch TV she might as well cough up the 10 bucks. The deal was done.

It had taken me 35 minutes to reach a human, and 45 minutes to get a simple service request completed. As I age, I find that my time is at a premium and the stress of fighting with customer service voice systems is not positive for my health. The complexity of getting through to their “live” customer service would have been extremely difficult for my mother to perform.

After calming down, I made a call to Arlington Security as I wanted to talk to Jim Hassenplug, who has been a customer and friend since 1982. I called his office around 12:20 p.m. lunchtime. The phone rang once, twice, three times and I was sure I was going to get a voicemail service. To my surprise, Jim himself greeted me with “Arlington Security, how can I help you?” Obviously, his office help was out to lunch and Jim was manning the phone until their return. How refreshing to talk to a human on the first attempt at a phone call.