Thursday, February 22, 2007

Customer Disservice...Again!

There’s no disputing that I’m exquisitely (and perhaps insanely) attuned to this problem, but the crappy operating policies and almost complete lack of customer-focused service provided by most companies/people are just unbelievable to me. This week, I've had to deal with four of the service providers to whom I pay actual money. (Ok, my life isn't as complex as it once was. Perhaps the reason this is bugging me so much is that I now have more time to allocate to getting excited about it.) In one case, the service provider took more out of my bank account than it was authorized to take. In two cases, I had a question about a request or requirement that made no logical sense. In the final case, I requested a simple change to an existing service that required no thought whatsoever on the part of the service provider – just a quote (yes, I was trying to give them more money) and a few keystrokes on a computer. In all four cases, the first response was neither prompt nor responsive. All four elected to tell me what the situation was – basically, they repeated my question. So I did the same. An additional day down and additional raveling of my already not very tightly knit patience for this sort of thing.

With two of the four, there's no way to get back to the original responder because they have those silly and infuriating automated mechanisms that deliver your question to some customer service pool. (It makes my head hurt to think about what such a pool might look like – is it a huge roomful of untrained, cranky personnel clacking away on corporate computers or a vast global network of untrained, cranky independent contractors hunched in isolation over their own PCs?) Anyway, each time you get a new person. Sometimes, the new person reads the original correspondence and sometimes, evidently, not so much. With these two, I'm still in the question/response circle 4 days later.

One of the illogical companies actually resolved the matter satisfactorily on the second try. They get the prize, I guess. The fourth, a small company with whom I had to follow up twice after getting no response for over 48 hours (on try 1) and 24 hours (on try 2), despite the fact that I want to buy an additional service (and have been a next-day payor of all previous bills), now tells me that the simple change won't be done until next week – over a week from request to completion caused, almost certainly, by their unresponsiveness.

What kills me is that ALL these so-called service providers pride themselves on their so-called customer service. Their responses are all liberally peppered with boilerplate apologies for "misunderstandings" and "our failure to answer your question promptly, accurately and to your satisfaction." They all plainly understand what the goal is and they reiterate it in writing every chance they get (ultra-annoyingly, when we're on round 3 or more of Q&A). But they have instituted absolutely nothing in the way of operating policies, training for their beleaguered people, technology or other ways of assuring that they actually provide what they claim to offer and what they know their customers want. Worse – two of these companies have, apparently in good faith, asked me for testimonials to endorse their “superior products and customer service.” They are so far from superior it isn’t even funny. Do they not know the difference? Are they maybe figuring that all you have to do to make something superior is call it so? Or is it me? Does “below adequate” now suffice for “superior” in all but a handful of service settings? Maybe my problem is that I’m lucky enough to be dealing with one truly superior service provider at the moment and the contrast is just too great.

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