01 November 2018

The Tedious Customer Service Circus

😏 possibly world’s first customer service complaint, at nearly 4,000 years old 😉
Complaint about delivery of the wrong grade of copper.
About 1750 BC (Old Babylonian period) from Ur
I have never had a year so abundantly full of all types of commercial screw-ups - ever - from businesses of all types, including utilities and financial institutions.   I do not know whose reality it is, but I know it is not mine.  I can not believe it is this screwed up for everyone!  Perhaps it is not.   It would not be the first time my name has been on unwarranted harassing sh_t-lists.   Gotta rant about the tedious circus that corporate customer service (CS) has become.

Every time I am out and about to do errands, back at home the sales slip of at least one of the stores shows that I was cheated, even after trying to diligently keep track of the check-out process.  Of course that means returning to the store after having called CS.  Given all the extra time and effort required of being on the road, again, to resolve the problem, it is tempting to wonder if the underlying motive for cheating is ownership of stock in gas, oil, and vehicle maintenance businesses - by employees and/or corporate.  Of course the real question is whether or not the cheating is due to incompetence or intention.  When it happens frequently, there is no way to avoid asking that question. 

On-the-ground local issues are somewhat easier to deal with though no less time consuming and irritating than are the more virtualized type of problems which require phone calls to CS - often about billing and service problems.  First, it seems evident that  knowledgeable IT people are not being hired to do needed IT work for either websites or the robo auto-answering systems.  Why is that?  Additionally, farming out off-shore customer service continues to be a problem which seems to be back, worse than before, after having minimized for a time.   And why is that?

In this unacceptable reality, the automated robo recording/artificial intelligence answering of phones  at corporate entities, is back to the tedious playing-with-a-new-tech-toy stage. The answering system  is actually intended to discourage phone calls and, instead, strongly suggests the use of the website is preferable -  never to be forgotten, of course, because of the repetitive reminders while on-hold.  But sometimes, probably more frequently than we are told, the reason for calling is because of website screw-ups. Websites are also back to the dumbed-down, tedious, playing-with-a-new-tech-toy stage. The screw-ups which develop are too often  associated with glitches on a buggy website because website interfaces and appearances have been changed. 

Frequently changing websites, in an effort to make them spell-bindingly attractive and interesting, does not increase customer usage or satisfaction.  Neither do the requests for feedback about the website - as if we have nothing better to do with our time than to provide valuable information which could improve the functionality of corporate websites on our dime! And, really, for all we know website changes are based on bogus feedback from pranksters, or more sinisterly from corporate rivals.  While websites sprung up for user convenience in the early days of browsers, they eventually morphed into being all about using the user as much as possible - the same as all other corporate advertising platforms. 

Whatever the reason they occur, website changes are not necessarily improvements.  Instead, unneeded changes require extra time from users to fool around navigating through the new  layout and interface of a website which has been conveniently utilitarian, prior to it being changed into little more than click-bait.  Like most click-bait it is designed to keep a customer on the website and exposed, even if subliminally, to a myriad of advertisments instead of being able to use the website as it has been offered - supposedly for the convenience of the customer! This type of problem, which creates additional problems, fits into the category: "if it ain't broke don't fix it!"  In other words when a website is functional and all the glitchy bugs have been worked out of it, corporate, then leave it alone! 

Even my long-term credit union which has been totally dependable and responsible, for decades, has started repetitively making errors which coincided with a new website look and interface. The most recent was an employee error which resulted in  the configured bill pay feature of my account being deleted thus requiring me to setup and configure the bill pay account, again, but in a new dumbed-down interface which limits some of the previous interactive features!  That buggy interface, of course, resulted in creating several errors, for who knows how many members, given that it was still paying bills from the deleted portion of bill pay when it should not have been, but also from the newly configured bill pay.  That, in turn required phone calls to correct, on several occasions, including dealing with charges for errors not mine, at places where bill pay sends my payments! 

Calling customer service and staying with the entire process long enough to maybe get a solution, requires at least half a day, and endless patience.   No worries for CS though when it comes to wasting time because they get paid for their time, apparently more the longer they can keep a customer on the line.  To even get to the what's-the-problem stage of the phone call requires first getting through the endlessly repetitive, very loud, robo recording on-hold loop.

Then, as usual, after a person answers, it is necessary to  weather an excessive amount of upbeat pleasantries, after which there is required listening while the CS person pleasantly reads the manual for the purpose of imparting information about the business and the account which, of course, the customer already knows!  It is apparently required reading for all the off-shore CS people who answer the calls - thus required listening for the customer who has long since lost patience at the robocall on-hold stage of the CS circus.  After the reading,  it is  time for CS to request the  customer recitations of excessive amounts of security verification information. And that is all BEFORE being allowed to state  the reason for the call!  It really is easier to deal with a houseful of under five children than the CS circus. 

But it is not over, yet!  Next, after a simple explanation which seems difficult for CS to understand - of course speaking clearly and providing the easiest explanation possible - the customer must be transferred, sometimes more than once which requires going through the rigamarole again, including the on-hold robo-recording loop with each transfer - that is unless the connection is lost and it is necessary to start over from the very beginning which of course requires going through the entire rigamarole, again.  At some point the CS person actually does seem to understand the reason for the call - if the connection is not first intentionally severed on either side of the call - and presents a solution with a promise that it will resolve the problem.  Usually one never knows whether or not the promised solution ever made it into the system until the next billing cycle!  Finally, at the end of a call, which it is only possible to hope will resolve the problem, the promised e-mail about it may show up a week later.  If it does show up, it may or may not be somewhat relevant to the reason for having called. 

These screwed up errors occur everywhere - businesses, utilities, banks/credit unions - you name it.  However, all of these corporate entities have been using automated answering even longer than they have been online which by now  is decades.  They should all be far beyond the tedious playing-with-a-new-tech-toy stage. What is the underlying problem that results in frequent and repeated errors?  Is the problem that IT folks are enamored with all the bells and whistle of tech, or is it incompetent IT hires, or in my own case is it also because my name is on the harass lists, or is it more simply not my reality.  It could be any combination of all four, as it has been in past experience!  Evenso, there surely must  be  an end in sight . . .  but I have yet to see even a glimmer of light at the end of what, so far, has been a very long tunnel. 

Having said all that I do have sympathy for most CS folks.  I actually do my best to be patient and kind as long as possible and usually succeed.  It is not a job I would be able to successfully do for long.   And I truly do appreciate those far and few between CS folks who can ask what is wrong, listen, provide a solution, and successfully get it into their system - like they are on a mission to actually do the job as well as it can be done - problem solved - and all under half an hour (including tedious on-hold)! 

Bottomline? It really should not require several hours to make what ordinarily would be a simple telephone call, to resolve what ordinarily would be an easily resolvable problem which never should have happened; then only to have it reinforced that nobody, nowhere, is willing to take responsibility to be accountable for minimal standards not having being met as cause of the problems that developed.  How did such a "comedy of errors" corporate circus become so common place and able to pass as so-called customer service when it really is a poor imitation?  Really.  How did it?