Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Customer Service Horror Story

In Seth Godin's most recent post, he asks "Who answers the phone?" He raises some very valid points about how important those who are taking the phone calls at companies are often the most valuable marketing tool a company has. Yet, they are often the most under valued.

"...even though the rules have changed, the lowest-paid, least-respected, highest-turnover jobs in the organization now do the most important marketing work."

Remember Cingular? Cingular came in with a bang. Their marketing campaign was obvious. Ads were everywhere. Their name was being tossed around every major media outlet available. There were even Cingular All-American football players named between the years of 2004 - 2006. The hype was like a continual beating of the drum. Customers were flocking to them, including myself for a very short period of time.

Then the bill came in. It was not just considerably higher than I had anticipated, it was also showing that I was on a much smaller plan (as far as minutes are concerned) than I had signed up for. I checked my paperwork. Sure enough, I had signed up for a plan that had a little more freedom with the minutes. So I called their customer service for the first time of many.

For the first three months I would have to call and patiently inform the person answering the phone that my bill showed a different plan than the one I signed up for. Each time they would agree (after many minutes on hold, on the phone explaining, and even talking to supervisors) that for some reason my phone plan had been changed when billed. It was frustrating to say the least. I always got my bill credited back, but I felt I shouldn't have to keep calling and pointing out the errors on my bill each month. It should have been corrected the first time.

After the fourth bill came in and I had to go through the same song and dance, I gladly took the hit (in my wallet) from getting out of my contract with Cingular. I was finished with them. Unsatisfied and not very pleased with the service I had received.

While I understand this was an error that was out of the hands of the person answering the phone, I wonder if things would have been different if they were better equipped? What if the person answering the phone didn't have to run their decision by the supervisor every time?

What if the problem was not only corrected, but I was offered something (some extra credit on my next bill, maybe?) in return for my troubles? I'm not the type to demand a company give me something for poor service. I just take my money elsewhere. Maybe that's a fault of mine. But my feeling about that is, should I have to ask? Shouldn't that be something employers give their employees the freedom to offer when something goes wrong?

Cingular didn't last very long, and I suspect a large reason for that was other customers had similar experiences as I did. In the end Cingular went out with a whimper and was swallowed up by AT&T.

Do you have similar customer service horror stories?

1 comment:

Chris said...

Think about Godin's post from a few days ago, about the Apple guy. Now, think about the last time YOU had an experience like that -- where you hung up the phone or walked out of a business and said, "Wow, that guy kicked ass."

For me, it's been months... perhaps years. I honestly cannot recall the last time I was blown away by the service I received.

Employee Satisfaction has taken a backseat to Corporate Profit. When that happened, Quality and Service got off the bus entirely.