Fresh old ideas
By Arnold Malone
Pioneer Columnist

I would rarely write on the same topic two issues in succession. However, in the same week that my last article about technology was published, my wife, Susan, had a phone conversation that caused me to stir this pot one more swirl.

Susan’s conversation was with our special friends in another province. Our friends, a retired couple, had a time-worn TV set in their bedroom. One of those small screen units that had low-quality for sound and image. Their son arrived from another community and brought a gift of a high-definition TV with a larger screen. However, to get the full benefit of this new product, they would need to add a high-definition receiver box.

Their son, who has a fine crisp clear speaking voice, placed a call to Bell Canada to order the box. The necessary contact information was provided. Days later, they got an e-mail from Bell Canada indicating a date for installation. The e-mail also indicated that they would be phoned prior to the instalment.

This would have been perfect except that the e-mail also showed that Bell Canada had wrongly recorded their phone number and had the wrong house address. Now, mistakes are an occasional human fact, so it was only a situation to be corrected.

Our friends then attempted to contact Bell Canada. Three attempts to phone Bell Canada were made. The first one took longer than our friends could tolerate. So, they waited with the hope that a different time of day would work better. Their second call didn’t work either. Upon the third attempt, the phone was answered.

Our friends explained to a Bell employee that the work order had the wrong phone number and wrong address. The Bell Canada staff had a stunning response, “I don’t have the authority to change the work order.”

Now, because Bell’s employee can’t make a correction, a worker is going to phone somebody in the wrong house and then plan to install a unit at the wrong address.

Are we to assume that our friends were the first ever to have their contact information recorded incorrectly out of thirty-seven million Canadians? That assumption, while possible, is as probable as myself getting a gold medal in aerial skiing.

Corporations tell us that our calls may be recorded for “Quality control and training purposes.” If Bell Canada ever before recorded contact information incorrectly, then why wasn’t there some training or attempt at quality control? Irrationally, why was there an employee who can’t correct a false work order?

The Bell employee said he “Would put a note on the file.” Our friends live on a short street. So, they readily spotted a Bell Canada truck at the wrong address. They informed the installer of the error and happily received excellent service from an independent contractor. The installers told our friends, “We never receive any direction except the original work order.” The “I will put a note on the file” comment was a kiss-off. What happened to, “Your call is important to us?”

We citizens must demand better. We need a human approach to communication with the giant outlets. Otherwise, forever we will be subject to corporate advantage through citizen insult. I am not against large companies; in fact, they offer many advantages. What bothers me is their insensitive procedures that serve only their corporate interests. Being big isn’t the problem it is their failure of respect for the very people who allowed them to become big in the first place. Customers should be treated with great respect. After all, the customer is the only reason that any business exists.

Arnold Malone served as MP for Alberta’s Battle River and Crowfoot ridings from 1974 through 1993. He retired to Invermere in 2007.