Does CenturyLink use bots for customer service?


I just got off a chat window with CenturyLink “customer service”. I am convinced that the party on the other end of the conversation–“Katherine” was a robot. Here’s a transcript of the conversation.

You are chatting with Katherine B..

info: at 18:19:01
How may I help you today?

Katherine B.: at 18:19:07
Hi! How are you today?

Gerry Wieder: at 18:19:22
Fine thanks.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:19:29
I can’t log into my account.

Katherine B.: at 18:19:48
That’s not good! I would be happy to get you logged in. May I have your account number please?

Gerry Wieder: at 18:20:30
My new phone number is (***)-***-****

Katherine B.: at 18:20:57
May I have your billing address please?

Gerry Wieder: at 18:21:13
**** SW ***th Street, Federal Way WA *****

Katherine B.: at 18:21:40
Thank you. Just one moment to pull up your address.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:22:17

Gerry Wieder: at 18:23:40
find me?

Katherine B.: at 18:25:08
I have found the account. I just need to verify a few things. Please verify the customer code. It is the last 3 digits of your order number.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:25:41

Gerry Wieder: at 18:27:28
Are we having connection problems?

Katherine B.: at 18:28:27

I’m sorry, I have tried putting your account number into my system to get you logged in, but it will not let me. You will have to call customer care to see if they can help you get logged in tomorrow.

Katherine B.: at 18:28:29
Their number is 800-244-1111. They are open Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:29:06
So I can’t access my account this evening. Is that what you’re telling me?

Gerry Wieder: at 18:29:43
Good grief. It’s this kind of service I quit Centurylink over the last time.

Katherine B.: at 18:30:40
I’m sorry, but since the account was just established today, MyAccount takes about 24 hours to process. \

Gerry Wieder: at 18:31:01
That’s ridiculous.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:31:23
Have your supervisor call me on my cell please. ***.***.****

Katherine B.: at 18:32:44
I’m sorry, but this is not a issue with our department, more as the MyAccount systems have not been updated yet.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:32:53
Have your supervisor call me on my cell please.

Katherine B.: at 18:34:19
This is strictly an online chat base. If you want to speak on the phone, you will have to call customer care.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:34:32
Have your supervisor call me on my cell please.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:34:48
Or read the transcript on Yelp!

Katherine B.: at 18:35:41
I’m sorry that I couldn’t be any further assistance. Please chat back in around noon to see if your account has been updated in our systems.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:36:11
I’ll be canceling my account tomorrow. Thx.

Katherine B.: at 18:36:42
If there is nothing else, thank you for chatting in today. I hope you have a great day.

Gerry Wieder: at 18:36:50
I got a robot?

info: at 18:37:25
Thank you for using Your chat session has ended.

Robot or poorly trained customer service rep? Anyone else had experiences like this recently with CenturyLink Customer Service?

The power of belief and the power of forgiveness – 2 lessons from pro football

I am a firm believer that there just about isn’t anywhere you can’t learn life’s lessons. This includes professional football. This past weekend–Super Bowl Sunday to be precise–offered two of those lessons.

The power of belief

12th man believeBoth teams–the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots–came to this game with a degree of belief that they would prevail and walk away Sunday with all the Super Bowl laurels and accolades. Of course, only one team can be victorious. Those who saw that game saw which team that was.

The power of belief has limits in physics and on the playing field.

Not that a solid belief in yourself and your abilities is not a good thing. It most certainly is! And it can mean the difference between failure and success.

The power of forgiveness


The Seattle Seahawks have one of the most remarkable fan bases in the history of the game. The Seahawks fans collectively are known (now famously) as The 12th Man. They show up in force no matter where the Seahawks play. They showed up in Glendale AZ at the game on Sunday, either physically or virtually via social media. They gathered in the living rooms and around the TVs of countless Seattle (and not-so-Seattle) families.

The outcome of the game for The 12th Man this year had to be a little heartbreaking.

What struck me as particularly inspiring, and as a life lesson that I took away from the game was the graciousness of Richard Sherman in the last seconds of the game, when he stretched out his hand in friendship and reconciliation to Tom Brady, the Patriot’s quarterback.

usa-today-8361514.0.0Grown men, behaving like grown men.

Inspiring? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know what you think of professional sports. What I saw, though, was Sherman offering a good example to his teammates, his fans (including the huge number of young people that saw this) and inspiring or now we could use a lot more of this sort of forgiveness everywhere in the world today.


Love in the great Pacific Northwest




This was the day I had selected to get quotes on repair or replacement of garage doors at both our home and at one of our rental houses. I got three possible companies lined up to come for a look at our home (and the rental), take measurements and supply us with quotes.

It’s a wet day. The first of the company reps showed up at our house at 10 or so, made his measurements and then followed me over to the rental to do the same there. While he was writing up his estimate, I got phone calls from both reps from the other two companies. I told them both I’d meet them back at our home at 11. They could do their thing there (measure, ask questions and what not). Then we all go over to the rental house and they could do the same.

All tolled, this all took a little over an hour out of my morning.

As I was leaving, I noticed that the gal from the one garage door company and the gentleman from the other company were standing out in the rain beside their vehicles, engaged in what appeared to be a very animated conversation. Had I hooked up Garage Door Gal with Garage Door Guy?

As I rolled out of the neighborhood, I was thinking, “What if these two get together, fall in love, get married and have a family? Did I do a good thing?”

Did I mention that it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest? When I passed them in the street, I snapped a picture with my iPhone. The rain magically added a sort of textured screen to the scene. What will happen to Garage Door Gal and Garage Door Guy?

Only the future knows.

American management – Funny or not so much?


Recently, I reposted (shared) an American management humor piece on Facebook. What amazed me was not that it was funny–it was. What amazed me was the number of reposts I got on my repost! Apparently a lot of people identify with this story, and bizarre ways our so-called industry leaders behave.

management humor

Here’s the story:

The American and the Japanese corporate offices for a large multi-national corporation decided to engage in a competitive boat race. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance.

On the big day they felt ready. The Japanese team won by a mile. Afterward, the American team was discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged. Corporate management decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found, so a consulting firm was hired to investigate the problem and recommended corrective action.

The consultant’s finding: The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering.

After a year of study and millions spent analyzing the problem, the firm concluded that too many people were steering and not enough were rowing on the American team.

So, as race day neared again the following year, the American team’s management structure was completely reorganized. The new structure: four steering managers, three area steering managers and a new performance review system for the person rowing the boat to provide work incentive.

The next year, the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated, the American office laid-off the rower for poor performance and gave the managers a bonus for discovering the problem.

Funny? I’m interested to hear your comments. Please tell us any funny (but pointed) management stories you’ve heard lately!

And as always, thanks for reading.


Today is the first day of the rest of your life.


The saying “This is the first day of the rest of your life” has been attributed to Charles Diederich, founder of the 60s drug rehab facility known as Synanon. It has also been attributed to a mid-60s group of anarchist street actors called the Diggers.

Pundits have criticized the well-known slogan. One criticism is that if today is the first day of the rest of your life, that would mean that tomorrow is the second day. The day after is the third day, and so forth. So that as a mantra for living each day anew, it fails.

As well (say the critics), if today is the first day of the rest of your life, that would mean that yesterday was the last day of some previous life–clearly an untenable argument. You only have one life.

Petty criticisms aside, I grew up in the 60s so a lot of the cultural accoutrements of the period have followed me in varying degrees. This particular saying is one that has stuck. Not as a daily prayers or mantra, but something I come back to at certain decision points or crises in my life. I don’t really seem to need it in times of joy or good fortune.

As those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter might know, I’ve recently had a sort of career diversion. I took a layoff from a company I’ve worked with for a little over two years. Two years ago, that would have been less of a concern than it is to me know. I’m a couple of years older (read: a couple years closer to retirement). I’m disenchanted, disillusioned with my chosen career path. Healthcare, where I’ve worked the last 20 years or so, has become less about being a helping profession–the reason I went into healthcare in the first place–and more about being Big Business. Healthcare is no longer about the nurses and the doctors and their customers–the patients or healthcare customers that depend on their services. Healthcare is now more about the insurance conglomerates and so-called reimbursement–that is, how much much money can healthcare extract from the pockets of those it was intended to serve.

“The rest of my life” includes more work, to be sure. It doesn’t necessarily include healthcare.  When I’m thinking now of “today being the first day of the rest of my life”, I’m thinking of writing. I’m thinking of the fledgling real estate investment business that my wife Jan and I have started. I’m thinking of perhaps experimenting with some occupations and obligations that while I was in healthcare were overshadowed. I’m in a fortunate position in that I have some time to ponder.

If you had a day–today for instance–to start over–to reset your life, what would you do? A new occupation perhaps? Or to finally retire and spend more time with friends and family? To travel to new and exciting places?

What does the rest of your life look like?

Golden Hour


Photographers and other artists all know about the “golden hour”–that one hour of perfect, golden light every day.

The golden hour actually occurs twice a day. Sometimes known also as the “magic hour”, it is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer compared to when the Sun is higher in the sky.

This morning on Lake Lorene there was just enough naked sun peaking out from behind the clouds to provide some of this magic. In the Pacific Northwest winter, the Golden Hour can turn out to be a “golden five minutes”, as the sun is always playing hide and seek.

So, you enjoy it when you can, snap a picture if you’re quick enough and if you have the time, share it with your friends.

Bacon-Jalapeño Cheese Ball

Found this little gem while I was browsing today.

cheese ball

Bacon-Jalapeño Cheese Ball

6 slices bacon
¼ cup chopped pecans
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp cilantro
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 jalapeños (ribs and seeds removed), finely chopped
Crackers (for serving)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet set over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Allow to cool slightly, then crumble and divide in half.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, parsley, garlic, cumin, cayenne, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, half of the minced jalapeños, and half of the crumbled bacon until well combined. Season the mixture to taste with salt.

On a large plate, stir the toasted pecans, remaining minced jalapeños, cilantro and bacon together. Moisten your hands slightly and shape the cream cheese mixture into a ball Roll. Then the ball in the pecan mixture until well coated.

Cover the ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.