Sunday, April 23, 2006

Service, what service?

We've all been here right? A piece in an Aussie newspaper on what's ironically called 'customer service'. It confirms yet again that it's not, in spite of what many complaints here seem to suggest, something unique to the sandlands.

Customer service truly is an oxymoron
April 22, 2006
I SCARED myself the other day. I was standing in the middle of the office on my mobile phone so incandescent with rage my heart rate was elevated and I had to struggle to keep my voice down.
I had never met the woman at the other end of the phone and I am ashamed to say I was so apoplectic I forgot to ask what her name was. We talked for perhaps five minutes and in that time she managed to reduce a mostly sane person into a raving lunatic. What was she doing? Providing customer service.
Perhaps in my old age I am getting more demanding but in the past month I have had so many people, whose job description lists at the very top "provide service to customers", treat me like a moron that this week I finally snapped.
I don't think I can go anywhere near a major department store, furniture outlet or whitegoods emporium for at least six months – or at least until I can hear the words "No, that is not in our procedures" without losing the plot.
The woman who finally sent me over the edge admittedly came at the end of a long line of frustrations but you won't believe what she said to me. I was trying to arrange delivery of a gift that had been bought for us by a friend, who had already paid for delivery. She wanted me to pay again and when I protested she said: "I have already done enough of a favour for you by not tearing up this order and throwing it in the bin." I am serious.
Apparently the definition of good customer service these days is not smashing your already purchased goods on the floor. I did manage not to swear at her and asked that she ring me the next day when I had calmed down. I am still waiting.
When I got off the phone colleagues consoled me with their own horror stories. One is still waiting for new credit cards eight weeks after his old ones expired and no one in the customer service department of the major bank he uses seems too interested in serving this particular customer.
Another is being stalked by a roofing company, who is persistently demanding he and his wife arrange a 2½ hour window of time at their home for this company to deliver its hard sell.
And my personal favourite – when some name stamps for his daughter were delivered with the wrong spelling, after four weeks they had still not heard from the supplier. When they finally got through, the customer service woman explained it was company policy not to leave messages as husbands tended not to pass them on to their wives.
If it wasn't so utterly frustrating it would be hilarious. But it is not funny. We have enough to deal with in life without officious control freaks masquerading as people who care about their customers driving us crazy.
They need to be supported by organisations that allow some level of flexibility in those oft-relied on procedures and they need to understand the impact they have on people when they say: "No, that can't be done" because what they really mean is, "You might have saved up your hard-earned cash to buy this product, but we simply don't care".

I have a comment about our kind of customer service, but I'll save that for another day.


nzm said...

We just got hit with a beauty about an hour ago.

Our TV channels have been intermittently down for the past few days. Every call to the DIC has been met with an answerphone message, telling us, yes there is a problem, and all the operators are busy with other customers!

That's not the best.

Watching TV is not a priority for us - except when there's an F1 race on. There is today, and we came home to watch it. No TV reception.

Ring DIC - finally get a customer service's rep. J asks them what's going on, what are we paying for, we've come home to watch something that is important to us.

Rep tells J, "can't you watch a DVD instead?"

Priceless. :-)

At least we have the internet and are monitoring the live timing report!

trailingspouse said...

Did you see the piece in Gulf News Tabloid today about call centre service here in Dubai? I must admit I don't know what they're complaining about. At least here you can get to speak to/yell at a human being. Back home it's just endless loops of menus, voice mail and "please hold, your call is important to us". Humbug!

Seabee said...

M, I think that sums it up, it's just mindless screen-watching, regardless of what's on. No-one even bothers to issue a progamme guide, which I think confirms it. Pay your monthly fee and sit staring at the screen with your brain in neutral seems to be what they expect you to do.

ts, I love that "your call is important to us" bullsh*t. It's so important they don't even employ operators to answer it!!!

Seabee said...

Why did I put bullsh*t with the * on my own Blog???!!!