Sunday, July 09, 2006

My Travails with Cingular Wireless

July 1, 2006
Indifferent or incompetent ‘customer service’ seems a chronic malady of our time. Thus it may be a bit unfair to single out Cingular wireless for special mention. I do so because Cingular staff members seem to have engaged themselves in making my life difficult with a particular, diabolical malice.

International travel, to Sri Lanka at least, seems to stress this organization far beyond its capabilities. In Washington, DC, my goal was simply to purchase a new Mobile Phone that might provide internet connectivity on my travels. I came to the ‘Cingular Store’ prepared to use my time and the employees efficiently. One of my talented, super competent staff members had researched the purchases – and the best place to make it – in advance. On my first visit, I got no service. The store was filled with disgruntled customers, mostly being ignored by two or three harried staff , who seemed particularly practiced in averting their eyes, shunning any human contact. One was serving a customer while, simultaneously, making a personal phone call to a friend on an earphone receiver. After a 30 minute wait I gave up, planning to return when circumstances were less crowded.

9:30 the next Monday morning was the time I chose and, indeed, I received the attention of a staff member immediately. This time the problem was not receiving attention but the quality of the attention I did receive. To make a long story short, I went through the process of purchasing a phone – twice. To complete the process, I had to personally call ‘customer service’ in the store. “Could you do this for me,’ I asked the salesperson. ‘No, you have to do it yourself,’ was the reply. When I did reach a Cingular staff member by phone, the best she could do was inform me that Cingular would not be able to provide the service promised by the salesperson, and for which I paid a premium price. After further dialogue, in which one staff member said I should try Target or Wal-Mart to find a new battery for my old phone but another searched and found one, I departed. The bottom line: 30 minutes of my staff time, 90 minutes of my time – two phones purchased and refunded and finally… a new battery for my own phone, which Cingular did provide gratis.

Happily my mobile phone coverage in Sri Lanka is not provided by Cingular, so it is functioning as advertised. The information provided to my staff member by the Sri Lankan carrier, Dialog GSM, in contrast to that provided by Cingular was accurate. Which is a good thing because the Blackberry email I was assured would work without difficulty did not work – (and, now has not worked for more than a week). Further calls by my staff elicited the information that I would need to call “international technical support,’ This is a toll call that must be made at my own expense. But my call to Cingular elicited only a taped response that ‘they were experiencing an unusually heavy volume of calls. An engineer could get back to me in four hours – not so easy to orchestrate in Sri Lanka..

Given my own experiences, I am not surprised burden is high, but I will be doing something to lighten it when I return to the US. I will be making it a priority to contract with another carrler.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:36 PM  

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