These things happen.
Yes, all too often they happen at very awkward times.
But we’ve allowed ourselves to be at the mercy of technology these days, so who are we to complain.
There I was on a recent Friday afternoon, writing several things and watching something on TV. This was my form of dedicated multitasking.
Suddenly, my tasks ground to a halt: All of my Comcast systems went down.
No TV, no internet, no life. (Schopenhauer was the first to say that.)
At least my iPhone was working, so I went to the Xfinity website to see what had happened and when it might unhappen.
The engineers were working on the outage, I was told. Would I like to sign up for texted updates? Of course I would.
Precision Is A Wonderful Thing.
So I sat, waited, and watched.
The first texted offering was that the outage would be fixed by 5:54 p.m. I sat, waited, and remembered I had an Xfinity app on my phone. I tried opening that too, just in case there was more immediate news.
I tried reading a book, but I had those things to do. They were quite urgent, so I became somewhat itchy.
5:53 p.m. came along. It had been more than three hours. But, when you’re told such a precise time, you believe that the texting entity is very sure that the outage is fixable by that time.
At 5:54 p.m. came the bad news. It would be precisely 9:54 p.m. Oh dear. This evening wasn’t going well.
My wife and I cooked. We sat at the dining table, facing each other. We talked. You see, there’s something marvelous about a Comcast outage. It eliminates the temptation of a TV dinner. Instead, you chat about how annoying it is that there’s a Comcast outage.
But I needed to get those things done that night. Because I did. We had plans for the weekend and we wanted to stick to them.
After Midnight. You Can’t Let It All Hang Out.
Next came a new update. The outage wouldn’t be fixed at all that day. Instead, it was now going to be 12:10 a.m. the next day. Precisely.
Please forgive me if, by this stage, I was getting a touch annoyed with this useless precision. Why be so exact when all you’re doing is exacting my nerve ends?
I can appreciate that some things are harder to fix than others. Yet if you’re giving customers such precise information, shouldn’t they expect to trust that information?
And when they discover that the information is precisely useless, won’t you be driving them precisely bonkers?
As the evening began to concede that night was approaching, I kept refreshing my Xfinity app. I feared the next update would say “in three days time, at precisely 3:43 p.m.” I feared I may not even get a text to confirm it, as the texting machines hadn’t been in touch.
Somewhere near 10 p.m., the app refreshed and there was suddenly no mention of an outage.
I tried turning on the TV. It worked. The internet chugged back up. I could do the things I had to do, through yawns of joy.
Curiously, though, I hadn’t received a text to say that everything was working again. Which, lest you forget, was the reason I signed up for the texted updates in the first place.
Of course I could forgive Comcast. It’s compulsory. The company has become somewhat more customer-oriented over the last couple of years. I know it’s been trying.
Oh, but then came Saturday. I could watch Premier League football (saacker) from the very earliest hours. I could watch golf. I could ignore college football.
Good News. Really Good, Imprecise Late News.
Later we went out, sticking to our plans. It was a lovely afternoon. We were in Safeway buying soup and chicken.
Suddenly, a text. Yes, from the Xfinity out there, also known as Comcast.
It began: “Good news.”
I was going to get a rebate for the complete lack of services that lasted seven hours?
Hope is the mansion with non-existent foundations.
Instead, Comcast texted me: “The outage has been resolved at approximately 3:28 p.m. PDT.”
Please imagine the depths of my pained chuckle. Comcast wanted me to know that it had just fixed the outage that it had fixed the previous evening.
So who had I been receiving Comcast services from the previous night and that morning? From the Xfinity Space Station?
And please note the utter deliciousness of the word approximately. Having been so definitive about the time of fixing, now I was only offered an approximation.
The text didn’t stop there, though.
It added: “Thanks for your patience. Your services should be back up and running. Let me know if you’re still experiencing service issues.”
Should be back up and running? But you told me precisely that the outage was resolved.
Naturally, this all caused me to worry.
As with my abject text-based experience with FedEx a couple of weeks before, I fear that companies have no control over the texts they send to customers.
If you’re going to do it, please be accurate. If you’re going to use such technology, make sure it’s not dribbling finger-in-the-air precision that can only frustrate your customers more.
It’s fine to apologize. It’s less fine to offer the wrong information.
If you can’t make the system work, don’t have the system.
Oh, what am I saying? Technology is customer service these days.