Waiting To Talk To Customer Service At Cleveland Division Of Water Is Fun

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Posted on 28th October 2009 by Ben Krasner in Day to Day Goodies

You know that feeling you get when you finally make it through the BS automated phone prompt system… it’s an odd combination of achievement and apprehension for what lies next. Today’s fun times were courtesy of the Cleveland Division of Water.

First off the reason for my call was confusion on our end due to the fact that we have been receiving 3 different water bills for over a year, now. We get Rural Lorain water bills, we get Northeast Regional Sewer bills and have been getting Cleveland City water bills, too. Now, unless someone has built a diverter into our line and is switching it back and forth at their discretion, there’s only one water connection and one sewer connection. It’s common for people to pay one source for all of the above, but in our case we apparently were paying three – and all different amounts. Clearly this isn’t what I pictured and needed to get someone on the horn to help me figure it out.

Now, I don’t pretend to know how many people work at the Cleveland Division of Water and, further, I don’t have any idea how many people they need to run smoothly. All I know is there is no need for a phone receptionist as the phone greeting is automated. And clearly there is a need for an additional person to work through the calls once customers make it through the prompt tree because the hold time during normal business hours is pretty obscene.

26 minutes was the stated hold time the techno computerized voice said I would have to wait to speak with someone after I confirmed that I (a) wanted to speak english, and (b) wanted to speak with someone about my account. In the end, 36 minutes was the actual hold time, and that was one frustrating 36 minute period of life – let me tell you.  The recorded music wasn’t too bad but the recorded message that broke up the music was pretty frustrating to listen to.  (“Water is important…”, “Did you know that even a small leak could mean over 800 gallons of lost water…?”, “To reduce your risk of receiving a large bill, look at your bill and call us with any questions you might have…”, etc.).  Also, some grammatical issues were present and, when you hear those repeated a hundred times or so, that gets old real fast.

Eventually I did get to speak with someone who informed me that Northeast Regional Sewer and the Cleveland Division of Water are really one in the same.  NEORSD is “rinky dink and so they don’t have the resources to do billing… we do their billing for them” and thus if you miss a payment or your payment doesn’t post in time for your NEORSD payment, the Cleveland Division of Water then sends you a statement of past due.  Wow, I can’t imagine that being confusing to anyone, can you CDV?  And why are they different billable amounts?  And why does the CDV bill come months later when the issue is supposedly a late payment from months before?

There are some lessons to be learned here.  On my end, the lesson is simple: Pay the bill a scoche early to make sure that it’s on time to stay out of all this mess.  On CDV’s end, the lesson is this: if you want to spend less on your customer service centers, rather than cutting staff and automating the workflow (which really automates only the basic entry level job anyway), try making your billing pattern understandable and keep your name use and your statements consistent to eliminate the confusion customers are calling you about in the first place.

I know I’ll keep up my end of the bargain from now on, if for no other reason that to keep that 36 minutes in my pocket.  I can’t say that I anticipate CDV keeping up their end.