On customer service (and how SCE is dreadful at it)

Just the same way that VC-backed rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft offload corporate cost centers and burdens onto their employees (which they’d otherwise like to call independent contractors), most customer service phone trees are meant to save time for their paid employees while offloading that same burden onto their customers all while wrongly calling it “customer service”.

I’ve just had such a painful experience with Southern California Edison (SCE) Power Company that kept me on hold for 31 minutes (a dreadful dark pattern in its own right) to offload the dreadful work of their call center costs onto me. The reason for my call? A simple request to literally flip one bit in their database–something that, if they really cared about customer service, should have taken two minutes from start to finish via phone or even under one minute online. Yet here I am bearing their miserable burden. 

I found a phone number that should have taken me directly to a point in their phone tree that should have asked at most one question, given me a representative and taken less than a minute. Instead I get dumped into the beginning of a larger tree that gives me options for the 5 other phone numbers and options I’d seen online. Why?!

Naturally they ask me to input my account number, which I do, but what’s the first question the representative wastes our time asking? My account number!

But guess what, that customer service representative can’t help me with the lowest level request to flip one bit from a yes to a no. They send me to a special department and make me sit on hold for another 20 minutes. I’m sure it wasn’t because they were so busy, but more to discourage me–otherwise the first customer service person would have been able to help. The design of their system not only isn’t set up to help them lower costs, it’s designed to actively make things worse for me. 

Screw you Southern California Edison! Your system should be designed just to minimize your direct cost for supplying customer service, it should be designed to minimize the cost on both sides.

Read Opinion | California, Reject Prop 22 (nytimes.com)
Gig workers deserve the dignity of fair compensation.

Are gig workers employees or freelance contractors? It’s been a question for companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash for nearly as long as “gig work” itself — or at least the Silicon Valley version — has existed. California voters next month may finally help settle the matter.
This is another great example of companies attempting to privatize profits and socialize the losses, or in this case pass along the losses and lost productivity to their employees (or as described here their independent contractors).

Why can’t they do some of the hard “technology” work and solve the problem of helping their workers become dramatically more productive?

Annotated on October 13, 2020 at 10:58PM 

The backlash from gig economy companies was immediate, and Uber and similar app-based businesses have committed nearly $200 million to support a state ballot measure — making it the costliest in state history — that would exempt them from the law. 

This is a pretty good indicator that it will save them 10x to 100x this amount to get rid of this law.

One should ask: “Why don’t they accept it and just pass this money along to their employees.”

Annotated on October 13, 2020 at 10:50PM

Read a thread by Imran Khan (Twitter)
Read I'm a driver for Uber and Lyft — here are the 10 biggest mistakes I see passengers make (Business Insider)
Uber and Lyft riders make a lot of mistakes that cost them time and money. And most don't even realize they're making them.
All these wonderful mistakes and they don’t bother to mention that the biggest mistake may be using these services in the first place?

👓 New court ruling could force Uber, Lyft to convert drivers to employees | Ars Technica

Read New court ruling could force Uber, Lyft to convert drivers to employees (Ars Technica)
California Supreme Court: It'll be tougher for firms to not have bona fide employees.

🎧 ‘The Daily’: The Taxi Driver’s Plight | New York Times

Listened to ‘The Daily’: The Taxi Driver’s Plight by Michael Barbaro from nytimes.com

A New York City taxi driver, Nicanor Ochisor, took his own life in March. His family says he grew increasingly hopeless as ride-hailing services like Uber took over the industry. Mr. Ochisor’s suicide is one of several in recent months that have called attention to the economic straits of professional drivers.

On today’s episode:

• Nicolae Hent, who has been a taxi driver in New York City for three decades and was a friend of Mr. Ochisor.

Background reading:

• Four drivers have taken their lives in five months, bringing renewed urgency to calls for stronger regulations on for-hire vehicles in New York City.

• Mr. Ochisor’s family has created a fund-raising website to help pay off the balance on his taxi medallion, the value of which decreased dramatically after 2014.

• Last year, the number of Uber trips surpassed the number of yellow cab rides taken in New York City for the first time.

This has long been a fixable problem. Cities that have or had taxi-cab medallion systems should absolutely be on the hook for buying them back at at-market-level prices if they’re going to allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to enter their jurisdictions. I’m all for disruption, but these services have obviously been skirting or flaunting the law to operate. It should also be permissible for these services to be dinged by these cities for a large share of the loss of value in cities like New York.

I’m surprised that with the amounts of money involved and the fact that there are suicides that no enterprising attorney has taken up cases like these against large municipalities.