Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Anatomy of a phone call

March 25, 2010

I have to call my credit card company………sigh. I must have done something really bad to have been given this sentence. What’s even worse, I’m calling to tell them that they need to reverse a charge on my account. This will not be easy because they are the ones who put the charge there. So I dial……

Welcome to First Credit Card Company, please listen to the following menu and say or use your telephone keypad to enter your choice. (I’ll use the keypad thank you, I refuse to get involved with you and your ridiculous voice recognition software). So I hunker down (my calendar is clear for a couple hours)and make my selection, the first of many selections, since each one you make opens up a sub-menu. I fight the good fight and eventually make it to the option I want.

This is where the fun really starts. Now I get the distinct pleasure of entering my 16 digit credit card number, my social security number, my telephone number, my zip code (I swear they do this just to frustrate people), and my mother’s maiden name. By this time I am pleading for a human on the other end, instead I get a message claiming that I could have a “longer than normal wait” since I apparently called at a time when they’re experiencing greater than normal call volume. Yeah right!!!! Another of your tactics to get me to hang up and go to your website, where I won’t have anybody to scream at. I am, however, patient and I get to the human, the happy, cheerful human, who asks me for my 16 digit credit card number, my social security number……sigh. It’s like Yogi Bera said “it’s deja vu all over again”.

By this time, I am even more upset than when I first embarked on this quest. The human at the other end seems to sense my anger and arbitrarily apologizes even before I start to rail. I don’t let his attempt at “pre-emptive self defense” stop me however, I immediately launch into a colorful diatribe about big corporations in general, the credit company in particular, and I rounded it off with a nice piece about how difficult it is to get to talk to a human being and not a machine. My rep, who claims his name is “Julius” (nehi beta, you don’t SOUND like a Julius) again apologizes and promises that he can “certainly” help me.

After I make my case, “Julius” tells me that (surprise surprise), he can’t help me. I will need to call the merchant. “Julius” I say, in my most patient tone, “you are the merchant”. “Yes sir, but this is a different department”. “Ok Julius, can you transfer me to that department?”. ” I am sorry sir, but you would need to call them directly as I am unable to transfer you to that department”. (Do they really think that we don’t know they’re all sitting in the same room?)

Needless to say, when I call the “merchant” I am told that they can’t help. I have to call my credit card company and report my concerns to them. By now of course I am in some sort of call center induced madness, so I unthinkingly dial the number and jump back into the queue. I laugh hysterically as I enter my 16 digit credit card number, I do some strange ancient dance as I enter my social security number… the time I get to my zip code, I am reduced to a mere zombie. “Julius” again answers the phone (go figure, or maybe they’re all called Julius…..hmmmm). By the time he is halfway through reading his script and acting as if he did not speak to me just ten minutes ago, I slip into some sort of coma induced my bad customer service. The last thing I recall hearing, is Julius asking me if there is anything else he could help me with and if I would like to do a short survey about my experience. My last thought as I slipped away………are you kidding me?


Here’s a tip……

March 20, 2010

I need some help with this one. Let me preface this though, by saying that I do leave tips when I eat out. Sometimes I even leave tips when I feel like I shouldn’t.Pretty much all of us dine out from time to time. Some. more often than others, so I was just wondering if there were others out there who feel a little put upon sometimes when it comes to the whole tipping thing?

Come on, you have to admit, though that there is something a little bit confusing about just giving away extra money for no apparent reason. Have you ever gone into a store, to buy, let’s see……a watch;

“How much is that watch?” says you.
“$50” says the salesman.
“Hmmm……… about I pay you $60 and you don’t even need to wrap it?” says you.
“In that case I also have several other items over here that you might be interested in ….” says the salesman as he calls his wife to tell her “Honey, maybe we can take that vacation after all”.

Doesn’t seem to make a whole bunch of sense now does it?

Still, lets look at some of the reasons people offer as to why we should give money away. By far the strongest argument is, “well you know they only make $2.13 an hour?”. Now that’s not even an argument. That is one of those between a rock and a hard place kinda things, the proverbial low blow, below the belt, no fair and all that. I mean what exactly are you supposed to say in response to that? There is no easy way to respond without looking lower than the lowest form of life known to man (some people I know would say, that you’re so low, you need to stand on tip-toe to reach the white line in the middle of the road)so typically you leave it alone, pull out your wallet,leave a nice tip and be done with the whole thing. There are some people who try the old, “so what” argument, but these people generally end up living sad lonely lives,dying alone in “faciilties” with names like Shady Pines, while muttering to themselves, “I shoulda tipped”. So if you want to go down that road, its fine by me…..I just want to make sure that you have a clear sense of the risks involved.

Before we go on though, I just wanted to say, for the record, that I always leave a tip. I’m not suggesting that there could be repercussions or anything if you don’t (why does my steak look….uuumm….wiped?), I just always tip.

Then we have the ever so popular, “well you’re supposed to tip to show your appreciation for the service you received”. AHA!!!!!! For those among you who don’t tip, you pounce on this one, its what some people call “a gimme”, and you quickly respond,”well I didn’t appreciate the service. We made reservations, came here 15 minutes beforehand, told them we were here and STILL had to wait an hour before we were seated. Your hot date then says, “but…”at which point you interject with “but nothing!!!!!, they mixed up our orders, served us cold food, and never even apologized”. Unfortunately for many people when they are in this “zone of righteous indignation”, they are not able to accurately detect subtle hints, like when the aformentioned hot date suddenly gets up and says (in an extreeeeemely even tone), “I’ll meet you in the car”. (I think they have karaoke nights at Shady Pines if you’re into that kinda thing)

We also have the fancy schmancy Wall Street type explanation, Ahem, “we need to be able incentivize (is that even a word?) our entry level employees so that we could attain efficiencies on a global scale which would allow us to provide a product to our customers that is second to none. The people in these positions are the face of the organizatiion and it is a strategic imperative that these individuals feel motivated to give 150% (not possible) each and every time a customer walks through our doors. Ummmmm….riight! Hey!! I have an idea…how about you pay them more, that should incentivize the living daylights out of them.

So as you can see, we still haven’t gotten very far along. We still have to clue as to the why of the thing. I do think though that this is a good time to note that I always leave a tip, just in case (a new kind of sauce you say?).

How about the “how much”? Personally I’m a flat amount kinda guy. I tip in whole dollars, “as the spirit moves me” as they say. I’m not interested in percentages. You do a good job, you get a nice tip. You do a not so good job, you get a not so nice tip (okay, I admit it, I’m an enabler, but as the song says, you do you and I’ll do me). So the problem with my system is that you get a tip either way, which blows up the whole “incentivizing” argument…since most people will settle for something without having to expend too much effort.

Of course oftentimes, both the if and the how much are taken out of your hands with many places adding an automatic gratuity depending on the size of your party….can someone say variable tax?. Could you believe it? They tax you because too many people are eating at their restaurants at one time.

The whole tipping thing has become such a lucrative activity (I read somewhere it was about $14B annually) that almost everybody is getting in on the game. Apart from the traditional, waiters,barbers, etc., its gotten so people are just arbitrarily putting out tip jars and expect you to fill them up (panhandling is illegal in some states but obviously there are ways around everything). I fully expect one day to see someone open a new business establishment for the sole purpose of accepting tips. They won’t even go through the trouble of pretending to provide a service. They’ll even have drive through windows.

The point is, I have no real issue with tipping. I think however, we should be taking a more common sense approach to the thing. Enough with all the tipping etiquette (who came up with all these percentages anyway), if someone does a good job and you feel inclined to show your appreciation, then by all means do so, if you’re not so inclined (or maybe you can’t afford it)then you should be able to walk away without the stigma of “cheapskate” attached you. And if they do a poor job, you should be able to leave with a clear conscience. After all, you did pay for your meal.

Anyway, that’s just my take on the whole thing. I think that if we are allowed to be guided by our own sense of appreciation and the people we tip by a sense of service, then the whole relationship becomes a more fulfilling one all around. As it stands the whole thing seems like a game of “one upmanship” with big tippers trying to outdo each other and servers etc. practising “financial profiling” on the other end.

What did you say this was floating in my drink….

Fall from grace?

March 10, 2010

Within the past couple months, we’ve witnessed the beginnings of what could be the demise of a once great company. This company, for much of recent history has dominated its industry and was considerd the gold standard in its field. If you wanted to learn how to make your processes more efficient, these were the people you went to. If you wanted to figure out how to get employee “buy in”, and create real “company men”, these were the folks you studied. If you wanted to understand how to live by principles and build those principles into the very fiber of your product, these were the people you learned from.

For a long time, we would go to places where their products were sold,put our money down, and leave with a sense of accomplishment that we were able to purchase something that has been winning awards ever since we could remember. For the most part, this purchase would not necessarily make us super popular, but when people saw it, and realized we owned it,our reliablity index went up. A pseudo halo effect kicked in. The product’s reliability was legendary so obviously anyone who owned one must also be a reliable person.

We also chose this particular product, because it had a reputation for durabibilty. We’ll be putting this in our will, that’s for sure. No fly by night false pretenders for us. No sir, we’ve got the real deal. Now we could add our two cents when the older heads start telling their tales of how long they’ve owned theirs, ” I tell you I’ve had mine for 25 years, my kids would not be born if it wasn’t for that”. (ummmm….ok)

We bought this product because it was safe, we did not have to concern oursleves, when we used them with our kids, our parents, our grandparents, our pets. This was a safe product. We made a good decision, it was a fine choice…….we did the right thing.

We bought it too, because there was an old world mystique about them. “Those guys know what they’re doing. They’re not flashy. They’re………traditional. Some of these other guys could learn a thing or two from them”.

Then something strange happened. The once reliable products began to fail. We, however, continued merrily on our way, mostly because the majority of us were not aware of these chinks in the armour of our champion. It is amazing that in these days of instant news, and youtube and whatnot, that we were able to be kept in the dark for so long.

When the company saw that they simply could not suppress the goings on anymore, they took the next step down the slippery slope….they trivialized the matter. They blamed the problem on what amounts to a fashion accessory. This worked for a minute. It worked because we were willing to defend them. We believed in them. They care about us.If they say the fashion accessory was the cause, then that was the cause. Take the accessory and throw it away. “Away with you, how dare you try to get between me and my….”

When that didn’t work, they tried to pass the blame. They tried to say it was one of their suppliers. Supplier guy says “Hell no”. Don’t blame me. You’ve been having these issues before I even got here. (Kinda like the woman who tries to convince her boyfriend that the child really is his; “baby I know its only been three months but he really is yours, look at his eyes”… way lady, that happened before I got here)

Of course, like any cover up (great or otherwise), there’s usually a fan involved that is used to blow all the stuff away. Eventually though the bad stuff piles up, it gets to be too much, it starts blowing back, and it …well……….it hits the fan.

Now the company is in a real mess (a real monkey pants like my mother used to say). Turns out that, not only did they know about it, not only did they immediately comprehend the seriousness of the issue, but they chose to trample on those principles we came to respect,and went the route of saving money telling us to get rid of the fashion accessory rather than tackle the problem head on.

Of course we found out (we always find out, why don’t they realize that…if you’re going to write stuff down and create powerpoint slides and stuff, we will find out) and in our finding out, their credibility (and perhaps the entire company)was not merely tarnished, it was destroyed (at least as far as I am concerned).

Now it seems like every other day we hear about their products failing. I am pretty sure that some of these “failures” are people trying to cash in on the company’s misfortunes, since no matter what their investigations find, we won’t believe it to be anything other than product failure. They made their bed now they get lie in it.

Its a pity though because while we can hope that this will birth some kind of a conscience in the industry as a whole, I suspect not. More likely than not they will use this as a way to somehow get more money out of us. If they had done the right thing in the first place, they would not be at this point now.

I can’t be too worried about that at the moment though. These days I’m focused on not overtaking a Prius when I see one. Who knows when it will decide to go all Knight Rider on me…….

Clean up on aisle 5!!!!!!

March 6, 2010

So my wife sends me to the supermarket the other day (one of the things wives do very well by the way). I don’t usually mind though because then I get to use that great timesaver, the epitome of efficiency….. self checkout. Now who could find anything bad to say about a system whose sole purpose is to get you out of a busy supermarket as quickly as possible (ok, so maybe that’s not the sole purpose….you do have the whole if we can get shoppers to pack their own stuff, while ringing up their own purchases, then maybe we could save some money by hiring less cashiers thing). Basically self checkout is the supermarket’s way of hiring literally thousands of employees without having to pay a red cent, no insurance no nothing, but that’s another story.

I will confess that I am a self checkout junkie. As long as there is self checkout, I will use it. Not for me the talkative cashier behind the counter, or even worse the not so talkative one who hates her job. I am drawn to the sense of power you feel from scanning your own tomatoes. (Sure, go ahead and snicker, you know you like hearing that beep that lets you know your item has been properly scanned.)

But I digress, what I really want to talk about, is not the self checkout counter itself, but rather the people who decide to avail themselves of the benefits of that facility. Now I am one of those people who starts planning their exit the moment they set foot inside the door of the supermarket. It’s not because I’m super smart, or that I have the legendary Type A personality. Nothing so exciting. I just hate hanging around in grocery lines, which is why I head for self checkout, credit card and supermarket club card in hand, looking to make a quick exit. Thing is though, hanging around in grocery lines isn’t very popular so a lot more people decide to take control rather than subject themselves to the mood swings of one of the cashiers mentioned above. Which is where the problem lies.

While patiently standing in line, waiting my turn, I begin to notice some of the people in line with me and I come to a sudden, stark realization……. SELF CHECKOUT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!!!!!

Dude, if it takes you 3 minutes to find the barcode on a bottle of ketchup, then maybe you should leave the scanning up to the experts. GO join a line with a cashier. Oh and while you’re heading over there,take your buddy with you who insists on paying cash (credit cards are the devil), which is not in itself a problem, but do you really need to have your bills crumpled up to such a state that they cannot fit into the slot? Aaahhh, there he goes, wiping the bills on his shirt trying to flatten them out. That will certainly work.

Then there’s Ms. Assembly Line. This is the lady who scans her items at this end, then after each item, she walks (note I said walks)to the other end to immediately pack the item she just scanned. Seriously, this somehow makes sense to her.

Ms. Assembly Line is followed by the social butterfly of the group (I swear,there’s one in every crowd). She is the one who feels moved to talk to anyone who would listen. Not a big deal really,it helps pass the time,but my thing is, is it only me or does it seem like there is some requirement that for you to be a sucessful social butterfly, you must meet two criteria; 1)have a medical condition that requires multiple invasive surgeries, 2) have a willingness, no a burning desire to share the intimate details of those surgeries, along with your recuperation with any unsuspecting soul who happens to make eye contact (for those who don’t make eye contact, you just speak very loudly to make sure they don’t feel left out. You know all those people you see who keep looking down, and we hear all the psycho babble about self esteem issues and what not, uh uh….they made eye contact.)

The social butterfly more often than not usually makes room for Mr. I’m Feeling Lucky. This is the guy, who eases into the space left by the social butterfly because she’s not minding her business, while pretending he did not see everyone else in line. Come on dude, all the other lines are stretching all the way to the back of the store. Why would you think this line only has three people? He, of course, is not peculiar to self checkout, he typically tries this stunt anywhere. It’s a pretty dangerous maneuver though since, depending on certain variables, crowd reaction could range from the polite; “Excuse me sir, but the line is back here”, to the downright nasty which could end in violence.

Then of course we have the techie,or rather the guy who claims to know a guy who’s a techie. This is the one who, when he gets to the console, pulls out a card,which does not belong to the supermarket he’s currently standing in, proceeds to scan this card, and is absolutely incredulous because it doesn’t work. After he tries a few more times, with the same result, he tries to explain to the others in line….”buddy o’mine…really good with computers…he says ya don’t really need a different card for e’rry grocery store….says it’s all about the money, so he fixed mine, so I only need the one card. Dunno why it ain’t workin though….sum’n must be wrong with the store’s computer system. Y’all see any managers around?”

And of course, no event is complete if iPhone guy isn’t there. Naturally, he downloaded an app that tells you the prices of stuff at OTHER supermarkets, which are signifcantly cheaper. iPhone guy, however, does not go to those other places (that would be way too easy, and he likes a challenge), so he comes here. Of course in addition to apps that tell him the weather in the Congo (you need to know this because?), he has this little gem that allows him to “store” all his cards in his phone. I’m sure you see where this is going.

Well I finally made it through self checkout. I was tempted to hang around though because as I walked through the door Ms. Count the Number of Items in Everyone Else’s cart was about to raise a stink over in express checkout……..10 items or less. Oh well there’s always tomorrow……..

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