Customer service or disservice?

On Friday 5th January I called my telecomms provider to enquire about an additional service I was considering taking from them.

The first person in their Customer Service department knew less about the service and how it worked than I was able to discover from their website and she actually gave me misinformation.

That didn’t give me much confidence so I didn’t pursue it with her, preferring to ring back later and talk to someone better informed. This time I got through to a representative who, whilst certainly more helpful, was hazy on the price and how the service worked but we believed we were getting there so I decided to go ahead. She initiated the activation process at her end whilst we were talking and told me the service would be available within 24 hours.

48 hours later it still wasn’t so I called Customer Services again. This time when we went through the usual security check we hit a brick wall when the representative asked me for my password.

I explained there was no password on the account. She replied that she couldn’t do anything without me providing her with my password. I reiterated that there was no password on the account, never had been and it hadn’t posed a problem with her colleague two days earlier.

She wouldn’t budge and became confrontational: Hello… I am through to Customer Services, aren’t I? I asked to be put through to her supervisor and was told that the supervisor wouldn’t take the call unless I could provide a password! Then she grudgingly asked for the amount of the last bill.

I told her I had an October bill to hand but that wasn’t good enough for her – she said she needed the most recent one. So she then asked what packages I had from them. I described three vaguely but she wanted the information in detail. Luckily I happened to spot them itemised on the back of the bill and asked her why she hadn’t suggested I look there. The answer:

    “You didn’t ask me.”

I had started off only mildly put out but, after the attitude of this one, I was hopping mad. I won’t bore you with the entire miserable conversation but we ultimately established a new password and I was put through to the Faults department.

I spoke to a charming lady who knew what she was talking about and cleared up the residual confusion over exactly what I needed to do to activate the service from my end. She checked with Support and said there was a problem their end and, if the service was still not available by 3pm would I call back and they’d activate it manually.

I asked how I should go about lodging a complaint about a specific individual and was informed I could do it via her, so I did.

Let’s examine this mainly sorry tale:

  1. I have been with this company for many years and I spend several hundred pounds a year with it – Do I feel that my custom is important and valued?
  2. The first person I spoke with had too poor communication skills and insufficient product knowledge to have been let loose on the phone
  3. The second had good communication skills but not good enough product knowledge and, in addition, needed information that must be in that company somewhere but was not available to her
  4. The third person needs training full stop – and I pointed out to the lady in the Faults department that my intention wasn’t actually to get her colleague into trouble, it was to highlight a problem that desperately needs fixing
  5. Meanwhile, I’ve probably ruined the third Customer Services representative’s day and I bet she thinks I’m the customer from hell!
  6. How many other companies are perpetuating poor customer service purely because they don’t train their front line staff properly?

    How many many of them even know that 68% of customers “lost” by them is as a result of being upset with the treatment they received?

    How bad does it have to get before they are prepared to rectify the situation?

    Let’s all take a lesson on board from this:

    You don’t necessarily need sophisticated Customer Relationship Management systems and, anyway, they alone don’t guarantee good customer experience. You do need knowledgeable front line staff with good communication skills.

    If you are responsible for customer facing staff please, please, please train your people to look after your customers: They are your lifeblood and, as such, your company won’t survive long if you keep losing them…

    PS The service went live within two hours of my conversation with the lady in the Faults department. As I’d taken her name I called back to thank her but, instead of going through to the Sheffield call centre as on the previous three occasions, this time I was speaking with someone in India. I am assured that my message of thanks to the Faults lady have been noted on my account…

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