When I am referred to the customer service department of a large company I let out a big groan. The dreaded customer service department is often a clearing house for questions and complaints. This is a typical telephone conversation I have had with a one of these departments:
Ring Ring. Recorded message: “We are sorry but all our representatives are busy right now. You are held in a queue. . . . " you know the rest. Mozart Jupiter Symphony. The “held in queue" message and Mozart cycle many times as 2 minutes pass, then 3, 4 until, after 6 minutes a female voice says:
"Thank you for calling customer service. What is you customer number?". Now what kind of state will a typical caller be in at this point in time? I mean what are customers expected to do perched on the end of a telephone line for 6 minutes. File their nails? Read the paper? We are all different. Some of us will calmly accept these things and wait. Others build up a head of steam. A small puff of steam after a couple minutes turns into a sauna at 4 minutes and into an inferno by 6 minutes. I am in this latter camp.
So by now my original enquiry has taken second place as I object to my life being wasted in this way.
Me: I would like to complain. . . .
Customer Service [Interrupts]: What is your customer number, sir
Me: I have had to wait on the line for 6 minutes and I would like to complain about it
Customer Service: I am sorry about that, sir. What is your customer number?
I am now more incensed because I can tell that this person is not sorry at all. Why should she feel my pain? She doesn't know me. I am just a number to her and she is more interested in getting this number than even knowing my name. It would not be natural for her to feel real sorrow for me. No, she says she is sorry, but she plainly is not. This would not normally be a big deal, but remember that my head of steam is starting to spew out of my ears and I am getting very edgy.
Me: I want you to reimburse the cost of this telephone call. Why have you left me on hold for so long?
Customer Service: We have been very busy
Me: But why should that be my problem?
Customer Service: We are a very large company with a lot of customers and you need to wait your turn
And that's another thing. Customer service staff who tell me what I need to do all the time. I digress. . .
Me: If you are so successful, why don't you take on more staff to answer the telephone?
Customer Service: Sir, I need your customer number to process your complaint.
Now, the next bit is the body blow, the killer word that stops most customer service personnel in their tracks. And the word is: WHY.
[Pause] Customer Service: That is the procedure, sir.
Me: Well that is not MY procedure.
Customer Service: I am sorry sir but I cannot. . . .
Me: [Interrupts]: Who is in charge of writing the procedure?
Customer Service: I cannot tell you that information, sir.
Me: I want to speak with your boss.
Customer Service: My boss is busy right now. You can call back later
Me: Please leave a message with your boss to call me. . . .
Customer Service: You will need to call US, sir.
Here we go. . . . Me: WHY?
Customer Service: We are not an outbound call operation, sir.
Customer Service: I am terminating this call sir. Goodbye.
The above is a virtual transcript from a real conversation and represents many that I have had. I was obviously getting nowhere. In this situation you may as well end the call. But why not do it in style? Don't be rude to the customer service representative. That would surely put you onto their level. Don't slam the phone down either. No, in order to maintain your dignity and maintain the moral high ground you can escape from customer service hell by dropping in the “why" word a few times. I virtually terminated the call myself by repeating the WHY word. This is akin to getting a computer to work out the value of PI. It doesn't compute.
The bit that really gets to me is where they say they have too many customers to answer the telephone on time. Are they deliberately trying to lose some of those customers in order to reduce the customer service workload? Certainly they will get their wish if they continue in this way. Also, many of these call centres will not ring out. This is not fair on customers. And why can't they take a general complaint without putting the complainant through their administration machine?
I think that not answering the phone in good time is plain rude. I think that refusing to return calls is also rude. I think many customer service centres are centres of rudeness. For that reason I try to avoid such companies. It is very rare that the staff I speak with are rude. I actually feel sympathy towards them because it is the system itself that is creates rudeness, not the staff.
Most customer service centres require the customer to do most of the administration. Most of them require the customer to progress chase. Most require the customer follow their procedures, even when the very procedures may be the subject of the complaint.
Just as a little suggestion that might at least start to improve things, why doesn't the customer services person start the conversation with: “Hello my name is . . . . . . , can I take your name?" and then spend the rest of the call referring to the caller by their name. This would set the tone for the rest of the conversation.
Who are these rude companies anyway? In my experience they tend to be larger companies. They are companies that see customer service centres as loss centres. Some try to get their customer service centres to sell add-on products and services in order to alleviate the cost. Others run these centres on a shoestring in order to minimise cost to the point that there is little customer service on offer. Others will do both.
I think that a pattern has emerged over the years. Large companies that were employing these practices a few years ago are not so large today. I am convinced that these practices result in a kind of delayed time bomb where each brush with customer services is another straw placed on the camel's back. Eventually a competitor comes along. They treat you like a human being and happily place the final straw on the unfortunate camel that was your previous supplier.
When will companies realise that customers are the source of their revenue and must be treated with sincerity and with respect. When will they learn basic manners such as the common courtesy of answering the telephone or returning a call?
If you are in the business of stocks and shares, just try this tip: make a call to a few large companies and see which one treats you with like a human being . . . and invest in them!
The truth is that companies that look after their customers and make friends with them become tomorrow's winners. Take Arkay Hygiene. They treat their customers with respect. The same can be said of the excellent staff at Insect-o-Cutor. These two companies do not put customers on hold and refuse to return calls. Arkay Hygiene happens to be the most successful UK wholesaler of Insect-o-Cutor Fly Killers. Oh, and Insect-o-Cutor are the most successful fly killer manufacturer. Enough said.
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