In past blogs I’ve written about substandard customer service and how helpless one can feel without any recourse or options when confronted with it.
Since then, I’ve realized that poor customer service is sometimes by design. You see, technology has made it possible for people to communicate with one and other almost instantaneously. However, the more technological a companies systems become, the less human interaction the customer will experience.
Case in point; I recently had the pleasure of phoning a warranty company to inquire about provisions of the service. After a seemingly endless barrage of options in an equally wide array of languages, the automated answering service finally gave me the option of speaking to a live operator. Feeling a sense of humble gratitude for the opportunity to press 0 for an operator, I forged ahead with my quest for information.
The on-hold music was all at one relaxing and mind-numbing as I found myself in a zombie-like state humming along to an instrumental version of California Dreaming while tapping my pencil to an imaginary drum and gazing out the window. This hypnotherapy was no doubt an attempt to calm customers while they wait but in retrospect it caused a consequential anxiety once my call was answered at long last [16 minutes long last].
The operator greeted me and asked for all the information that I had previously keyed in via my touch-tone pad. Still half-entranced by the hypno-suggestive music, I rattled off the company name, phone number, contact name, address, last for digits of policy number, etc. etc. etc.
Here’s when the problem started. What we were requesting was slightly outside of what the normal service offered but was very necessary to our business operations. Even before I could finish my request, she asked me to hold (and I use the term ‘ask’ very lightly) and before I could respond …..”California dreamin’, on such a winters day….”.
After several minutes on hold I was greeted by another representative who seemed to have no clue who I was or why I was calling. After going through the entire presentation of my personal information and initial request, the representative told me that he could not help me. No explanation, no apology and no dialogue. If I didn’t hear his radio playing hip-hop music in the background I would have mistaken him for another computerized voice.
After refusing to let me speak with his manager because, and I quote “she’s just going to tell you the same thing”, he offered to ALLOW me to write a letter with my request for review by an appeal board.
I explained to him in the most calm and civil voice I could manage that his level of customer service was not acceptable and I needed to speak to someone immediately, he placed me on hold. This time, it was a Kenny G tune. As if the level of soothing music was designed to intensify with the level of how ticked off this company could make a person.
After approximately 7 minutes, the on-hold music stopped and I was played a message that very politely informed me that their customer service department was now closed. The message invited me to call back during normal business hours which were 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time. I looked at the clock on my computer. It was 4:31.
I paid this company a large sum of money for service. I trusted them with my business. I actually referred other associates to this firm. And in the end, when I needed them the most, I got Kenny G. (sufficed to say I’m not a fan).
More and more I see customer service as a commodity that can be outsourced, outplaced and digitally outfitted to ‘handle’ customers instead of care for them.
This has happened to the majority of the vendors that I work with so it seems as though this may be a generally accepted practice.
Well I for one do not accept it and will be very careful to screen the customer service practices of a company before I sign away a huge some funds to them. I encourage anyone who reads this to do the same.
Furthermore, I have found that it is just as easy to cancel a service contract as it was to sign it. I will exercise this right in the future if I’m not happy with California Dreamin’.
And last, I will fight hard to make sure my own company never adopts an automated mentality to ‘deal’ with customers but rather maintains a culture of empathy and human compassion.
In the end, my request was never considered and no response was ever received. But hey, at least the music sucked.