Telecommunications dots

One of the processes I am most proud of defining, developing and delivering during my tenure was the onboarding process. Kudos to my leadership for tossing it my way and allowing me to do it on my own.
Every onboarding activity I did was personalized. Yes, the basics where ‘check-the-box’ simple, but everyone who joined our ranks was an individual and they deserved individual attention.

There are a lot of things that have to be remembered whenever you start something new. Finally, I standardized on converting my checklist to individual notebooks created as the hiring processes proceeded.

This became the new hire’s ‘touch stone’ to be used as a start. This became a shared activity between the new hire and the various team members. Folks who were more adventurous enjoyed doing these activities like a scavenger hunt. Others who were more linear requested more ‘checklists’. That was a lot less fun.

Standardizing the work station provided for each resource went a long ways toward simplifying the time to productivity for each resource we brought in.
Writing the requirements for the ‘work station’ provided really helped set the baseline for the expectations the new hire would be able to perform on the first day.
It is much more difficult to produce a baseline for industry knowledge. Every industry has its own set of facts and history that new hires should be exposed. Pique their curiosity.
We were in the telecommunications industry. We were doing ‘mobile first’ design and delivery, so it really doesn’t hurt understand a little bit about the history of telecommunications. I like to focus on telecommunications in the United States.

I am old. I remember when Ma bell was the only game in town. I remember when it was illegal to own a telephone. My mother was a telephone operator in the 40’s and 50’s. Heck she was downsized by ‘mama bell’ because she chose to follow her husband when they shipped him to Colorado after they shot him with an atomic bomb. But that is a story for another day.

I hate resumes

Naively I assumed that the ability to survive and thrive for over 6 years in a turbulent, ‘fast-paced’ information technology organization delivering the tools that facilitated the ‘un-carrier’ revolution.

Maybe that is where I need to start. Instead of formatting a resume as a brochure to get the conversation started, I need to create the ‘roadmap’ that takes the reader through my experiences.

Connect the dots for the reader!

How I know I am old!

Ever take a step back and think about how far we have come in just the past few years? I do. The bulk of my life has been in telecommunications.  When I was a kid, I was pricing out the cost to make phone calls so I could call my favorite auntie.

There was no such thing as ‘unlimited’ anything. You were lucky if you had a private line. There was one phone company period. It was illegal to own your telephone. You had to lease it from ‘Ma Bell’.

All of that changed, as I was coming of age. BAM!  Let’s break up Ma Bell! It will be good for the consumer. That changed the industry. That changed the world. I have a full-blown theory about how breaking up Ma Bell into the baby bells delayed expansion of communications fully into the western half of the country, but I digress. In today’s world all of those discussions are moot. What is frightening is the realization about how recent those events are in my mind, while those around me were learning to read.

Okay, those events were almost 40 years ago.  But the MCI/Worldcom debacle didn’t meet its final bitter-end until early 2005 when Verizon ultimately took them out of their misery.

I think I am the only one old enough to have had to calculate their landline, phone bill this way!


I signed up to produce ‘TPS Reports’ – really

I was recruited.  Actively pursued to take on the responsibility to deliver the onboarding factory for this communications company.

They needed me.  I needed them.  The timing was right, the environment was wrong.

There was a team in place, they needed some organization and leadership.  As a team, we were able to clear the backed-up pipeline in less than ninety days.

What we didn’t know is that we were picking up the wreckage from the previous attempts.  We wound up dissecting the processes and redesigning the delivery directly to the architect of the nightmare, the creator of the out-of-control-pipeline.  This taught me to ask a few more questions before jumping in with both feet.  Test the waters.  Do your homework.  Unless this is a greenfield project there are people attached and somewhere someone is connected to this chaos. Be careful.

This happened so long ago that it is truly a distant memory but the emotions that came running back when I started thinking about what happened were disconcerting.

I really think it is those damages that led me to stay in my next position so long.  Far beyond the expiration date for the role, so it is time to be moving on.

This is the place where I literally produced TPS Reports.  I tried to make jokes about ‘flair’ and ‘red swingline staplers’ but my humor was lost on my fellow cube dwellers.

Love the service, not the bills.

Spent hours over the last couple of days trying to decipher my second bill from magenta. Had no idea anything could be so convoluted! Finally figured it out after spending hours looking at it online. Saddest part? In order to download a pdf version for my personal files, I had to text with support. Now that I know how and where to get it done, I have documented it for future reference.
I will give credit where credit is due – the chat was positive. The agent on the other end knew what to do, we were just hindered by technology. The configuration of the online chat session wouldn’t allow me to move around on the website. Every time I tried to follow the directions from the chat agent, I would be redirected back to the support page that I had used to access chat support. I understand why this was happening, but think it is kind of a lame configuration on the part of the website owners.
No worries. As my father used to say, ‘that didn’t stop old Cisco.’ I was undeterred. Once I realized what was happening with the chat client session, I opened up a second, alternative browser that I could use to follow along with the instructions from the chat agent.
Positives – we were able to get to the core of my issue.
Negatives – maintaining multiple browsers in view in the itty bitty screen of my laptop made viewing everything difficult.
After solving the downloading of my bill issue, I spent some time deciphering what was really in this obnoxiously long and confusing bill. I think I was a bit spoiled from being a yellow customer for so very long. The reason I never had to deal with their no-service organization until after I left, their bills were clear and concise. It was easy to find and interpret the information provided on their bills.
This is not the case with the new provider. There are charges on my bill that are rightfully there, but not easily understood.
The main purpose for the switch was to save money on service when we upgraded our devices. Based on the analysis done before the switch, this should be a no brainer.
Reviewing the convoluted bills after the switch, I am not seeing any savings, actually it appears to be costing.
After spending hours surfing the community for explanations about all of the things on my bills, I finally figured it out. For the record, the information that I needed is not on the bill. There are charges on the pdf version of the bill that have absolutely no direct link to the line items in the details.
The web view provided me the information that I needed to see so I could understand what was being charged. The old school accountant deep in my soul is having a difficult time with the reconciliation. It just bothers me when there are ‘other charges’ on my bill that don’t add up from the line items in the details section.
When all is said and done, the math works, but not by using the bill itself. This makes me long for the good old days of the obf when they regulated how the bills were formatted and mandated that all of the information be clearly and accurately calculated.
I don’t know if there are any current regulations mandating accuracy in billing statement or not, but it sure seems there ought to be.
Bottom line –
In order for the online billing system to reconcile the payments that I have made, entries are made in the billing summary section of the pdf bill. Because I took advantage of their interest free installment plans for the purchase of the new devices and the installment plan charges are not included as separate line items on the pdf bill, there is a serious discrepancy when I tried to reconcile all of the summary items. The ‘other charges’ as listed on the detailed bill will never reconcile. As the consumer, I have to be aware of this and keep track of what I have paid on my own. Knowing this, I am able to reconcile the bill using the data available online. Seems like a lot of work with little to know benefit.
The easiest fix is to pay off the installment plans that I didn’t really want in the first place. My next bill will have similar issues. We had two separate installment plans. I paid the smaller of the 2 in full as part of my activities doing this billing reconciliation. After the next bill cuts, here in the next few days, I will pay the other installment plan in full. Hopefully, we will finally see the savings promised by changing carriers. Right now, the switch has been costing us. Here’s hoping!

Understanding My Bill (continued)

Wow! This has become quite the challenge to understand my bill.  Guess I was more than a little spoiled with my old provider.  I don’t know if it is because I was with them so long that I just knew where everything was and what it meant or if  I am just that dim that I can’t figure this bloody thing out.

So I log in the way I finally figured out how to get to my profile, consistently.  So far, so good.

I look at the landing page and everything looks pretty good, I guess.  Remember, I am a NEW CUSTOMER, so everything is still unfamiliar for me and finding what I want is mission critical to ensuring my satisfaction.

Cool!  They show my current usage.  I find this interesting, even though we have unlimited everything, save for the third line which is a data device we probably don’t need, but I wanted it anyway.  I don’t really need to know how much data that line is using because we have barely turned it on.  It is nice of my provider to give me this information.  As a brand new user who has no need to monitor my usage, I am not really sure this needs to be quite so prominent, but I will leave that up to all of the fancy-schmancy designers out there who know more than I.  I am pretty sure someone somewhere has done analysis and identified that this is the most important thing that most people should see.

Kind of annoying the fancy, splashy marketing message at the top of the page, followed by some random message about something that is being end of life’d the end of this month is in bright red across the top of the landing page.  I don’t care enough to find out what it is, but I am sure there are people out there who do need to know, just not me.   Neither the marketing message nor the warning message do anything for me.  Quite frankly, in the best of all possible worlds I would be able to turn them off.  (Keep dreaming!)

What I really want to do is look at my bill online.  The paper bill with its 9 pages of ridiculously small print is doing my head in and I can’t make hide nor hair out of whether it is accurate.  My thought is I should be able to log in and see the bill here.  Then I will either increase the view size so I can make out all of the numbers without squinting.  (I truly am fighting “11’s” and I prefer not to do anything to void all of that extra effort!)  I consider this to be a reasonable expectation of a webpage set up for me to manage my account.  Who knows?  Maybe I am irrational in that expectation.

After reviewing all of the information about my usage, my eyes move to the right.  I am American.  I read from left to right.  It would be cool to learn how to read another way, but I think I am too old to change my ways.  Old dogs, new tricks kind of thing.

To my delight, the next fancy box has a large header labeled ‘My bill’.   Phenomenal!  This is what I am looking for.  Points to the page designer.  The box lists the amount due on my bill.   The good part here is that it initially matched what my bill said.  It is less now as I logged on the other day and made a payment on the equipment plan.  Magically, that amount has been reduced from what shows in this box.  At this point, I am a bit concerned as I think I may have messed things up by paying for the equipment purchase plan, but I couldn’t tell if it was included in the amount on my bill or not and I would prefer to overpay rather than be late on anything.  (I don’t owe on anything other than my house, so I am not really familiar with purchase plans.)

The only thing that looks to be actionable is the big green button labeled ‘Pay my bill’.  Well that would be really silly as when I logged in the other day, I scheduled a payment to be made the day before the due date, so why in the world would I want to pay my bill again?  The funniest part, to me, is the message beneath the graph that shows how much my bill is confirms both the payment I made on the equipment plan and the payment scheduled.  The fact that the button is green, inviting me to pay my bill again, seems a little odd given those messages.  Regardless, there are teeny tiny little blue links that invite me to see my payment history or view the details of my scheduled payment.   Neither one of those options seem to fit what I am trying to do.

To the right is another large box with a header labeled “My account activity”.  It is nice to see that the most recent activity posted there matches what I did last – ‘New payment posted’ and matches the date that I put monies toward the equipment, so I am assuming that is the payment that posted.   At the bottom of the listing it does provide me an option to view more activity, so I click that link to expand the view of my account activity.  Marvelous!  The list matches what I remember doing on this account.  I expand the information in the top record on the list and it shows the payment I made the other day and automatically deducting it from the amount due on my bill.  At this point, I am positive I have overpaid my bill for the month.  I probably wouldn’t have done that if I had been able to decipher what I truly owed to keep me out of the dog house.  Hey!  This is where my budget before I started this little adventure really comes in handy!

Although all of this information is interesting, it is not relevant to the task at hand, which is figuring out how to see my bill online.  It is obvious, I am not going to find what I want here, or I have completely missed the ‘quicklink’ that is appropriately positioned in the top third of the page so that I will go where marketing thinks I need to go.  I am a NEW CUSTOMER.  I do NOT wish to buy one more thing, at this time.  Thank you very much.  I need to see my bill.


Quick recap here:

  • So far, I have logged into the site I know how to get to the place I want to be to edit my profile.  I know how to get here repeatedly.
  • I have viewed all of the marketing fanciness that splashes across my landing page.  Really?  Do I need this?
  • I have checked out every piece of information available in the three labeled boxes.
  • I have expanded the one that looked most promising, in my opinion.
  • I have failed to see my bill.  I can tell you the gross usage information.  But I still haven’t seen my bill online.


I could look at Usage.  It is nice to have a drill down capability to see the details that I am paying for, but I would still like to understand how much I need to pay, so this doesn’t seem to be the best choice, given the options on the landing page and having failed looking at the account activity.

I choose to look at the  box labeled ‘My bill’.  I don’t  want to push the button again as I have already scheduled my payment for this bill.  On second review, I notice there is a tiny blue link beneath the great big green button.  Low and behold, it says ‘View my bill’.  Okay, so I just didn’t notice it before.  Shiny objects and all.  Reminder:  Bright shiny object management theory applies to thyself!

Finally!  I found how much I owe on my bill.  Surprise, surprise, it actually matches what was printed on the ugly paper copy I received in the mail, but better organized.

As a NEW CUSTOMER – I think the real estate given to try and upsell me could be better used to provide me some of the hints and suggestions that appear as Quick tasks.   We are adults with unlimited plans.  I really don’t care about restricting the plans in any way, although I am sure there are people who do need this upfront.

I am thrilled at making it this far.  I may never need to try and read that paper bill, ever again!   Even better!  I found the option to print from here!  Yay!  A read only copy of my bill.  This looks so much better than the paper bill I received in the mail, it is ridiculous!   SUCCESS!  Now I can read the bill without squinting and if I decide to print it, I have better paper!

My First Bill

Recently, I changed my cell provider. So far, I have been mightily pleased. Yesterday I received my first bill from the new company. All I can say is wow! I have encountered something that the new company does a whole lot worse than the old company. My bill is 9 pages long! Other than the ridiculous number of pages, I have a lot of thoughts about this bill and how it is formatted.

Page 1: Your Statement
I do appreciate there is a Summary on the first page providing me a summary of the information contained within the following 8 pages and has the requisite information about the due date and where to make the payment. Clearly this is my statement. My name shows up in 3 different places. I am actually pleased that all of the information repeated about me on this page is accurate. How awful would that be if one of them was wrong? Whose responsibility would it be to ensure it was accurate? The payer or the payee?   Fortunately, I do not have to ponder this possibility. Kudos for accuracy!
What I really care about is the Summary. It is rather easy to locate, it is right under the “Important Information”. Why does this little box appear above the Summary? This is supposed to be what is important to me. To me, the important information is the Summary. Don’t try mis-lead me into reading what you think is important. I know you think this is important information, you labeled it “Important Information” and it has its own little box above the Summary.
It is nice that their important information includes a thank you for becoming a customer, but in the grander scheme of things that I need to know on my new bill, it isn’t important. The rest of the important information is all about them. They want me to buy more stuff and simplify their responsibilities. They provide me the opportunity to go online and review everything I ever wanted to know about my relationship with them, or they imply that in the wording. Quite frankly, at this point in our relationship none of this screams important enough to be in its own box above the information I find important.  Because I paid attention when we completed this transaction I already know all of this information. Early on in our relationship I already completed the tasks that are mentioned in this little blurb of what they deem important enough information to push it to me before telling me what I want to know:

How much did I spend?

  • Gross cost.
  • Gross discounts.
  • Net payment due.

That is the important information to me, the brand new customer.

The bottom third of the document is the requisite stub to be returned with the payment due. Good, old-fashioned classic bill payment methods, as expected. What confused me was the garbage in the middle. I don’t understand exactly why this has to be in the center of the first bill I ever receive from my new provider. My guess is it’s the they are either legally required to provide or there could be a good-hearted bill processor somewhere in the world who thinks this is the only way the consumer will ever know about the current class action proceedings going on against the telecommunications providers regarding their historical per-message billing practices texts sent since 2005. My guess? This is required as part of the antitrust legislation. It is good that the consumer knows his/her rights, but I really don’t need this messaging on the front page of my first bill. Have you ever participated in any of these antitrust class action suits and received anything that was really worth the effort? Not me. I think the best I ever did was $50 and it really wasn’t worth the headache to produce the paperwork and do the homework.

PAGE 2: No Real Label
Basically this is the back page of page 1. There is all of the fine print about the things that you will be reading in the next pages of this bill. All the legal disclaimers that should be read if you are running really close to the budget and need to ensure you won’t be paying any unexpected fees. The importance of this page is different for every individual and is entirely contextual. There have been times in my life where I have scoured every letter on these pages of terms & conditions so that I could figure out everything on the bill. Today, I am blessed and am not in the position of having to figure out how to scrape up the cash to make ends meet for the things that I consider necessities. For that I am eternally grateful, so this page doesn’t carry as much weight as it did in my past, but I give it a quick read.
I was distracted by the printing itself. The weight of the paper was cheap. Okay. This is not a problem, merely an observation. Coming from the old school offices of the past where which paper you used depended upon the purpose, this is something I have been trained to observe my entire life. I just happened to notice this is more like the cheap copy paper I can buy at Costco or Staples. Funny I really hadn’t noticed that when I was looking at page 1.
Page 2 is definitely smaller print. To me, it looks offset. I understand this is because they put their logo vertically down the left side of every page, but the use of a box around the table of the fine print, really makes it look sloppy, to me. Possibly if this were on a more quality paper to have it appear to be letterhead the logo wouldn’t seem so out of place. I don’t know. I don’t really have an eye for the artistic part of bill creation, I am only interested in the content.
Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit. I do notice that the fonts are not the same size. Many of the things I am interested in reading are in really tiny font, while most of the exceptions and disclaimers are in a larger font, sometimes even bolded. Good for you folks in Puerto Rico and NM – you get larger fonts!

…to be continued…