Tag Archive | telephone

British holiday — the cell phone adventure

Watch out England, I’m crossing the pond!  Yes, finally this summer England will move from the realm of dreams and legends and finally become a real place that I can touch, taste, smell, hear, and see!


As I plan the trip there are two pressing issues on my mind:  how manage the 12-18 hour long trip (from the moment I leave my flat to the moment I arrive at my final destination) and 2) how to get in touch with my friends if something in the process goes wrong (which it could).

unlocked cell phone

In our ever connected world I feel (as I am sure you do) rather naked without a working cell phone when I’m not at home, especially traveling.  I’m not a smart phone person; a phone is about phone calls to me.  But I need that phone working and close at hand when I’m away from home.  Should be simple, right?

Oh no! And in trying to work this out, I’ve found myself in a hornet’s nest when all I want to do is be able to call someone and ask for directions or re-structure a meeting because something messed up the timeline or “what does your car look like” when I get to the train station.

So let’s start with part one:  getting an unlocked phone.

When you are traveling overseas from the USA, that’s the first thing you need:  a handset that is unlocked, meaning the handset can be used with any carrier.  Okay fine, I found one at Bestbuy.com for $25.  But you know there had to be a catch and there is one.  I bought a SIM card for TMobile (which research says has roaming into the UK) and a $10 prepaid card which should have been enough.  Yeah, you know what is coming next.

Except the phone description says nothing about needing a MICRO SD CARD in order to use even basic features like an address book IN ADDITION TO the Sim card the chat clerk told me to buy.  Did I mention yet that Bestbuy.com has PISS POOR TRAINING on their products?  This is supposed to be a place that KNOWS electronics.  As of now I think it more likely I will grow feathers and fly myself to the UK without an airplane than find a bestbuy.com rep who knows anything about anything.

So I get the phone, the sim card, and $10 airtime card.  When it all arrived Friday night, it took me FORTY TRIES to just open the damn phone — and another forty to figure out how to use the TMobile SIM card kit and get the card in there!  Then you must activate the card on TMobile website.  Okay, this is getting tiresome.  Now I know why bestbuy doesn’t sell these phones in store — people would be flooding Geek Squad beginning for help!

So finally the phone is activated and charged.  I contact TMobile this morning to ask “how do I place a call?”  Simple question.  Annoyingly complex answer.

Because what BestBuy DIDN’T SAY on the website was that the 10 cents a minute rate for pre-paid is JUST for calls to USA numbers with the handset in the USA.  Well I have a tracfone for that that costs MUCH LESS.  I bought this for INTERNATIONAL calling and INTERNATIONAL ROAMING.

AND there is another fine print part about this TMobile sim card and pre-paid service:  it costs $3 per month to keep it active.  So placing NO CALLS uses up the $10 card in 90 days.  And if you let the balance go to zero and don’t re-up within 90 days the SIM card deactivates and cannot be used again (according to TMobile this morning).

At this point I’m feeling stuck in a Mission Impossible movie!

I finally get that “how do you place a call” information out of TMobile:  dial 011 44 plus the ten digit UK phone number.  So, for example, if I wanted a test call to my skype phone, I call 011 44 208 144 1662.  You delete the zero that you usually see at the front of UK numbers. This is how to dial the number whether the handset is in the UK or USA.  If the handset is in the USA, it costs $2/minute.  If the handset is in the UK and calling a UK number the cost is $1.49 a minute.

If the handset is in the UK and I’m calling USA number (perhaps to check on my birds), dial 011 1 ten digit number.  The rate is $2/minute.

At this point I’m feeling frustrated and oh yes, there was a DIFFERENT SIM card advertised on BestBuy.com:  H2O.  Since I hate the T-Mobile costs, let’s look into that.

I go back into a chat with Bestbuy.com.  MISTAKE.  Because immediately the representative tells me the T-Mobile card WON’T WORK the second I cross out of the USA.  AND he tells me that neither would an H2O card.

In essence:  the $50 just spent for that emergency phone is a COMPLETE WASTE OF MONEY (and Best Buy expects to stay in business?).

At this point I am feeling confused.  Why is something so SIMPLE as the means to place basic phone calls so bloody complicated?

Solutions anyone?  Please post your thoughts.  I cannot be the only American who has suffered angst over needing the protection of a nearby phone when traveling overseas!


Getting the Most Out of Telephone Customer Service

This article written January 3rd, 2013 was the product of first hand experience working at a call center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania for the December holidays.  In it, I reveal helpful tips for making your next call to customer service a success.


Getting the Most Out of Telephone Customer Service

Four Tips for Making Your Next Call a Success

We all do it: call up the companies we deal with and speak to a customer service representative. Whether it’s our utilities, our credit cards, or just a purchase we made somewhere, it’s almost impossible to go through life without talking to a customer service representative on the telephone. In fact, most of us prefer to speak to a representative over scrolling through website FAQs, automated telephone menus, and email/chat service options – at least for a few specific areas of our lives. We as Americans like real people at the end of the line, especially those who can hear us, understand us, and we can understand when talking to them.

Yet most of us go about these calls the wrong way. Caught up in the heat of whatever is provoking the phone call, we make mistakes when talking on the phone to customer service and often ignore the humanity of the people on the other end in ways we tend not to when getting help in person at a store.

The following four tips are things I discovered first hand working over the holidays in a call center for making your next call to customer service more successful:

Be prepared:

When you call customer service, the representative will need certain key pieces of information in order to locate your account and help you. Until she or he obtains this information from you, her or his system simply won’t display your account, your order, or whatever digital information is necessary to assist you. Depending on the type of call you are making, you will need to have ready things like your account number, phone number or email address as listed in their files, confirmation number, or any other applicable pieces of information. If you are calling regarding healthcare, expect to be asked for the name of your primary care physician and/or date of service if you are making a billing-related call.

Knowing why you are calling and then being ready to provide key information relating to your call will make things easier – for you and your representative.

Speak slowly, clearly, and loud enough to be heard:

Customer service representatives have to enter your information into a computer. This often involves transcribing information you tell them. Transcribing takes longer than reading; our short term memory for hearing is less than 4 seconds. So slow down, speak up, speak clearly (using formal language helps), and verify with your representative that s/he has heard you correctly and transcribed your information accurately, especially with number-based information which most people type more slowly than they do with regular words and phrases.

Customer Service Representatives are SPECIALISTS:

This may or may not seem obvious, but it’s important to understand when you make that call. Ever wonder why so many companies use touch-tone automated systems to direct your call? The reason is specialization. Customer service can be extremely specialized with groups of service representatives trained and able to assist with only specific segments of your service. For example, a billing representative typically works just with billing questions. They are there to handle financial aspects of your account. Likewise a technical support representative is there to handle operation of and problems with some sort of device (computer, music player, cell phone, etc.).

This means that each of these individuals or groups of individuals can only help you with their specific expertise. Their knowledge and authority to assist you is limited to their specific area. When calling, pay attention to where you are being directed and ask, if need be, if you have been directed to the correct individual who can handle your needs. Often more than one person in more than one area may be needed to handle all of your questions or concerns. If this is the case, patiently handle one item at a time with each person you need to talk to. Customer service people are friendly, empathic, and caring. We want you to be happy with all your questions, concerns, and issues resolved before you hang up.

Customer Service Representatives are PEOPLE:

It seems obvious, but we tend to forget the humanity of the customer service representatives on the end of the phone line. When they answer our call, too often our first impulse is to vent about whatever it is that is provoking us to call their company. This blinds us to both the specialized nature of what they can do for us and to them as people who are there trying to help us. We may yell, complain about some aspect of product or service we are unhappy with, or even vent with them about things not directly related to the reason for our call.

What we fail to understand is that all of these things interfere with the customer service representative’s efforts to help us. Instead, we get better results when we recognize the independence of the customer service individual from whatever problems we are facing. Customer service representatives are there to help us fix problems; they are NOT the source OF our problems.

When we treat our service representatives as partners working to help us resolve our problems, we help them help us.

So next time you make that phone call to customer service, remember these four tips. You’ll get better service and hang up a happier customer.