Sunday, July 3, 2005

Customer Service Sucks! Everywhere?

I heard great stories in books and magazines that enterprises go extra miles to make customers happy. Some even touted customer as a god or of that importance. I read lots of articles about how customers and their interests are driving the new economy and how all efforts becoming more customer-centered to do their best of service to meet the needs of the customer. But when it comes to experience, I realized that it is just another set of key words in their marketing pitch. End of the day, the customer service sucks at almost all major companies. They dont care what you go through as long as their bottom lines are secured. They never seemed to honor their own commitments, leave alone trying to help the customer.

When everything goes well, one may not realize what it means. But when a little adjustment is needed or facing a problem, one will realize how good are their intentions and what they really mean they are. I have not felt even for a second that they are trying to help me outin any of the recent incidents that happened just around the memorial weekend in 2005. This series of horrible experiences just told me a different story about customer service, what I can expect when I really need it and what it really means to them to help a customer.

Here are three different incidents occurred around the memorial weekend 2005, in which there was not event a hint of an intention to help the customer by none of the major household names: Uhaul, Budget and Vonage.
UHaul,Budget Truck rental, Vonage

Few common but seriously painful issues with most of the companies:

· They dont mean what they talk. One can sign up for a service online in minutes, but had to callup and wait till death on the phone to cancel the service. If the companies are really interested in customers comfort, ease of use and value their time, why shouldnt they put an option online itself to cancel the service. It normally takes 3-5 business days to credit/refund the amount or get the thing working , irrespective of how long they take to act on the problem. But your account gets deducted immediately if you owe them a penny.

· Hard-Wait to talk to customer care agent: Customer has to wait for an average of at least 10 minutes on the phone before they can talk to a live agent. I had even waited for 32 minutes to get to talk to the agent. This is another way of saying that We dont care and value your time, particularly when you need our service.

· Hard-core policies and Processes to act on customer grievances but no policy or process to prevent the problem in the first place: They consider it normal that you may receive faulty equipment or a not activated account. And they dont care whether they made everything on their part to ensure that customer uses the service. All they are interested in is whether they are able to charge the customer. Like Vonage charges you from the day you ordered, though the equipment arrives and you start using it almost a week later in many cases. Incase of problems, once they act on it, and if you are lucky they might think of resolving it. But the process will take 2-3 weeks time to completely resolve the problem as they have standardprocesses and policies.

· No customer history/transaction records exist or agents are reluctant to look at them: In each case, they seem to keep NO track of customer interactions. Every time I call up, it goes obviously to a different agent (thanks to call centers and outsourcing) and I had to explain the story from scratch as none of the agents could tell me the story from the records/information they have. On insisting, they may find some references or notes somewhere that say customer had called, but nothing in particular about the problem and obviously nothing about the resolution.

· Off-the shelf Agents: Most of the agents that I had talked to seem to have no clear understanding of the system. They take the call and are well prepared to give the most generic answers; they were taught, irrespective of the situation or the history of the problem. I was in Austin and wanted to pickup a truck in Austin to move to Dallas. The smart agent offered me to pick up the truck in Arlington or Fort Worth. I did not realize that the world was squeezed into such a small place that suddenly Arlington and Austin became so close winding the gap of around 200 miles in between them.

No problem reporting or escalation numbers: And unfortunately, it is so difficult to report a problem or escalate the issue to any of these enterprises. All we can get hold of is their 1800 customer care number or customer care email address. If you insist on talking a supervisor or a manager, the answer is always be the same, there is none available or we will call you back or no body can do anything.

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