I would like to take full credit for the title of this post, but, alas, the idea was not mine. It was, however, inspired by a documentary I recently saw on the CBC. As the name implies, it explored the challenges of getting good customer service.
Coupled with another show that I saw on CBC Marketplace about Canada’s worst retail customer service provider (seems to be a trend…don’t ya think?), I have been bombarded with media attention on this hot issue.
What drove me to blog about this subject was the result of a long-standing feud I have with a telecommunications company, who shall remain nameless (I couldn’t afford the lawsuit if they ever read this, but I am sure you can probably figure out who I am talking about).
I just can’t take it anymore!
It amazes me that in this highly competitive, consumerist society we live in, companies would be more attuned to the level of service they are giving and be doing everything within their power to service the hell out of us because they know that there are many other options available.
I am pissed!!
The frustration and anger begins with the difficulty I have as I start to navigate this particular company’s automated phone system (for purposes of this blog, I will call the company, “Lodgers”). An annoyingly friendly voice tries to help direct me to the kind of service I require and as I get frustrated, I just hit the “zero” key on my phone to be transferred to a customer service agent.
Then I get asked all kinds of questions to verify that it is me that is talking. I have to give my name, mailing address, postal code, phone number and date of birth. You’d think I was talking to the government (although they probably know more about me than I know about myself). Once, I coyly asked the Lodgers agent if they required my height and weight too. All I got back was, “sir, I don’t appreciate the attitude”.
Attitude? Who has the attitude. I am the customer!
So, I explain the reason for my call (which in this case was to see about saving myself some money because Lodgers continues to gouge me and it bothers the hell out of me).
The agent then tells me that he needs to direct me to another department….and it should “only be a minute”. The next person, gets on the phone and asks me to provide all the necessary identification…again. Did I not just do this?
Finally, after getting nowhere with the second agent, I start to threaten pulling my service from Lodgers because there are many other competitors out there who I can go to for the same offering.
I am asked by the agent, “sir, are you threatening to cancel your service with us?”
“Sir, please hold on, I will transfer you to our Customer Relations department.”
I have learned that Customer Relations and Customer Service are two totally different things. It means that if you can stomach sitting on the phone for 45 minutes to an hour with Customer Service, then you will automatically be passed through to Customer Relations where all your issues will be instantly be resolved. You can’t bypass Customer Service. Its kind of like doing time. You have to go through hell before you get to heaven…or so it goes.
So, a gentle and pleasant sounding Customer Relations person gets on the phone. She doesn’t ask me again for my name and coordinates. She asks me what she can do to help me and keep me as a satisfied Lodgers subscriber.
I explain the issues at hand (including being harassed with phone calls, text messages, written notices and emails if I am one day late in paying my bills…aside from being overcharged for services).
She seems to fix all the problems in relatively short order. Crisis averted. I am satisfied…stressed as hell and angrier than angry at Lodgers…but satisfied.
As I complete my conversation with her, I ask her why I couldn’t get properly serviced right from the start; why did I have to spend almost an hour on the phone and see my blood pressure elevate for things that she was able to solve in less than 5 minutes?
“Sir, Customer Relations exists for customers like you.”
What the hell does that mean? Does it mean that Lodgers has a special department for persistent and irate customers who want satisfaction? Isn’t that what Customer Service is for? I think its for people who have enough time on their hands (not that many of us these days), to get through the system to the land of milk and honey where people are nice and you get what you want.
Lodgers is just one of many companies out there that don’t provide decent, civilized service. We have all read of horror stories shared by other consumers about their experiences with customer service.
The CBC Marketplace show seemed to say that many companies have completely forgotten about customer service because they are too focused on giving us consumers the lowest price possible. In other words, you can’t have your cake and eat it too!
I realize that all the people I dealt with on the telephone were just doing their jobs. Their hands were tied in being able to amply service me because the “powers that be” within their organization created a system that only benefits the company…not the consumer. Its unfortunate that these front-line staffers bare the brunt of the attacks consumers launch on them when they are angry or frustrated or just wanting to seek answers. I do feel for them.
However, where I come from, the customer is always right. The customer can make or break a company. No customers? No company!
The best part of this story? Coincidentally, I was recruited by a research marketing firm to attend a focus group later this month. You will never guess who its for?