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Breaking up is hard to do

By Ruth Walker / March 7, 2002



AT&T Canada didn't want to say goodbye, but the time had come to cancel the Internet account that kept me wired through my move back to Boston.

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I could cancel online but not without getting multiple opportunities to reconsider. "Are you really, really sure?" There was just a whiff of miff about it all, and so I wrote in the "comment" box, "Hey, no hard feelings, but I've moved. And your tech support has been great."

Tech support. Who knew?

The futurologists of my childhood were glib with predictions of lunar tourism and personal jet packs. They never said The Future would also include long conversations with faraway strangers talking us through crises with moribund modems and flaky DNS settings.

The image of the caffeine-crazed geek in pajamas notwithstanding, tech-support folks seem to combine good people skills with their technical savvy. When I was a kid, I knew not to hover too close when Dad was trying to fix something. But today's techs have to do it all with us right there on the phone with them. It must get pretty intense at times. (And we may wonder why there are so many things to fix in the first place.)

Shortly after I canceled with AT&T, I called my new Internet provider with a question about e-mail. After several minutes of music on hold (I was about to ask for their playlist), the matter was quickly resolved, and I learned something. The exchange generated a 13-digit case number and a customer-satisfaction questionnaire as complex as the 1040A tax form. I dutifully punched my way through the survey, though, wanting to make sure my agent got credit for good work, and hit the "Submit" button.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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