Friday, September 02, 2011

"Call Before You Dig"

Dial 811

Because I am involved in a project that involves digging in an area that may have buried electric lines, buried telephone lines, cable television lines as well as gas and water lines I called the 811 number to request a marking.

I dialed 811 and listened to the wonderful messages concerning the need to have a telephone number, the project location, city, county and sub-division as well as other non-related messages regarding emergencies for a total of about 45 minutes.  Finally I acquired a real live person who received my phone number and asked several questions.

Everything proceeded well until the question about when the digging would be conducted.  When I told her the date I was informed that a ticket, which must be a work order for the marker, could not be issued because the project was not within the next few days.

I then asked why this information could not have been included in the plethora of recorded messages I "enjoyed" during my 45 minutes of holding.  She quickly informed me that it was her job to tell me.  Again I questioned the value of my 45 minutes of holding and how nice it would have been if the recording had informed me that I should place my "Call Before You Dig" within a certain number of days of when the digging was to commence.

She quickly accused me of being indignant.  I realize that the "Dial 811" is a non-profit organization set up to serve the public and to avoid undesirable consequences of digging in the wrong places; but for anyone to hold 45 minutes to be told they called too early is not quite what I would regard as excellent customer service.  It would have been so simple for the pre-recorded messages to inform me of the window of time I needed to adhere to to make my request.

Instead, I wasted 45 minutes and an employee of a non-profit had to waste her time listening to my displeasure after being told that I had called at the incorrect time.  I did not appreciate the time wasted and I am confident that the Dial 811 person did not appreciate my recommendation concerning effective communication via the pre-recorded messages while on hold.

If her only job was to tell people that they called too early I would suggest that this non-profit, Dial 811 could do better by eliminating her job and placing that valuable message in the loop of other messages I listened to during my 45 minutes of hold time.

I cannot comprehend how a contractor can accomplish much by wasting time on a redundant system that requires long holds only to be told that they called too early.  Of course "her" job to tell callers they called to early could be eliminated. 

Sometimes things happen that are difficult to believe.  My call to the Dial 811 system today was an example of a system that does not value "excellent customer relations."

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