Thursday, June 7, 2007

More Customer Service Woes

The state of customer service must be truly terrible pretty much across the board. I could write a rant about some shocking breach basically every day, and I barely interact with the world at all! To tell the truth, I've been holding back on the customer disservice posts for fear of being boring. But this week has brought a couple doozies that I just can't let pass without comment.

On Monday, I experienced some webmail forwarding problems. From their nature, I was able to deduce that the source was most likely one of two accounts. (I'm pretty impressed by having done this myself.) When I went to the so-called Support Site for Possible Source #1, I was met with the single most outrageous parody of customer service I have ever seen.

First, there was a posting on the site about some systemic email problems and several updates about "working feverishly" to correct it. Since the updates spanned a three-day period, I doubt the work was really very feverish - I mean, come on. But, ok, I understand that there can be issues. The last update indicated that the problem had been resolved. My own personal problem had just started (intriguingly enough), so I thought I'd submit a "trouble ticket." (Where do they come up with this gibberish?? Can't we just call a question a question?) The trouble ticket page coolly informed me that if I submitted a trouble ticket and my question related to something I could have answered by reading the online FAQ, I would be charged "a minimum of $50."

I'm not kidding. Apparently, this outfit's idea of customer service includes my wading through - online - pages and pages of techno-gibberish to see if my particular problem has already been addressed and then submitting a free question only if I correctly determine that it has not. This is utterly backwards, obviously; the people who wrote the FAQ are in a much better position than I am to know what the damn things cover and what they don't. It would take them minimal time to point me in the right direction. As the customer, why on earth should I be obliged to
read their stuff and figure out if the answer to my question is there?

I understand that a huge percentage of the questions they get are probably braindead wastes of their time (like "How do I retrieve my forgotten password?"), but is that an excuse for abdicating their customer service promises? I pay this outfit for a service. The home page of their website proudly (and, we now know, inaccurately) crows "Our service and support package includes free phone and email support." I was told about a hundred times during the sales process (usually in response to my questions about the relative priciness of their service) that superior customer service was part of the package. What a complete joke!

Since there was no way I was going to read a bunch of techno-babble or potentially spend $50 plus to get what I felt confident assuming would be a useless or only marginally useful answer (this isn't my first day), I decided instead to go after an answer to the problem from Possible Source #2 (aka Yahoo). Yahoo really has the promised free email support capability and so I sent an email. The answer - which, oddly in this online world, took almost 24 hours to show up - contained a standard paragraph acknowledging the failure to deliver "the service you paid for" and apologizing for causing inconvenience, and then asked me to take a screenshot of the error message (which I'd described in detail) and resubmit. It then included detailed instructions for taking said screenshot. (If I'd asked how to do that, I'd have been in business.) Again, don't they know how their system works? They have my entire life story in the account setup - can't they go into my account and recreate the problem for themselves? Why is this my responsibility?

I wasn't about to start taking screenshots and getting into another of those idiotic email loops. (I've had enough of that lately, as those of you who've read this know.) So I crisply responded with "Never mind. I've decided to switch to gmail." Absurdly, I got another response, another 24 hours later, that was IDENTICAL to the first except this one also had a sentence that said "Eagerly awaiting your response" - not more than a few lines above my "Never mind." I haven't responded to it on the assumption that "Eagerly awaiting" is as unlikely to be true as "working feverishly."

The upshot? Gmail seems to be working fine (bye bye, Yahoo) and when Possible Source #1 next wants money from me, I think I'll let them know that I assess a minimum $50 charge on all outgoing payments.

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