We’ve all been there.
Despite your best hopes and intentions, your top-notch research, and your staunch-but-wavering patience, you have — at one point or another — found yourself forced to call the customer service hotline of [insert name-of-business here]. And once you call, you know your fate: the battles ensues.
Image credit: simononly on Flickr
You don’t want to call them, because you know what it could mean. Hours on the phone. An unfulfilled promise to call back. No resolution.
Or maybe you’re in my boat and you’ve been promised a resolution, only to have that promise broken. Again and again. It astounds me that in today’s social climate — where frustrations with companies can be tweeted live, posted on Facebook, and written in a post (ahem) — that companies still choose to be difficult and — at least in my case – untrustworthy.
It’s frustrating, but here’s the thing: I have a few tips up my sleeve for dealing with customer service, and here’s why:
- I used to work at a customer service hotline. This gives me a few “ins” to which most people are not privy.
- I currently work for a business and spend much of my business hours researching and writing about what makes companies tick.
This week, I’m going to share my story with you, and next week I’m going to take what I’ve learned over the years and provide you with some practical tips. A lot of people give up way too easily when it comes to dealing with customer service hotlines, because really — let’s face it — it’s inconveniencing YOU to be stuck on the phone all day sorting through your problem (that person on the other end of the phone? They get PAID to do it, so the stakes are not as high for them).
The tips (disclosed in next week’s post) should work — or at least get you further than before — as long as the company has integrity and cares about their reputation.
But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
When we were moving into our new house, I spent a while comparing the prices and plans of the three internet providers in our area. I found one to be pretty convincing — top internet speeds, the lowest price, and (the clincher) no cancellation fees. My salesperson told me that it was a month-to-month contract and I could cancel at any time.
The first six months were fine. We really didn’t encounter any problems of note. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the internet got really slow. And then it got slower. And then it stopped working (literally DID NOT WORK) when it rained or was windy outside.
It seriously got to the point where only one of us could use the internet at one time, and then it still took about 10-15 minutes for things to load. We did all the troubleshooting required, but nothing happened.
So I called.
The Battle Begins
The customer service rep said I had a 2-year contract so I was required to pay a cancellation fee; if I had signed up for the month-to-month contract, then I would have no fee. I explained that my salesperson didn’t even TELL me there were different contracts; he just told me there were no cancellation fees. So he promised me one thing and signed me up for another. It was not my fault, and I deserved to be cancelled without a fee.
I was then told that the salesperson was a part of a third-party sales provider, and there was no way to reach him to verify my story. Frustrating, right? I told them that it wasn’t my fault that my salesperson was from a third party, and it just added to my distrust of the company. A third party they can’t reach, a blatant lie about contracts, and still I have to pay the penalty? I don’t think so.
We left the call with a promise to have a manager call me back.
Nearly a week later — a week later!!! — and no call back. Meanwhile, I’ve been tweeting back and forth with their customer service on Twitter (a pointless service, I might add — they are not helpful at all, but just say things like, “I’m sorry about your experience. That’s not what we strive for.” They also promised to have someone call repeatedly, with no results), I finally ended up calling them back. This time, I was absolutely determined to stay on the phone until it was resolved.
I was transferred to two managers. The last manager I spoke with (in Customer Resolutions) tried to — get this — sell me a different type of modem for $99.99, even though he couldn’t promise it would work in my area. This baffled me beyond belief. Why would I spend another $100 to get something that may not work at all, only to have to cancel again, and be stuck with both the modem and the cancellation fee — not to mention, still no working internet? The bonus of this modem, the guy said, was that I could use the internet OUTSIDE the house!
Wow. Were they serious? I was paying for internet inside my home. I work from home. The whole point was to use internet in my home! If I wanted to use internet outside the home, I would just go to Starbucks, but that defeated the whole purpose of paying for internet in my home.
This is when I went into a long monologue about how I don’t trust the company at all (still don’t), that I don’t understand why they would want to present themselves as an untrustworthy company (which they are), and that it’s about integrity (this is when my voice raised dramatically in pitch). Didn’t they want to have integrity?
He promised to cancel my service without the cancellation fee.
Oh, But Wait — There’s MORE!
Fast forward to two weeks later, and I am charged (surprise, surprise) the cancellation fee. I go onto their online chat and am simultaneously on the phone with my bank to stop the charge. The company tells me the same old stuff — 2 year contract, cancellation fee, etc. I actually had to tell the CS rep to check my file with the notes from my previous 2-hour call (isn’t that part of their job? Why else do they access the account? Common sense, people!).
So after reading the notes, he said he’d refund my money.
I asked for a number to call in a few days if it doesn’t go through, and he avoided the question. I had to ask him THREE TIMES before he gave me the basic customer service number — not a real person, just a general number. So if he didn’t refund me the money, I would have to go through the ringer again with a new customer service rep who won’t read the notes in my file when I call in.
How is it possible that customer service can be so unhelpful?
Stay tuned week when I share a few practical tips to help you along in customer service battles.
- How important is customer service in your mind?
- What are your customer service horror stories?
- Do you have any happy customer service stories? I’d love to hear those too!