Power Griddification.

Power company came out to look at the supply lines coming from across the street on Tuesday. I had called them asking about burying the line, but they seemed to indicate it would be a pretty expensive proposition (to the tune of a couple grand). I figured I’d have somebody out just to look anyways and see if there were other options (read: free options). The guy took one look and agreed that the situation was kind of scary, what with the feed lines rubbing up against the gutter downspout. He said they’d be out to reroute my service from another pole (closer to the house, he wasn’t sure why they hadn’t done it in the first place). Best part was it was going to be completely free and done within a week. What he meant to say is “they’ll be out here on Wednesday and have it done in 20 minutes”.

This is the best customer service experience I’ve had in five years. Hands down. I called, they sent out a guy at exactly the time they said they would, he had a quick assessment of the situation, let me make a decision, and put it into action quickly and effectively. The technicians who showed up to make the repairs were punctual, let me know when they were getting started (so I could shut down my computers), and did the work faster than I would have guessed possible.

Interestingly, they work in an industry that has absolutely no impetus to provide good customer service. Much like land-line phone providers and cable providers, you just live in their zone and they’re the ones you have to use. Sure you could argue that cellular phone service is competitive with land line phones (which is false, because they sell different services), and that Dish TV competes with cable (which is a more accurate comparison). I can no more choose the power company I do business with than I could choose to have Verizon phone service instead of Qwest or SWG instead of Northwest Natural. If the guy had rolled out and told me that the line rubbing was a result of me messing with the line and that there was a $1500 fine and they’d be out in nine months to fix it, I could have done nothing more than a phone-tree-based bitch and moan campaign that would likely have gotten me a payment plan instead of a straight fine and it would be fixed nine months after I finished paying it off. What could I have done? Buy a generator?

In contrast, Cingular AT&T wireless (whose technical and customer service foibles I have blogged about before) is in an industry that is extraordinarily competitive, and outside of certain superhyped phones and the inevitable multiyear contracts that certain phone promotions will get you, you are not tied to one provider at all (in the US. Things are presumably different elsewhere.). Whenever I contact them, it is a with a sense of pre annoyance, and I am inevitably greeted with the sort of contempt that most would reserve for door-to-door evangelists. It’s almost as if they are daring me to leave and find another provider with our every interaction. I can only assume there’s some kind of depthcharge-style fee for backing out of a contract by using the phrase “fuck you inside out you rottencrotch mouthwhore”.

I don’t really have a good reason for this, I’d like to say it’s because Pacific Power is a traditional company with lots of great American values or whatever, but I really don’t think that’s it. After all AT&T has been around just shy of forever, 1885, you can’t get too much more traditional than that. Maybe it’s a corporate philosophy that runs to the core (AT&T was never really known for it’s customer focus), but I haven’t really seen that run true in other companies I’ve worked for. Maybe it’s because the guys I worked for are union workers, journeyman trade workers who have done this for years and years and are making roughly twice what I do (and probably four times what the people I talk to at AT&T make).

The paycheck really seems the most likely.

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