Customer Service, does it really exist

Customer Service

Customer Service departments are failing.

This week I have had problems with 2 companies that I have been a loyal customer of for years and never really had any problems with until this week and dealing with their Customer Service departments was a very stressful experience.

The first one was for my mobile phone, on checking my bank statement I noticed that the provider had taken 2 payments – my phone bill and along with another extra payment. On telephoning them to ask why this payment was taken I was told they know nothing of it and to take my bank statements in to one of their stores for someone there to sort out. Great customer service there, pass the buck. When asked to speak to a manager my request was ignored.

I don’t know about you but I don’t have to be to be going into town to sort of the problem and don’t particularly want someone I don’t know going through my bank statements. Also I would imagine, and maybe I’m wrong, the store assistants only have access to the same information as the customer service agents on the telephone do!

So I decided to quickly try their Live Chat function on their website and 1 hour 22 minutes later told to go into a store. Pass the buck again.

Not one to be deterred I emailed their customer relations department to receive an automated response to say the email was received and “someone” would email back within 48 hours. 2 hours later “someone” emailed back saying speak to Live Chat. On replying I got the automated response saying email received someone would contact me with 48 hours. A few hours later I received the exact same email from “someone” saying speak to Live Chat. I guess the “someone” is automated sending the same response each time just at intervals after the first automated one. Either that or “someone” is a parrot and only knows the phrase “Speak to Live Chat, Speak to Live Chat”. So again just passing the buck.

Eventually after messaging through their social media did someone did email me back and said they were looking in to it, and that’s all I know. No more response from them!

A communications company that fail to communicate with their customers!

Now if I thought their customer services were bad today’s little debacle was even worse.

After ordering a tablet online for a Christmas present it arrived today. So I thought I would take it out of the box, check it was ok and set it up ready for use on Christmas morning. On switching it on I noticed a couple of bruise marks at the top of the screen and one larger bruise down the side. As this was a brand new item from a very large, well-known online company and not some cheap discount store buried in the nether regions of the internet, I wasn’t happy. So I telephoned their customer services department to get return the faulty item for a replacement. Easy you might think!

After 5 calls to their premium rate number, I was put on hold, transferred twice to the manufacturers for them to sort out the problem, hung up on and on 4 of the calls where I asked to speak to a manager it was ignored.

Their response was for me to take the item that I received faulty and send it to the manufacturers for repair. Why? Because I had the audacity to power it on and see if it worked. Obviously the fault only shows when the device is on. Maybe I should have just left it switched off and no one would have been any the wiser! Maybe left it for the person I was giving it to to send away for repair, nice surprise on Christmas morning – here’s your present but you have to get it fixed first.

So apart from this company ignoring the Consumer Rights Act by a) refusing a replacement, b) not offering a refund (although strangely enough I was offered a discount to keep it) and c) not accepting that my contract was with them, the company who I purchased it from and who were willing to take my money for it, but instead pass me off to the manufacturer so that it became someone else’s problem.

I am still waiting for a response to my email and the promise of a manager calling me back – I don’t hold out much hope on either happening.

So, while they think they can fob me off with excuses and ignorance the faulty item WILL be REPLACED or I will just reject the goods (as I am entitled to within 30 days) for a FULL REFUND! and the loss of a customer.

So, if that is the way customer services department are run why have them? Of my dealings this week with these 2 large companies they would be better off scrapping them and just have automated messages or replies as they would be just as much help as dealing with ineffectual customer service advisers. But that’s not much help for the customer or in the long term, the company themselves.

Now I’m not saying that all customer services departments are useless, in my experience small companies have great customer service where the larger the company, the worse it gets – probably through lack of training, overwork or that particular person is just not suited for the job. So maybe better training and staff selection is required. A bad adviser not only brings a poor reputation to the company but also irritates the customers which in turn irritates the adviser ending up in no resolution and possibly the loss of a customer. With customer advisers just repeating the same information read from the screen and not offering any actually advice when the problem is not straightforward, this is unhelpful, stressful and irritating. Maybe larger companies could have an more experienced team within the customer services department to deal with the more awkward problems rather than a customer having to make a complaint and it going to CEO level (as my first issue mentioned did).

Now, at the time of writing this I did receive a telephone call from the telephone service provider and the even though they haven’t found the source of the problem the complaint is resolved (and only took 5 minutes, partly because I was actually given some information which made sense, he answered my questions and listened to what I had to say). So I must say congratulations to them for actually looking into the problem and doing everything within their power to resolve the issue, even if it did have to go to higher levels. And after reading my complaint emails and speaking to them maybe it will help them in improving areas of customer service to benefit everyone.

So, do customer services exist? Yes but seems to be the larger the company the poorer the quality (in my experience anyway) but then I haven’t really had to deal with many so I can’t say it’s true of them all and they will always be some ineffectual people as there are in any job, that’s just life. But by complaining (as long as it is a valid complaint) hopefully this will improve things, as after all, if a company doesn’t know about any issues how they resolve and try to improve things?

As for my experience, passing the problem on to someone else just doesn’t cut it for me. I would be happy with one call to customer services and them taking control of the issue, for example not passing the problem over to someone else – if another department needs to give advice then the adviser should speak to them as much as they can and get all relevant information and then get back to the customer with as much information as possible, not just say speak to that person. One point of contact for the issue at hand liaising with whoever they need to rather than the customer being pushed from pillar to post explaining the same thing over and over again I think would reduce the stress for both parties and give an all-round better experience. Would it work? In theory yes, in reality possibly.

There will always be problems that need solving and that will never can change, things go wrong! But with better training and more information available it could go from an infuriating waste of a lot of time to a simple problem solving, helpful service.

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