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Vaneisa: Not going with this Flow; a misadventure in customer service

After a time, poor service wears you down—lowers your expectations to the point where you feel special when you actually succeed in completing a transaction, or most of the processes get by smoothly. 

This is my lucky day, you murmur happily, just because it took only one hour to pay a bill, or hold the line while waiting for someone to attend to you.

Image: Ehhh…
(Copyright Glasbergen.com)

After a couple of weeks of putting it off, I had finally decided that it was time to contact Flow once again. I had walked out of their premises at the Trincity Mall about a month ago, after waiting for what seemed like an unreasonably long time (although there were few customers) and had decided that I would try some other avenue. 

I had gone in to replace their remote control device because when I’d called to ask how to get that done, the girl on the phone directed me to that branch, although, she had said, you could just flag down one of the vans and ask the fellas to replace it for you.

My request was a simple one–or so I thought. The separate Flow accounts for both my parents are held in my name, and for years now I pay their bills online. Some time ago, my brother in Canada offered to take over my father’s account. 

I called Flow and, after an interminable wait, was told that my brother, my father and I would have to come in. 

Photo: An advert for Flow cable.

I explained why that was not convenient and was given an email address to contact. I did, and ended up having to send forms of ID for everyone, and an electronically signed letter from my brother, saying he agreed to take over the account. 

The instructions came in bits and pieces so it wasn’t like someone giving you a checklist. It was back and forth. Anyway, eventually that was sorted.

A few months ago, my mother decided she wanted to take over her bill payments. I thought it would be easiest to just forward her emailed bill to her, but for some reason, neither her bill nor mine came that month. The bills usually arrive within a day of each other and I pay them immediately. 

Anyway, my bill, bearing a two-month tally, finally showed up in my email, and I decided to wait until the morrow to see if my mum’s would appear. It did not (still hasn’t), but I received a phone call from Flow that day, telling me my bill was overdue and I had to make an immediate payment. 

I explained that I was waiting for my mum’s bill, and asked if they could check the figure for me, which I immediately paid.

Image: A satirical take on customer service.
(Copyright Glasbergen.com)

Earlier this week, I decided to contact Flow to ask them what was happening with the bills, and to request that they send the bill directly to her email address.

As I looked at the website, I was intrigued by their new offering that you could contact them on WhatsApp and sort out your business that way. I gathered the relevant information and sent a message that said precisely what I wanted, accompanied by the verifying data I knew they would need.

I received this response from a Flow Virtual Assistant: ‘Welcome to Flow. Thanks for using our messaging service. How can I help you today?’

Ah well, I thought. After a dozen exchanges, where I was asked to supply information to help the agent complete the transaction, I was transferred to a queue to await a ‘human agent’.

Image: Your call is very important to us…
(Copyright Glasbergen.com)

When the human came on and said she saw I wanted to switch an email address, and that would be no problem, I was pleased. But she proceeded to ask me for practically all the information I had already provided–and my mother’s ID as well. 

After another long set of back and forth, she said, ‘Hi, Vaneisa, this account is under your name, not your mom’, which meant my mum’s info was irrelevant. I had said this a couple times before so I got a little testy. 

‘What kind of service does Flow offer? I explained all of this already,’ I typed. 

To cut the long story, I had asked if she could send the bill to two email addresses and she said no, they could only do one. More than an hour had elapsed during this exchange and I just gave up. But more was to come.

Photo: A Flow Trinidad advertisement.

The agent was obviously supposed to send out a thank-you message: ‘It has been a pleasure serving you. Please come back and chat with us again if in the future you require our assistance again. Have a great day from Flow.’ 

They asked for a rating of the service. I said I was not satisfied, and got another response asking how they could improve the interaction.

I sent my complaint, but thought that since I was only responding to that one episode, it might be useful to spell out the last year’s string of interactions.

This past week, Vice President and General Manager at Flow Trinidad, Simone Martin-Sulgan, opening a new outlet in Chaguanas, said: “we know and appreciate that your time is invaluable and those of us who do venture out during the pandemic wish to make the most use of our time in a productive way.”

More flexibility would help.

Image: The lighter side of customer service…
(Copyright Glasbergen.com)

About Vaneisa Baksh

Vaneisa Baksh
Vaneisa Baksh is a columnist with the Trinidad Express, an editor and a cricket historian. She is currently working on a biography of Sir Frank Worrell.

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