Now they Notice

So I have been departing from BofA for months.  I even sent them a break-up email in December.  December 2012.  I told them that I was leaving.  I have slowly and methodically been disentangling myself from their clutches.  Kind of like a long-term ex – every day you find something else that needs to be removed.

I moved all of my automatic payments.  I moved all of my cds.  This is important.  I am a consultant.  I don’t make a lot of money, nor do I have a lot of long term promises in my career, so I set up a system of rolling cds when I went into this field and it has saved my fat from the fire more times than I can count.  Now I have to set up that nifty little system again, elsewhere.   It is not a big deal, it is just annoying.

I didn’t realize all of the transactions I had going in and out of the megalithic institution, until I went to remove them.  Even though I kept them updated, every step of the way.  I would send them a note letting them know I was one step closer to departure, they never responded.   They didn’t even notice until my account balances fell below $25.  I have received multiple notices that my account balance has fallen below $25.  That is just sad.  They only care, when they legally have to care.  What a shame.

Let’s get real.  I am a very small fry in a much bigger pond.  My numbers aren’t high enough that they are going to tip the balance sheet one way or the other, I know that.  What I am is a long-time customer.  BofA and I had a relationship for a very long time.  Another metric of stability is churn.  Everyone who is talking about customer service mentions churn.  Sad part is additions are the only things rewarded.  No one give a rat’s ass about the existing customer.  It isn’t until the existing customer becomes a past customer and part of churn that the machine even notices them.  This is sad.

In some ways, I think this passion to break off with BofA has influenced other parts of my life.  I had been a long time customer of Sprint  and I am not there anymore either.  Customer service is a huge differentiator in this world of service providers.  I can get the good elsewhere – how I am treated along the way is what is valuable to me.

Freedom Day

Despite the universe’s best efforts to prevent me from reaching my goal of exiting BofA today – I did it!  I marched into one of the local branches and extracted my remaining funds.  It was weird.  I don’t know what I thought it would be, but I was amazed at how it felt actually closing my account.  The manager at this particular branch was amazingly good at her job and there is a possibility if I had done my banking here over the past couple of years, I may not have left, but….

It really wasn’t fair to this branch.  They were always nice to me.  I should have gone to the Houghton branch, they are the ones who discriminated against me and started this whole exit process in the first place.  The nice person who ended up having to process the exit was curious about why I was so adamant about my departure, so I shared the story about how poorly I had been treated in December at the Houghton branch and how I had even written to BofA telling them of my plans and that the lack of response clearly communicated to me that my business wasn’t valuable enough to them, so I wanted to go where it is appreciated.

As we were processing the exit paperwork and putting together my cashier’s check, we reminisced about the bank the company used to be before it was acquired by the megalith BofA.  When I moved to this town, I didn’t have much.  My credit was crap.  I was new in town.  I needed a bank.  Seafirst was the only bank that would give me a chance.  That was 16 years ago.  Oh how times have changed!

Seafirst was acquired by BofA long, long ago.  Now, I have my ducks in a row.  I have more than two nickels to rub together and my credit ain’t bad.  Seafirst took a chance on me when no one else would.   This is probably at the core of why I stayed with BofA for so long, I appreciated the actions of Seafirst.  Well BofA long since has cashed in whatever goodwill had been built and I won’t miss dealing with them and their holier than thou staff who wouldn’t know how to provide quality customer service if their lives depended upon it.   I like my new banks.  They know me by name!  They have had the opportunity to lose the business, but so far, they have more than risen to the occasion and that was before I really had made much of a deposit.

As if I needed one more confirmation of my choice, yesterday I noticed there was a charge on my account that shouldn’t have been there.  I picked up the phone.  I called the branch.  It was right at closing time, so there wasn’t really anything they could do at that moment, but I was promised a call back first thing in the morning.  Low and behold, my phone rang at 9 am.  My account had already been reviewed.  The erroneous fee that I had been charged had already been reversed!  Yep, confirmation I had made the right decision!


Why so complex?

This has been my year of complex transactions.  I am almost done!  The plan is tomorrow is BofA Freedom Day!  Why in the world did I decide to throw another activity into the middle of the mix.  I am awestruck at the complexity of buying a phone and changing the provider.

I understood the steps in my breaking up with BofA, but this is almost as difficult and some of it feels a little ridiculous.  I understand why these things happen, gut I still have the right to be annoyed!

Tickled Pink – er. Magenta

We made the switch.  So far, I am pleased as punch.  This transaction has been frighteningly painless.  That does not mean we haven’t encountered hiccups along the way, but we are performing a rather complex series of changes before we will be completely migrated and the important pieces are going along better than I anticipated.

I am old enough to remember when the phone company owned everything.  You rented your phone from them and they were the only dealer in town.  Online wasn’t even a fantasy in the everyday life of an ordinary human being those days.  It continues to overwhelm me when I consider the transaction we are completing in a period of hours, with minimal inconveniences.   To me this whole thing of being able to walk into the store, pick out my device, pay for it, go home and use it is phenomenal!

My biggest complaint is the naming convention of my services plan.  Why in the world does the final consumer ever have to see something as unfriendly as my  ‘ NAC Value Family UNL T&T plan‘ when I am reviewing the information about my brand new account?  It isn’t like there is any grand-fathered information that needs to be tracked here.  My account should be a clean slate.  We just got here.

Please subscription, service providers of the world, simplify life.  Make the information available on a brand, new account end-user friendly.

Took the Leap

So we did it.  We made the break today and have brand, spanking new Samsung S4’s.  We also switched carriers, which wasn’t as painful as I feared it would be.  It had been so long since we had done any wireless purchases, I forgot how long it takes, even while you are keeping the process moving right along.  Fortunately, I understood everything that was happening, but I feel for folks who aren’t familiar with what it takes to actually complete the transaction.

We believed one of the large box stores’ marketing, so we started there.  Alas, their messaging is mis-leading.  They weren’t able to sell me what I wanted to purchase.  I will have to admit, it was a little bit fun letting them try to talk me into doing something I didn’t want to do and knew it all along.  Finally, I had enough, so I schooled them in wireless,  then marched on out of their door to the carrier’s store so I could make the deal I wanted to make.  I kind of thought that was what we would have to do, but it was worth the stop.

The retail representative who took care of us was marvelous.  How refreshing to talk with someone who obviously knew her stuff.  As we were porting two numbers and purchasing 2 brand new lines, we were there for quite awhile.  We weren’t inconveniencing anyone.  There was only one other customer in the store, when we arrived.  I didn’t pay much attention, but apparently he wasn’t having a very nice day.  I did notice that he had a sense of entitlement that I always find irritating, but quickly recognized it was none of my business and dismissed the interaction.

We have moved to the back of the store, striking up a conversation with those working.  As far as buyers go, we had few questions.  Anyone who has been following along on my trials and travails for the last few weeks knows that I have been doing my homework.  I already knew what phones we would be purchasing.  I already knew what plans we needed to meet our usage needs.  I even knew the accessories we would be buying and was ready to go elsewhere to locate those, if I couldn’t strike a fair deal.

Mr. Grumpy Pants – the overly-entitled customer who was in the store when we arrived – quickly left.  Guess he was in a hurry for tee time or he just has a stick up his butt in general.  We had the full attention of everyone staffing the floor.  It was marvelous!  Everyone was engaged.  I think good retail representatives truly have a passion for what they do and are delighted to be able to talk speak and not have to worry about fit because it was obvious we understood the purchase we had come to make.

I think in our conspicuous consumption society, our retail folks have been handi-capped with always having to assess the deal.  There are what can appear to be so many rules and regulations around ‘qualifying the customer’ that the retail representative jumps too quickly into dealing with what can be the ugliness of a purchase greater than 25 cents.  The staff in the store today had the discipline to resist pre-qualifying us before we were ready to part with our precious identities.  For that composure I give them kudos.  I am one of those informed consumers who will walk out if I don’t get what I need.  For me, the differentiator is customer service.  But I am also the customer who isn’t sitting on the edge, deep in debt attempting to add to that hole I have already dug.

The sad part is societal.  The reason a good retail representative rushes to pre-qualify a customer is the result of so many bad decisions on the part of so many members of society.  We live to buy and buy to live.  A lot of Americans live at the edge of their income and think they have to have the next, latest and greatest model of whatever the dailies tell us is hot and have created the current sales environment.  The need to pre-qualify a prospect is no longer a sales technique spun up by the likes of Zig Zigler and other teach-you-to-sell-successfully mantrepreneurs*  There is an easy fix to the situation.  It is one that I am in control.  I don’t live beyond my means.  My means determines my ability to do something.  If I don’t have it, I don’t do it.  P-E-R-I-O-D.  But people who think that way are not the people that keep the consumeristic market moving forward.

To the amazing people at my new carrier who took care of us today – Thank you for an absolutely pleasant experience with no perceptible cognitive dissonance this evening!

Final note – because it took us so long to complete all of the data transfers, porting, paperwork, Mr. Grumpy Pants was back to complete the transaction that he didn’t have time to finish when we had first arrived at the store.  Karma exists.  By now, the store is full.  Mr. GP is no longer the first in queue, as a matter of face, he is last.  The store is bustling with activity and he is trying to jump the line.  He was starting to get loud and bully-ish, when I remembered the reading glasses we had found on the cashier station when we first began to complete our transaction.  I mentioned it to the retail representative and she took them over to ask him if they were his.  Low and behold, they were.  He was so grateful to have found them, that he stopped being a complete jack-ass to everyone in the store.   I just kind of smiled to myself.

*Wise-ism:  Mantrepreneurs – anyone that I have ever read and consider to be a talking head out to make money.  I made it up.  It is my own definition.

What Do I do?

I find this to be one of the most fascinating questions we ever seek to define.

I always like to say, “It depends.  Who is asking?’

The easy answer is I am a consultant.  Is that vague enough?

A lot of the additional response is always framed by the answer to my question, “Who is asking?

I bake.  That is one of the things I do.  Heck, I even made money doing, once upon a time, in a land, far far away.  We call it Kansas.

As a baker, I had to know how to read a recipe.  The recipe provides you the things you need to make something yummy.  Alas, that is but part of what is needed to bake.

Baking is a science and an art.  There is skill involved in creating a work of art from scratch.  This is why I have the utmost respect for those who can do it and make it look so easy.  Although it was amazing, I needed to find a way to make more money, a wee bit easier so that I could take care of the other responsibilities in my life.

I took this skill set of reading the recipe, accurately interpreting it and creating the masterpiece and began applying it to other things in my life so I could finance the rest of my life.  Somehow, slowly I became entrenched in telco, which is where I remain today.

Dang It

So I have been ranting and raving about all kinds of things that have been going through my head, as I attempt to train myself to write a post every day.

Well, one thing that I really haven’t pursued too deeply is my job.  There is a good reason for this.  Sometimes I love it.  Other times I hate it.  The one thing that it has done to me, repeatedly, is divert me from reaching my personal goals.

Thus why I missed posting yesterday.  To be honest, when I got done yesterday.  I was done.  The last thing I ever wanted to do was look at a keyboard, so there was no bloody way  I would be able to post.

I do not see this as a failure, but rather a fence post that it might be a good time to re-adjust my expectations.  Working a bajillion hours on a computer in a day is not necessarily conducive to writing a post on my blog every evening.  So it might be more realistic to adjust my expectations about posting every, single day.