Customer Service Hell Blog

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Scream When Customer Service Is Bad!

Reprinted From Palm Beach Post

By BILL HUSTED (blogged with permission from author)
Cox News Service
Published 8/29/04

I'm mad about technology.
But not in a good way. Sure I love the stuff. But sometimes I get just plain angry.

Each day of my working life, I get e-mails and calls from readers with horror stories to tell. Most of them are about what consumer advocate Clark Howard calls customer non-service. Bad service is a national epidemic, and it is getting worse.

Think of the name of a tech company, an Internet provider, a telephone company, a computer manufacturer or software publisher, any company will do. I promise I've heard horror stories about each one of them.

That's what is so discouraging. Even the best companies will have a slip-up or two. But nowadays, good service is the exception. Bad service is the rule. To make things worse, that statement is so obvious that you're sitting there nodding your head. I don't have to be a mind reader to say you know it from your own personal experience.

Not all the sad tales of stupidity, indifference and incompetence come from my readers. I have stories of my own. So gather around and I'll tell you my story. It happened in July. But you could pick another month and I would have another story. This time it's about my cable television service. On another week, another month, it could easily have been about a computer company or an Internet service.

The cable folks have become regular fodder for comedians. Everyone has a story. But here's what happened to me:

The picture on my set at home got so bad that televised baseball games looked better on the radio. At least you're not supposed to get a picture on radio.

My cable account is in my wife's name, as is my Internet service. And she kept her maiden name. So I did what you'd do. I called the cable company. I don't believe that I routinely get special treatment because I write about this stuff. I run the same sort of gamut you do.

After a long wait on hold, the cable company promised that a service guy would arrive between 2 and 5 p.m. My wife took a half day away from work to wait at home for the cable guy. We started with the guess that he would get there around 5 p.m. But our guess was wrong. He didn't show at all.

When 5:20 p.m. rolled around, Mary called the cable folks to ask what had happened. Feel free to sing along with me now, you know the words to this song. She spent 30 minutes on hold, listening to bad canned music and recorded assurances that every call is important. Sure it is. That's why they don't hire enough people to answer the phone.

The person who eventually answered explained what Mary already knew, the tech was late. We were told that the tech had tried to call us around 5:20 p.m. but that there was no answer at our house.

That's true. Mary couldn't answer because she was on hold waiting for someone at the cable company to answer the phone.

Imagine how it would be if I paid the cable company's bills on the same sort of loose timetable. They'd cut off my service. And it wouldn't help a bit if I told them that my finances were running late.

I would have fired these folks months ago. But I don't have many choices when it comes to television. I have a deep and crazed passion for Atlanta Braves baseball. My house is surrounded by tall trees that make satellite TV impossible. There are no cable competitors where I live. I'm at the mercy of the cable company. And it has no mercy.

Something inside me crumbled this time. Instead of rescheduling an appointment, we told the cable company that they'd find our cable box on the front porch.

I'll miss watching the BBC news and the movie channels, but we'll get by. My wife will enjoy the fact that I won't be hogging the remote. And at least I won't be rewarding a company for bad service.

Too many of us accept bad customer service. I'm not being overly critical of those who do. They may just have two choices: Grin and bear it or do without.

But if you eat enough mud, you'll get a bad taste in your mouth that is hard to wash out. And If there is no cost to the provider software company, computer company or whatever, it has no financial incentive to make things better.

I know I'm getting riled up here, perched on my soapbox and getting madder with every word I type. But I truly think it's time for all of us to get mad, to complain more, to tolerate less. If you're tired of walking around with a "kick me" sign hanging on your back, join in with me.

The next time you get intolerable customer service, complain loudly. If you can switch to another company, do so, and write a letter telling the offending company that they've lost your business.

And be sure to tell your friends. That's just what I'm doing today.


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