WIBA's Dick Alpert gets his message across

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Posted by madcityradio.com on November 13, 2008 at 18:38:07:

Moe: Radio host's message heard loud and clear

Dick Alpert, the affable host of "Madison in the Morning" on WIBA-AM (1310) in Madison, is a gadget guy and was happy when a sales representative stopped at his home six weeks ago and offered him a new, high-tech product that would bundle his TV, phone and Internet service.

Alpert spends weekends in Milwaukee at the home he shares with his wife, who works in that city. He comes over here during the week. It was at the Milwaukee home that he signed up for the new service.

Alpert's appointment to get his new service was set up for last Saturday. It proved to be an interesting day.

In the years I have been writing a column I have always been on the lookout for stories of less than heroic customer service, because the resulting frustration is a bond that all humans share.

It's something we look forward to with varying degrees of dread as the holiday shopping season approaches.

I remember a few years ago getting a call from a Fitchburg man, Tim Stanek, who had been driven half-mad while attempting to book an airplane flight from Chicago to Tampa.

Stanek had been trying to book the flight online and had just made his reservation when the travel Web site he was using froze.

Stanek then had to wonder: Was his flight actually booked? He was able to find two phone numbers for the company, and placed a call.

His call was answered by one of the most terrifying creatures in the modern world -- the computerized voice on the other end of the telephone.

The computer voice said: "Please say your destination."

Stanek said: "Tampa."

The voice said: "I think you said Lancashire, England."

"No," Stanek replied.

The computer voice said: "I think you said Paris, France."

At which point Stanek hung up and tried the other number. Naturally, he got another computer-generated voice.

"Please say your destination."

"Tampa," Stanek said.

The voice said: "I think you said, Paducah, Kentucky."


The voice said: "I think you said Hancock, Michigan."

"No," Stanek said.

Then, from the computer voice, came the topper: "I think you said Kuala Lumpur."

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia.

This madness continued for a while longer until at last Stanek got a live human being who told him that, no, his online reservation had not been completed. The woman told him he could book it through her -- for $30 more than the online cost.

At least Stanek's ordeal lasted only a couple of hours. Dick Alpert's fun lasted all day Saturday.

He had been told the phone-TV-Internet installation would take four to six hours, and a tech arrived at 8:30 Saturday morning.

"He looked around inside and he looked around outside," Alpert recalled, and then said he had to wait for a second tech who was working at a house elsewhere in the neighborhood.

When the second tech arrived around 10 a.m., they poked around some more and then told Alpert there was a problem on the telephone pole and they would need a third tech to deal with that. They said they would summon the third tech, and then they left.

Two hours passed, and then the first tech came back. It was around 12:30 p.m. He asked Alpert: "Did they come to do the pole?"

"No," Alpert said.

The first tech said: "I'm going to go call and see where he is."

"That was the last I saw of the first guy," Alpert said Wednesday.

At 1:30, five hours after the first tech arrived, and with now no techs in sight, Alpert called the company.

A voice on the phone -- a real voice! -- said: "You're supposed to allow for eight hours."

At 2:30, after no further developments, Alpert called again. "I got disconnected," he said.

He tried again at 3. This time he was asked to hold while the proper person was located. He was on-hold for 45 minutes, though every few minutes a voice -- alas, a recorded voice -- asked him to continue holding.

At 3:45 a woman came back on the line and Alpert said: "Look, I'm a nice guy, but this is ridiculous."

The woman asked for his phone number and promised to call back.

"She never called," Alpert said.

Some time later, a little before 4:30, the third tech -- the one supposed to deal with the telephone pole at noon -- showed up. He said: "I can't get an answer from your original tech."

On Wednesday, Alpert said, "It was just crazy."

Alpert also does a show Sunday mornings on WTMJ in Milwaukee, and last Sunday he told this story on the air. Alpert didn't name the company, but he dropped enough hints that later he got a phone call and by late Sunday afternoon, he had the new service installed.

The moral of this story is simple: If you want good customer service, get your own radio show.

(Doug Moe, Wisconsin State Journal)

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