Customer Service Hell Blog

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Providian #1 What's It Take To Pay $25 ?

August 18, 2005

Mr. Mike Laubsted
Executive Vice President of Customer Service
P.O. Box 99604
Arlington, TX 76096-9604

Mr. Mike Laubsted:

Thank you for the letter of apology you sent me for making two unauthorized electronic debits on my bank account on or about May 4th, 2005. I was, of course, outraged that your company tried to take money out of my bank account without permission, especially since your company
tried to take more money than I had in there and this caused my bank to charge me a $25 service fee for one of these transactions. I think they waved the fee on the first one, but that's one less favor they'll be willing to do for me in the future.

To your credit, your company did promptly return the money to my bank account. In your letter, you said you "sincerely apologize for this error and any inconvenience it may have caused you." You also offered to reimburse me for the $25 bank fee. That's nice. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get the $25 reimbursed and my dealings with your company in trying to actually get the $25 have been vastly more inconvenient than the original mistake was.

Whenever I call your company, I have to go through a lengthy voice mail menu and a recorded announcement about how the call may be recorded for quality purposes. Not having to listen to that message every time would be a considerable improvement in quality all by itself, but I know why you have to have it. When I do reach someone, they are located in your call center in India, as they eventually acknowledged. To their credit, they do speak English fluently, though the accent and the cheap phone connection (sounds like voice-over-IP) sometimes makes communication difficult.

The first person I spoke to on May 19, 2005 said he would make sure I got a credit of $25 on my Providian Visa card with the account number XXXXXXX-XXXXXXX. I think he might have given his name as Shawn, but after three months, I can't recall and I have misplaced my notes.

Today, August 18, 2005, after almost exactly three months, I noticed that I still have not received a credit for the $25. So I called the 800 number on the back of my credit card again. Again I was connected to your call center in India. Again I had to fight my way through your voice mail menu and your recorded messages and be put on hold by a machine in order to speak to a live person. The live person was, of course, in the call center in India your company has contracted with to handle these calls so you don't have to. My call today was handled by someone who gave her name as Debbie Vickerson. I'm well aware that all the main call center companies in India instruct their employees to give fictional American-style names when handling customer calls from the U.S. If her name is really Debbie Vickerson or her native language is English, I would be amazed. Anyway, I explained the problem and she put me on hold three or four times and then asked me to hold again. I asked her to please take care of it at her leisure and then call me back. She would not do that and insisted on placing me on hold again and then transferring me somewhere else. She then told me there was some sort of technical problem in transferring me to the "Payments Research Department" and asked me to call back tomorrow in order to start the whole process over again. I asked her to please convey to the appropriate people in your company my simple request which was supposed to have already been done and to call me back when it was completed. After all -- I quoted your letter to her -- the point of all this was to make up for your company's mistake and the inconvenience it caused me. The method of getting the mistake corrected should therefore be done in a manner that is convenient to me, not one which requires that I call back repeatedly and spent hours on the phone dealing with this.

She said she could not call me back. I got the impression this was a company policy of some sort which you may be in a position to change. That's part of the reason I'm writing to you instead of just calling back. But I didn't immediately set off to write you a letter, first I asked "Debbie" to transfer me to her supervisor, which she did. He gave his name as "Anthony" and refused to give a last name at all. He also would not reveal what city he was located in, but he did admit it was in India somewhere. Mumbai perhaps? I'm just guessing. I told him I didn't think his real name was Anthony, but he would not comment on that or even give me a fictional last name to match his probably fictional first name. Anthony merely repeated almost verbatim what Debbie had told me: that there was a technical problem with transferring my call and that I should call back tomorrow.

Well, as I said, I didn't even want to be put on hold or transferred today, much less tomorrow. I just want to take you up on your offer to repay me the $25 and to have this endless inconvenience finally come to an end. I apologize for taking up your valuable time with this, if you actually deal with this letter personally at all. I notice that your "signature" on the letter is actually just printed there by a computer using a script font. I hope you at least authorized the letter since it does claim to be "sincere".

I realize that you are an Executive Vice President at your company so your time is undoubtedly valuable. I am the President and CEO of my company so perhaps you can appreciate that my time is valuable as well.

Your staff should be able to handle this problem without keeping me on the phone during the entire process. I presume the reason you contracted with a call center in India to handle your calls is because they will do the work very cheaply and you can avoid taking up the more valuable time of your receptionist or secretaries who otherwise would have to answer the calls. I hope you can appreciate that my time is worth at least as much as that of your receptionist if not considerably more. If it's not worth the time of your lowest level American employees to handle this, it's not worth my time to sit on hold while the employees of your contractor in India handle this. Please instruct the appropriate person in your organization to credit the $25 to my card as has been previously promised. You can have your lowest level people do it, you can even have your people in India do it. Just do it and don't take up any more of my time. I wouldn't mind a phone call to confirm it, and when you call my office, you won't get voice mail menus or recorded messages before you can speak to a live person. But if it's too inconvenient for you to call us or if you don't trust your staff in India with the power to make outgoing calls, just make sure I get the money. I'll figure out it's been done eventually when it shows up on my credit card statement.
By the way, I don't hold it against you that you use a foreign call center. Our company is considering having one as well. I'm going to do it a little differently than you do. We are already planning to locate our call center in a country where the people speak English as their native language. I'm also going to make sure that our people do give out their names and take responsibility for getting problems resolved. Our US call center people do this already and I'll make sure we don't change that policy when we shift some of our calls to the new call center. It never even occurred to me to prevent the people in our call center from making outgoing calls to call back a customer at the customer's request. My experience with your call center has emphasized to me the importance of this. I understand that if your call center employees can make outgoing calls, that they might place personal calls and run up a large phone bill. But it does occur to me that if you don't trust the employees of your subcontractor in India to make outgoing calls, you really shouldn't be trusting them to handle my credit card number, not to mention the credit card numbers and other personal information of countless other customers who call there every day.

I'll look for a $25 credit on my statement. Please have somebody make sure it shows up there.


Disatisfied Customer

*Update* Within a week of Mike Laubsted getting this letter, the $25.00 was reimbursed. Well done Providian!


  • OK, so here's my question. If the CEO can get it done, why isn't HE working the phones (or more appropriately, find someone who can)?

    I'm glad to know this sort of crap happens to everyone. I thought maybe I just had a black cloud that followed me around all the time.

    Well done on the recovery!

    By Blogger Omnipotent Poobah, at 6:47 PM  

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