CenturyLink Payment Incompetence

When Automation and Technology Provide a BAD Customer Experience

August 7, 2013

A check was apparently lost in the mail. When I received my bill from CenturyLink for July which showed the missing payment, and had a late fee added, I called to track down what was happening. Unfortunately, CenturyLink offices are closed on Saturday, so I could not speak to someone immediately. So, I sent a check out for the "current" charges for the July period.

On Monday I called again. This time I was able to speak to a CenturyLink representative.

On my first call, the agent stated that CenturyLink has no means of checking for lost, misplaced, or misidentified checks. This demonstrates a great deal of incompetence and unprofessionalism on the part of CenturyLink. It should be a standard practice that when checks can't be identified or linked to an account, a procedure is put in place for handling them. There should then be a means of tracking what payments are in this process, whatever the process is so that when a customer calls to help, they can expedite the process. The fact that either CenturyLink does not have such a procedure in place, or that CenturyLink staff will state to a customer that CenturyLink does not have such a procedure in place demonstrates that CenturyLink does not have the basic level of customer service that any customer or client should expect.

I then checked with my bank to make sure the check had not been cashed. With the level of total incompetence demonstrated by CenturyLink I was concerned that their system had cashed the check and that their staff, due to total unprofessionalism and incompetent design in their payment receiving system, had no idea that the payment had been received, nor any way to get it assigned to my account. However, at that time the check had not been cashed. I also found out that there is a charge of $45 from my bank to stop payment on the check.

Assuming that the check had been lost in the mail and would not be recovered, I went ahead and sent another check for the June amount, to cover the "lost" check. I also filed a lost or stolen mail report with the Postal Inspector's office.

I then called CenturyLink again to check on how the "lost" check would be handled if it arrives. I found that compounding the general incompetence of CenturyLink, they have no way to flag a check that they know may be suspicious or may have issues. They do not provide basic customer service. Their system is so automated and so poorly designed that CenturyLink cannot flag an account, a dollar amount, or a specific payment as requiring special consideration. Instead their automated system will open envelopes, look for checks, have those checks processed by the bank, and then see if they may be able to associate that payment to an account. I was informed that their system will credit my account for the amount of the "lost" check, if the check arrives at some point in the future. I was also informed that to add insult to injury, in addition to the demonstrated incompetence this uninterruptable automated system represents, that if the check were to be denied by my bank, say in case I stopped payment on the supposedly lost check, that CenturyLink would charge me a bad/denied/non-sufficient funds fee for the check "bouncing." When I asked if, if the original payment were to be received and cashed - even though it shouldn't be since any competent, professional business would be able to flag that payment and destroy it or return it instead of cashing it - if they would reverse the late payment fee they added to my account, I was informed that there was no way to reverse that unless I could prove that they had received the payment and were holding it.

This is absolutely ridiculous. Instead, due to a complete lack of customer service on the part of CenturyLink, coupled with a payment receiving system designed to demonstrate CenturyLink's lack of professionalism, I may have $183 pulled out of my checking account at any time without warning.

Four days after this, I called CenturyLink again to see if any of these three payments had been received. I was informed that the payment of $292 had been received. However, in yet another demonstration of incompetence and incredibly poor design in their payment system, the operator could not tell me whether that was one check received or two. However, she could tell me that separate from that was a credit on the account of $6.61. An amount which happens to be the same amount as the supposedly non-reversible late payment fee. Did CenturyLink reverse the non-reversible charge or did the original check turn up somewhere in their system?

And, of course, you may be wondering why I was unsure whether the $292 payment was one check or two? Well, in the past, CenturyLink has cashed checks for amounts other than what they were written for. Usually by a fraction of a dollar, but when the check is submitted electronically the bank doesn't have a record of the amount the check was written for, they have to take the word of the person cashing the check. On at least three occasions in the past we have had a balance mismatch on our checking account, which can be traced to CenturyLink cashing a check for an amount other than that on the face of the check.

The CenturyLink payment receipt system is a disgrace and something they should be completely ashamed of.