HB 32 addresses customer-service nightmare

Published 11:40 am Saturday, February 4, 2023

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Most everyone has a poor customer service story.

One of my most memorable ones happened a few years back when my home cable and internet went out just before a big game.

When the intermittent service disruptions continued for the next few days, I called my service provider.

After waiting on hold for the next available representative, I was told a technician would have to visit my home to diagnose the problem and make the necessary repairs. 

No one was available for at least a few days, but I could go ahead and schedule an appointment. Very well.

I was given a four-hour window and was told to be sure I was there. If the technician showed up to the service address during the window and I wasn’t there, I’d be charged, the representative said. 

I reluctantly reworked my personal and professional schedules to accommodate.

The appointment window finally came,  and then went. But no one ever showed up from the telecommunications company.

I called back. 

“I’m sorry. Would you like to schedule another appointment?”

You bet I would. But this time can you please give me a set time, rather than a four-hour window?

“Sorry, we can’t do that. But be sure you’re at the service address when the technician arrives. You will be charged if they show up and you’re not there.”

So I again I reworked personal and professional schedules. Again, I showed up for the appointment. And again the provider failed to show.

I had little recourse. After all, our family depended on the service not only for entertainment purposes, but also for school, work and basic communication. And there were no viable alternatives in the way of competitors that offered comparable services at my address.

Too many Beaufort County residents know the frustration.

The company clearly showed no respect for my time, but had no problem assigning a dollar-figure value on it’s own time by threatening charges if I was to be a no-show.

A new bill introduced in the NC General Assembly by Rep. Keith Kidwell seeks to address that.

Though he had never heard my story, Kidwell might as well have been repeating it verbatim when he shared the experience relayed by a constituent that inspired him to file House Bill 32, the “Service Customer Equal Value Time Act.”

In short, it would require service companies that charge their customers for missing scheduled appointments to pay their customers the same amount if they fail to deliver service to the customer during a scheduled appointment.

“If you can charge me, I can charge you,” Kidwell said. “That’s the way it goes.”

The bill still has a long way to go before becoming law. It’s been referred to committee and would need to pass both chambers before being signed by the governor. 

But Kidwell said some of the bill’s additional sponsors have reported some positive feedback on the proposed legislation.

“I just think if their time is worth some money, then so is my constituents’ time. Because they have to take time off of work, away from their families or whatever it is they’re doing to accommodate the service provider coming out and then they don’t show up for the call.”

Kidwell said the bill, as written, only applies to companies that actually charge their customers for missed appointments.

For instance, it wouldn’t apply to doctor’s and dentist’s offices that don’t charge customers for missed appointments. And if you called a plumber for a service call and they didn’t show up, they wouldn’t owe you anything unless they had a policy of charging you if you did the same.

It appears to be a common-sense bill to level the playing field for consumers. Perhaps it will make some companies take a second look at their business practices.

Ashley Vansant is publisher of the Washington Daily News. He can be reached at publisher@thewashingtondailynews.com.