As the end of January approaches, I’m a little nervous. Bell has alerted me that they are “making changes to our e-mail systems which will require you to update the settings on your e-mail software…Please note that if you do not update your settings by January 31st, 2010, you will no longer be able to receive your e-mail.”

Does that seem like excellent customer service, to make a change that could possibly result in customers not being able to use the service they have paid for?

Bell has helpfully provided an “Internet Check-up” tool to see if any updating is needed. Oh, but too bad for me, it’s “currently only compatible with Windows.” As the Bell site curtly informed me, “You are running a Macintosh operating system.” Not to worry, though; “Efforts are ongoing to provide a Macintosh compatible version as soon as possible.”

Bell has been tinkering with their system for a few months now, causing random unexplained grief. First, the mail system stopping playing nice with the e-mail program I use. Then, I discovered that I had somehow been given a limit on how many messages I could send in 24 hours, without being told I had a limit. So although I administer a mailing list of about 230 association members and have been regularly sending messages to them for about two years, I suddenly got an error message that said, “Requested action aborted. You have reached the limit for how many messages you can send in 24 hours.”

I tried to e-mail Bell’s support account to find out what was going on, but of course I was over my secret limit. So I tried online chat and found out my limit was 250 e-mail messages a day. When I explained my problem and asked that my limit be raised to accommodate the mailing list I administer, here’s what happened:

Bell: I would need to escalate the issue to a higher tech support to get this issue resolved.

Me: Please do so.

Bell: I suggest you wait for 24 hours for the limit to be raised.

Me: You mean I can’t e-mail anyone else today?

Bell: Sorry to say a yes.

Me: That’s not very responsive service. I can certainly wait 24 hours to send a bulk e-mail but another 10 to 15 today doesn’t seem like much to arrange.

Bell: I do understand your concerns but we need to wait.

Well, the limit has been raised, although I didn’t get official notice of it and have no idea what it is. All I know is that I’ve been able to send several bulk mailings to the group. But you see why I am a little worried about the changes happening January 31.

So if you are a company upgrading your systems, please make sure it’s a change that will actually improve customer service. Otherwise, you are just like the companies who advise they are “changing” their fees when really they mean “increasing” their fees — it’s not good news to the customer.