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  • #2186090

    From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

    Locked

    by the admiral ·

    In the world of fast communications & information technology, customer service is out the window. Whether you are an internal employee or a customer who is asking for service on a product line, you have probably hit the brick wall of customer service hard. One of any company?s largest costs is customer services activities, which now is the definition of a company. Many of the cable companies now have a hard time with customer service because of lost work orders, contractors, and other professionals that point the finger at the other person rather than getting the task done.

    In fact, some companies have learned a term that in customer?s eyes is a poor excuse for customer service. That term is ?Out of Scope.? A developer who has a system as their primary system and a secondary system for development, for example, finds out that he can call in his primary desktop for service, but the secondary desktop, even if it has the same operating system is considered out of scope. And the customer service representatives make it abundantly and abruptly clear that they are out of scope.

    At the Cable and Telephone company level, it is generally a matter of years of miscommunication that continues to this day. Systems that are supposed to be in use to schedule service as well as ensure customer satisfaction has become part of the cost cutting measures, with that, many of the customers internal and/or external are alienated. A disconnect that measures the size of the continental rift has occurred where a customer calls in and the overpaid script readers are giving general non-descriptive and non-helpful assistance.

    SunCom, one of the nations more aggressively marketed cellular phone companies has a saying for no-nonsense. ?Why is it that a $39.95 plan for wireless companies cost you $46?? Harry Connick Jr. asks of the audience. However, with their plans, they have been sued over and over again about hidden charges. So now you see the disconnect. What the companies market the item for in its capabilities, and what actually is done.

    Customer complaints have grown over the last several years, so much that it has become apparent that the focus on companies is to gather new customers rather than to ensure the satisfaction of the old. The fact of the matter is that angry customers can be a death sentence to new products and services. When a customer is rubbed the wrong way, the tend to tell their friends and family and nearly everyone around them about how bad the service actually was. In fact, since most if not all companies tie their customer satisfaction rates to their financial bottom line, it continually has been cut.

    According to the Washington Post article by Yuki Noguchi, Claes Fornell, a University of Michigan Professor states: ?They just don?t have much sense of how to keep customers satisfied? When consumers have no choice, (and) when they can?t penalize companies for bad service, there?s no incentive for the supplier to improve service.?

    Has the Information Technology sector fallen victim to stupidity such as ignoring customers because we lock them into contracts? If so, we wonder why there is so much change in the industry when a multi-million dollar contract is lost.

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    • #3068213

      Death of Service=Death of Service Economy

      by too old for it ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      “… the focus on companies is to gather new customers rather than to ensure the satisfaction of the old.”

      And any old-school marketing teacher will tell you that it is so much easier to keep the customer in front of you rather than to go searching for new ones.

      “A disconnect that measures the size of the continental rift has occurred where a customer calls in and the overpaid script readers are giving general non-descriptive and non-helpful assistance.” … in some language other than standard english.

      If you are going to provide service in this country, could you at least speak the language well?

      The bigger problem is that this country has eschewed manufacturing, mining, and all those other careers easily performed with mediocre educationa nd limited skills. Instead we have hitched our collective wagon to the service economy model and we now find ourselves rapidly heading for a time when the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl Years will be remembered as the Good Old Days.

      • #3068198

        Birth of Service Economy = Death of Service

        by wayne m. ·

        In reply to Death of Service=Death of Service Economy

        Actually, I agree with Too Old For IT’s comments. I just could not overcome my need for wordplay.

      • #3054621

        HUH??

        by richards_unsubcribe ·

        In reply to Death of Service=Death of Service Economy

        “Overpaid script readers”… who may or may not be able to speak English?? The reason they don’t speak good English is that they are offshore “script readers”… customer service ?script readers? in India or the Philippines, are paid a small percentage of what they would get in the US or Canada. The standard corporate salary structure will always remain the same. CEO’s will rake in tens or millions and their bottom feeder employees always make a pittance.

        The Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) recently fined the Western Canadian Phone Company Telus for poor customer service. The same should occur in the States. Telus is now locked in bitter strike with their unionized employees over contracting out, job security, “offshore” transfer of customer service jobs and similar operational issues. Wages are not an issue. Telus wants implement the Wal-Mart program… minimum wage… on call 24hrs a day available at a moment?s notice or your fired, with no benefits or job security. This is the goal of the Telus upper management. No wonder the CEO of Telus, who makes millions a year in salary, has to travel with 2 bodyguards wherever he goes. He may be popular with the shareholders but not with his own employees.

    • #3068162

      Short term costs vs. Long term goals

      by dmambo ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      Companies, especially IT related companies want to out source service to reduce short-term costs. If it’s telephone support, on-site tech support, or even marketing, many companies “partner” with other companies to get it done. When there is a service-related complaint, just communicating that complaint to the appropriate source is often “out-of-scope”. Instead of actually hearing the cries of the consumer, the partners providing the service just see aggregated data, often poorly catagorized. This type of data is difficult to react to effectively even if the partners are making an honest effort.

      In the 80’s, I worked for a manufacturer that housed it’s consumer complaint department on-site. Managers, supervisors and operators on the production floor got the actual transcripts of the consumer complaints. Made a huge impact on our focus on quality.

      • #3054754

        reward systems promote bad service

        by bsumner ·

        In reply to Short term costs vs. Long term goals

        Persons working for “service” companies tend to follow the gold. So long as the executives of these companys continue to measure and reward the acquisition of the quantity of new customers significantly higher than retention and satisfaction of existing customers, nothing is likely to change–regardless of what is said in the tv commercials, annual reports, and quality awards.

      • #3054735

        Friday’s Earnings Guidance vs. Long term goals

        by too old for it ·

        In reply to Short term costs vs. Long term goals

        It seems most if not all service companies focus on weekly IBITDA (Income Before I Trick Dumb Auditors?) rather than long term growth.

        Put another way: The average strategic planning only goes no further than Friday?s earnings guidance, vaporware if there ever was any.

      • #3054581

        i hear your pain

        by david.laur ·

        In reply to Short term costs vs. Long term goals

        i work customer service as an outsource rep for a MAJOR wireless telephone provider. and i see poor customer service and the results of that service every single day.

        however because i dont work directly for the cellphone provider, i get paid much less, work with systems that are limited in scope (we dont have the power that a direct rep does) and much slower (try accessing up to 6 secure databases remotely at the same time as 150 of your co-workers)

        i see accounts so butchered that it can take several weeks to straighten them out and its mostly because as an indirect rep, i cant actually do a lot of the things i need to do. so i have to transfer the customer to another dept, or submit an escalation request to corporate, etc. also the cellphone companies “automatic” billing system simply doesnt allow instant adjustments for even the most basic of errors. so changes can only be applied as adjustments on the bill.

        also the security steps we take complicates the matters even more. people call up and do not want to verify their number or information, sorry cant help you. i dont care how much you bitch or who pays the bill. we are doing it for your protection only, we certainly are not doing it to irritate you. also realize that as an outsource agent, your call is transfered to our company because the cellphone provider is too busy and they assume you dont want to wait any longer than you have too and they system does not transfer the number you punched in. so complaining about the fact that you already punched in your number aint gonna do you any good.
        also, FCC regulations prevent us from releasing certain details of your calling record. so dont ask us, we cant tell you. what i would like to say is that if if were that important to you, you should have taken steps to save that number when it came in. your cellphone provides several options for you to do so that are frequently only one or two step processes

        • #3127885

          davi laur – i am searching for you

          by mayabosch ·

          In reply to i hear your pain

          hi david,
          I know that you know who Maya Bosch is, so please write her back to missny120587@aol.com.
          She is very sad that and really depressed, that she never heard of you since 1996, she really tried to get in contact with you. so please write back!
          thank you!

      • #3046836

        So true….and so sad

        by diana o ·

        In reply to Short term costs vs. Long term goals

        When I worked for the “huge telecom conglomerate” creating customer documentation for technical customers, I found out pretty quickly that we were *not allowed* to talk to the customer at all! We could not test the documentation with them to see if they understood it, or if it needed changes. The only way around this was to get the Help Desk folks to review the docs as SMEs. That worked, sort of, because the Help Desk knew what the user’s were asking about, and therefore, what areas in the doc needed updating.

        Unfortunately, when they outsourced the Help Desk, no more subject matter experts.

        Know what has the most effect on keeping Support costs down? Good documentation.

        Their support costs must be pretty high now.

      • #3133433

        Made me sick

        by hetzel ·

        In reply to Short term costs vs. Long term goals

        Due to signed nondisclosure paperwork, I can’t name companies but the trend is ugly. Too many companies, who can’t be punished and the customer is locked into don’t care even though they proudly proclaim customer satisfaction. As an example, one group of customers would file a claim and if it were on the wrong form, all we were allowed to do is deny the claim. We weren’t supposed to tell the customer the correct form to use. Corporate success was measured by the number of new customers added each year, retention wasn’t important as long as new > loss. Fortunately, I’m in a position to be able to simply walk out without serious income consequences and I did.

    • #3054748

      Reply To: From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      by haydt1 ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      Here’s the problem from an IT field tech point of view. Noone wants to pay for good service. Customers want to cut corners on thier in house IT staff and then expect thier hired consultants to act like Regular employees. Companies need to learn they can’t have it both both ways. If I am a contractor/consultant and you hire me to perform a particular task than anything beyond that contracted task is OUT OF SCOPE. Otherwise, hire me, put me on payroll (at a competetive wage) and pay my benefits and taxes.

      It’s not my fault that you underestimated your requirements and understaffed.

      • #3054694

        Much more basic

        by reed ·

        In reply to Reply To: From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

        While I agree with haydt1, I think the problem is much more basic.

        When a company doesn’t care about its employees; its employees don’t care about their customers.

        My employers pay me well, and cover all of my benefits 100%. When a client complains, nithing is out of scope.

        It doesn’t stop at IT either. Have you been on the phone with your local government lately…

      • #3046917

        2 right

        by nzbn ·

        In reply to Reply To: From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

        SCOPE CREEP is the most common want of nearly every single company that you contract to they want more for less then dont want to pay for it. If they hire you they expect you to work OT with no OT Pay (Its just part of the job is the excuse)

        • #3047371

          80/20 rule still applies

          by jd_russell2003 ·

          In reply to 2 right

          bad customer service is here to stay!!!

          when only 20% of the problem solvers perform 80% of the work, there are alot of items overlooked. As our population increases exponentially the amount of workload that comprises this 80% is also increasing exponentially. This means the burden that the “true workers” are carrying is growing exponentially as well.

          Doesn’t look like this is going to change anytime soon, with all the slackers in our world.

    • #3054699

      I Strongly Agree

      by thomas.rose ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      Poor customer service has long been one of my major complaints but there seems to be no way to fight back. My wife has a Verizon cell phone with a program that Verizon axed a long time ago because it wasn’t making then enough money. She is grandfathered into this program. If she tries to get a new phone she will have to pay full price to transport the program into it. To get the phone at a far lower cost she will have to change to a program she doesn’t want. Poor treatment of a long-time customer for sure.

      This is why I remain a Tracfone customer.

      • #3054679

        Follow the intent

        by lisa545 ·

        In reply to I Strongly Agree

        This era is the result of the era when MBA’s were told that their first task in their new job wasn’t leading the company or the actual job, but to write and send out their updated resumes. You see that with Enron and others. The intent of the leaders was to enrich themselves and it showed in their choices.

        Any business person who can do basic math, but cares about the company, will make different choices…even if they have the technical skills of a dead clam. Virtually every choice, every action has an impact on the bottom line. Stupid behavior is very expensive. It wastes time and time is money.

        The service issues you’re complaining about are just trendy bad behavior on the part of senior managers who are too busy doing other things not related to the corporation’s health and bottom line. It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes.

        When you call Customer Service and are on hold for over 90 minutes and that call is going to India, let’s face it…that stupid company made a choice. Let’s all just admit that the technology used to operate those call centers is able to record virtually everything, most especially hold times. Further, there are nearly always a bunch of technical people who know how to run those reports. So even if the manager of the call center had the technical skills of a dead clam, they could ask for the report. Most often, the actual employees don’t enjoy working in an environament where they aren’t able to solve problems and they have huge wait times. They spend virtually their entire day getting yelled at. Who wants to do THAT?

        Last year, after sitting on hold for over 90 minutes in order to solve a problem with my laptop, I read an article in a strategic publication about how this computer company was a leader in customer service. I wrote to the author and explained how he could test his claims and suggested he do so. Clearly, I’d experienced absolutely none of this great customer service. The author wrote back and said that he pretty much got flamed and that lots of people had the same complaints I did. Did the publication correct their writing? No. They wrote an even stronger article about what great customer service this computer company provided by a more senior consultant. And they did that with the ability to test their claims. They did that even after being flamed. The author said that he forwarded all of the emails to the CEO of the company. Nothing happened. The company still advertises their great service. They continue to market what their technical staff, as well as their customers, already know they don’t have. That’s a choice. Follow the intent.

        • #3054661

          The intent…

          by ex-military nut ·

          In reply to Follow the intent

          I loved your response! Like many other postings, senior management is the problem because they are only concerned with that bottom dollar and how they can get it in their pocket. In a word, it’s greed!

        • #3047066

          CEO aren’t totally to blame

          by maldain ·

          In reply to Follow the intent

          You can’t completely lay all responsibility for poor service on CEO’s. It comes from a shareholder expectation that the value of the stock will always rise. The CEO answers to the Board of Directors and they answer to the shareholders. The problem with customer service is it’s immediate cost vs an uncertain payout.

          The funny part is the pay out isn’t all that uncertain it just takes longer than most shareholders are willing to wait before they dump the stock as a turkey which upsets the board which gets the CEO fired. You have to understand what motivates corporate officers. It’s pleasing their bosses so they can get those fat bonus checks and stock options. Those come from the shareholders not the customer.

        • #3046971

          CEOs aren’t totally to blame?

          by rm3mpc ·

          In reply to CEO aren’t totally to blame

          Maldain discusses the food chain of responsibility, and how the
          poor senior management is responsible to directors,
          stockholders, etc. and is just responding to their needs.

          What would happen if some CEO plopped a long-term plan in
          front of the board of directors showing that in 3 years, the
          company would own its market space by providing the best
          service in its industry? Couldn’t the MBAs tweak the numbers to
          support such a position?

          There’s a lot of truth in what was said, but by setting the proper
          expectations, the game can be switched to a different playing
          field.

          Would you switch to a company that charged 10-20 percent
          more for a basic product or service, but gave you the best
          warranty of its kind and gave you the best support available?

        • #3046828

          CEO’s

          by lisa545 ·

          In reply to CEOs aren’t totally to blame?

          I liked your response. Holding stockholders, directors, etc. responsible is futile. SOMEONE needs to step up to the plate and if you can’t expect the CEO to do it by example, then you can’t ask it of the employees either.

          Once a company decides they don’t need to provide good service to the customers, it just spreads throughout the rest of the company. Larger companies have layers of customers, both internal and external. Ignoring an internal customer can lose the company millions of dollars. We watched a Fortune 100 company lose millions of dollars multiple times because they didn’t understand why a specific piece of equipment was so important in the middle of the night. All of Asia was down during peak periods. Asian sales must have been raving. You can’t write business and meet sales quotas when you don’t have connectivity to the network. No one wanted to come to work in the middle of the night.

          You don’t actually need long-term plans to justify the expense. Short-term losses are massive enough. It’s just that no one ever admits to that. When you look at the operations of some of these stupid companies, you wouldn’t need to increase cost by 20%. Just stop the extravagant waste.

          I also liked your point about setting proper expectations. You’re right, the game can be switched to a different playing field. I propose that you underestimate the gains associated with doing that. I think that setting proper expectations across the board, building a unified team would allow you to not only take large market segments, but be disruptive across an entire industry. Why? It’s easier to retool than change a set mind. Entrenched giants behaving badly wouldn’t be able to compete.

        • #3047398

          CEOs

          by rm3mpc ·

          In reply to CEO’s

          I worked for a software developer some years back. I got tapped
          to make sure that product shipped the first week I was on the
          job. It was a revelation. Every group (analysts, programmers,
          tech support, operations) was pointing the finger at every other
          group for every problem going. Shipments started Saturday
          morning.

          The Senior VP took me out to lunch and asked for my
          impressions. I told him that I thought a Japanese firm looking to
          invest would do well to start a competitive business, with the
          premise that the first version of the software would be very
          feature-limited, but the first principle would be that things
          would work reliably no matter what, and adding features would
          be driven in a logical fashion, not by the newest prospect’s
          demands. I said that I believed in 3 years, they’d own the market
          because their system would… just work.

          I was put in charge of coordinating the next release. We had
          status meetings every day, endless lists to be coordinated. It was
          the only product release that EVER went out on schedule, and
          while it left some things to be desired, the quality was head and
          shoulders above anything that went out before.

          It’s too easy to blame the grunts. Some of them do indeed
          deserve to be taken out and shot. But my (lengthy) experience
          says that problems trickle down from the top. And that’s where
          the solutions have to originate.

          P.S., I spent five years working for Digital Equipment
          Corporation, and there’s a perfect example of a company that
          flushed itself down the toilet. They went from surging number 2
          in the industry to irrelevant seemingly overnight.

        • #3055261

          You are so RIGHT, Dealing with a Bad CEO now, I’d like to pull thru phone.

          by marsinko ·

          In reply to CEO’s

          Lisa545, you are so right that CEO’s should be held accountable and be the backbone AND be the example to the other employee’s. I’m just now coming in to this Blog. It caught my I today in email and I had to chime in. I’m deal with a customer service issue right now and have already went up the ladder and I finally was able to get my hands on the phone number of the CEO. I’ve made several calls and left messages regarding a problem within his company- but didn’t say that in the phone messages that I left for fear that I would never get a return call. Well, it didn’t matter. The CEO just will not return calls and from what I’ve heard from other people regarding this CEO and his company, there customer satisfaction and service is absolutely at the bottom of there list and now I believe that even more. To bad that we can’t pull some of these jerks through the phone if they ever called.
          It absolutely slaves me that the way business’ and companies are just barely keeping the heads afloat in todays market, that they would bend over backwards to stay in business, keep customers happy, gain repeat customers and GROW.
          I guess what it’s boiling down to nowadays is that they just don’t gave a crap anymore. If it’s not actually hitting them in the wallet personally, then it’s not there concern. The CEO’s keep getting their paychecks, but the Stockholders and the Customers are the ones left suffering. Am I right or what?

        • #3055831

          Bad CEO

          by lisa545 ·

          In reply to You are so RIGHT, Dealing with a Bad CEO now, I’d like to pull thru phone.

          Are you sure you want to talk with the CEO? Some can be fairly isolated even from their own people so they wouldn’t even know who to ask for help themselves. And if you have a technical issue, they may have very little knowledge of the technology. It may be faster to find a customer service person who will at least try to be helpful. If they don’t know the answer, ask them who they know who might know the answer and ask them to forward your contact information. I have been able to reach 2nd and 3rd level engineers by doing this. The down side is that you can become a test case and will have to devote significant portions of your own time troubleshooting your problem. Be prepared to invest the time. Otherwise, it won’t work.

          Bad CEOs should come with warning labels just like other biohazards. Within their own corporate culture, their staff probably already knows that and warns new employees. The CEO is probably busy golfing with the directors and the staff may want to keep him and them out on the greens and out of trouble. If all of the calls roll to voicemail, the staff probably purchased a cell phone plan with very limited coverage. Or they gave the CEO a Blackberry and didn’t turn it on for him. He’s probably wondering why things are so quiet.

          Usually every company has at least one person who knows something and still cares. Try to find that person.

          I feel your pain. Best of luck in your quest for justice and service!

        • #3046801

          Only when poor service bites them in the ass..

          by praetorpal ·

          In reply to Follow the intent

          .., will companies start to respond. Studies have shown that a happy customer tells 3 people, a dissatisfied customer will tell 20.

          What we need is an on-line equivalent of the better business bureau where people can list their complaints, with their names and details,( as I think anonomous complainers are cowards, or could be the competition trying to taint them) as a permanent record for all to see. They could send the company an electronic notice that the complaint has been posted to yourservicesucks.com or something like that. The company could be given the chance to respond or explain their side.

          On the opposite side of the fence, good service and companies should be commended and recognized.

        • #3047400

          They bite back

          by rm3mpc ·

          In reply to Only when poor service bites them in the ass..

          The idea of an online better business bureau is appealing. Some
          of this sort of thing goes on now (product and provider reviews).
          The limiting factor, I believe, is lawyers. One of these
          corporations is going to up and sue some poor slob broke, and
          that will break the dam for a whole new class of harrassing
          lawsuits.

    • #3054693

      one attempt

      by help1 ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      I read in the Jamestown, NY Post-Journal that local citizens gathered signatures on a patition that was going to be sent to Cellular One. They are feed up with access, doped connections, etc and want out of there contract with no penalty. This was last week that I read about this.

    • #3054691

      Poor service in IT is nothing new.

      by conquistador ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      I’ve been working in the IT industry for over 25 years, and I can tell you from experience that poor customer service in the IT industry is nothing new. How the industry has been able to get away with it for so long is a mystery to me.

      • #3054684

        The fix may actually be easy…

        by hebbeson ·

        In reply to Poor service in IT is nothing new.

        I happen to agree with both sides of the scenario here. It seems that in our economy, cost is the driving factor (just listen to the reports of how the gas prices are going to go up as a result of the hurricane hitting land this morning). Management has to try to associate a value to everything and cut costs on the ‘not as important’ items.
        There is a fundamental practice that is often being overlooked with regards to an existing customer-base:
        We spent all that time winning over those customers with out services and integrity, why not prove those qualities when there is a problem? It is quite easy actually. I agree with the post that it is easier to keep your existing customer-base than it is to win over new customers. Additionally, the better service we give our existing base, their word-of-mouth recommendations to their friends and other businesses will reap many new customers. We seem to forget that part; negative word of mouth is much more damaging than not getting new customers. Sure, we need to expand our customer-bse and get new customers, but if you upset the ones you already have, you have potentially damaged the chance to win the very customer you are setting up an appointment with this morning.
        Some of these managers and ‘marketing experts’, simply do not understand the scope of what our customer service duties really entail and put a generic description to it. That is too bad. You are not going to let a plumber install your home-audio system are you? It is kind of the same thing.
        By and large, I also agree that if we were contracted to do a specific task, that we perform that task. Sometimes, we have to ‘value add’ some extra stuff in there though. It is partly because of the low tech-service rates put into effect by the larger service companies, often having models run by the ‘marketing experts’ that assign a rediculous cost for a particular service. If you are an in-house tech or not, going above and beyond the call of duty may be more of a personal goal in doing more, and keeping your customers happy. It is nice to receive the perks of that type of service. They are always going to call on you, knowing that you will get the job done. They come to rely on you and that is a good thing; employees talk between one another and words gets to management, especially around raise-time. Additionally, at least for me, going above and beyond the call of duty ensures my customer base will always come to me when problems arise.

        That is the whole of it…….

    • #3054680

      Competition is the only solution

      by karlt ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      SBC telephone and DSL service is a perfect example of the anti-service attitude. It is reflected also in their Cingular operations (60% owned by SBC). They have gained many new customers this past year; yet their total net gain is negligible because of the high turn over of disatisfied Cincular customers. Verizon is rapidly gaining on them simply because Verizon has a much lower ratio of disatisfed customers, so when they attract a new customer, he is much more likely to stay with them next year.

      And people are bailing out of land line services from SBC, despite the fact that that is much harder to do, but with the advent of improved VoIP, if customers have cable, they are switching and “firing SBC” as one man put it who e-mailed me about his experiences with SBC after reading about *my* experiences with SBC in my “SBC Service Review” at:

      http://www.karltipple.com/sbc.html

      Yet SBC, despite repeated letters to their CEO, and their own pathetic performance (which their CEO had to defend against angry stockholders last spring) seems totally unwilling to do anything about it. I assume that is because he is just one more CEO, that with a sufficiently large “golden parachute” can afford to take the chance of running his company into the ground and then bail out, as has happened (and is happening) all the time to large companies.

      KarlT

    • #3054673

      Good Service Costs Money

      by danbl5 ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      I’m working with many telecomunication companies in many countries, mainly Europe, as an architecture consultant. In my position I see and hear a lot about customer service. For a company to provide good customer service it needs to accept two things: one, good service brings you more business in the long run; second, better service costs more money, sometimes much more money.
      Many of the managers I met are not interested in the long term satisfaction of the end-customers. Such managers serve a ~2 year period in their position before they move to another one or to another company and the key to their bonus is short-term success and short-term profit. Nobody gets a bonus for keeping customers satisfied for years, simply because no manager stays in same position long enough to get a bonus for long-term satisfied customers. This is also why nobody measures clients satisfaction over years but only for the short-term.
      The second issue is that better service can be provided only by a more professional person (and not by an automatic answering system) and such a person costs double or triple the amount companies are willing to pay for such a position.
      Of course, the telecomunication companies use many tricks to get more money, like hiddeen charges, charges payed to a “3rd party”, long term contracts that can not be changed, etc., but they succeed only because the existing laws allow them to behave like this.
      And let’s also remember the end-users, the small customers. I looked at many statistics from call centers and the interesting part is that the end-users who complain a lot and who move from one company to another twice a month are the same persons over and over again. Many companies prefer to let such “serial complainers” leave them and complain to the rep. of another company. These “serial complainers” do not bring much profit anyway, more likely they create losses.

      The whole industry is changing towards less service and more sales and everything is measured in terms of “here and now”. “Later” is somebody’s else problem.

      • #3054669

        Walmart

        by wdewey ·

        In reply to Good Service Costs Money

        There is a reason why Walmart is so huge. Average consumers don’t use customer service as a reason for choosing a particular vendor. I think customers caused the death of customer service because they were not willing to pay for it. I am interested to see how many average consumers are willing to pay for the computer support contracts that many vendors are starting to offer instead of including it with the price of the PC.

        Bill

        • #3046792

          This is exactly right

          by dmambo ·

          In reply to Walmart

          We get what we pay for. We buy the cheapest crap we can get and they’ll end up making it in China and supporting it in India to give the customer what he wants.

        • #3047397

          What’s the point?

          by rm3mpc ·

          In reply to Walmart

          Why pay for a support contract for the PC when viruses and
          spyware are going to wreck the system long before the hardware
          can fail?

        • #3055526

          Why

          by wdewey ·

          In reply to What’s the point?

          I think that it’s for general support which may help them with more than just hardware issues. It at least gives people a contact number that may be able to direct them to different resources without costing them $50-$80 per call.

    • #3054670

      Symptom of a greater problem!!

      by ex-military nut ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      Let?s play devil?s advocate for a moment:

      How many times can you kick a dog before the dog bites your leg? The same principle applies to a service industry.

      Granted, this is an IT forum. However, bad customer service is everywhere!

      In my line of work, I take responsibility for my product (product being defined as anything I do as a representative of my employer). If a customer has an issue that needs to be addressed, then I will address all related issues to the best of my ability or direct them to one who can. Bottom line here: If my customer isn?t happy, then I haven?t done my job nor earned my paycheck. Notice that last part. Compensation is earned, not given! Those in a service oriented environment need to always keep that in the back of their mind!

      Now, flip the coin:

      As a customer, I make it my duty (Yes, duty!) to inform management (immediate supervisors all the way to corporate HQ) when their service is “less than adequate.” Any service – regardless of the product – has a standard for that product. If it is not in accordance with the published or otherwise acceptable standard, then the management needs to know of the problem so they can fix it! Likewise, if the product exceeds that standard, management also needs to know.

      All too often, the only feedback given to those who provide a service is in the form of a complaint. The praise for doing the right thing (or exceeding it) is non-existent. For that, I lay the blame squarely at the customer?s feet! If a customer accepts mediocrity, then mediocrity is what customers get!

      My general observation is that society as a whole is responsible for the sad state of customer service. You want better service? Say something! If you already do, keep it up.

      Here’s a thought:

      Treat people with respect! Don’t assume anonimity!

      • #3046940

        Customer Service

        by danbl5 ·

        In reply to Symptom of a greater problem!!

        I fully agree with all you have said.
        On the other hand, although sadly to say, but the issue of bad customer support is a cost problem. All companies reduce the availability and professional level of support simply because it costs too much, and no customer is willing to pay the extra 20%-30% for a good and long-term service support. The competition is bringing the prices down but it is also the competition that cuts off the service quality.

        It is generally accepted that competition is good for the end-customer but this is true only to a certain point. After that, the only way for a company to remain in business is to cut costs and cutting costs starts with the service, man-power, outsourcing and off-shoring, lower quality of the products and services they sell, and maybe shutting down in the end. Competition creates a situation where it is cheaper to buy a new product every 2-3 years then pay the extra cost of service. Wild competition creates a situation where the end-user losses more than he gains, in the long term.

        Under the given circumstances, I can think of only one way for the end-customer to behave: If you need a piece of equipment buy the best of the brand you can afford so you will not need service or support for at least 3-4 years, and be prepared to buy a new one after that period. If you buy a service, like a cellular price-plan, buy the simplest one available. Choose a service where you pay only for what you use. Do not accept monthly costs which are not directly connected to the quantity of service you use. Do not buy insurance for services and equipment; in the long run it is not worth it. Always remember that when a company offers you “the best offer for you” it is usually the best offer for them; the best offer for you is the one they hardly mention.
        And, as a last measure, if you are satisfied by the quality of a product or a service, stay with the company providing them and spread the news to all your friends.

    • #3054668

      Education/Crosstraining

      by pitsburghtek ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      But in all fairness, customer-service is a long-term goal. In this fast changing tech world we live in, the dollar goes to the latest new ‘gadget’ as opposed to making a quality product (including service) out of the existing technologies. Cell phone providers are providing a wireless service and there are big bucks in signing up more customers. How is it marketed? Through the latest cell phone inovations, picture phones, walkie-talkie phones, internet access, or the latest is to watch TV clips on your phone. The selling point is NOT the service they provide but the cell phones (that are made by another vendor). While working for an electronics retailer a year back, I was responsible to make cell phone sales. Well signing up a new customer was a bit wierd, because it seems that there were 2 kinds of customers. The one that had NO idea what a cell phone could do or how they worked. These customers wanted to get ‘with it’ and get a cell phone, but were absolutely afraid of what they were getting into. Getting a sale from them took several trips on their part because it was an educational process that over several trips back to my store they began to trust me and what I was informing them of. Then their was the gadget-buyer. They guy had every ‘neato’ phone gadget that ever came out and did not mind spending the money for latest and greatest PHONE. I love inovation and making the world a better place to live and using technology to make it so, but the cell phone has been morphed from placing a simple call to someone to so much more. Many customers are not ready for it and need customer service to help them through it.

      The point of the story is I began to get the idea that the american public has been duped into a sales model that benefits the SERVICE-PROVIDERS & the CELL-PHONE MAKERS. They do this through confusion, intimidation, and new-product-enticement. But not one bit of solid hard-core value driven service toward the customer. I wonder if this is part of an industry growth cycle, or do customers have to put up with it indefinitely?

      • #3054651

        No call from Nokia…

        by ex-military nut ·

        In reply to Education/Crosstraining

        I’ve been with a local cell phone service – Hargray – for over five years. Yes, I’ve changed phones when one became obsolete, one is more reliable, or when my wife needed a change in her service and got a new phone (usually the case).

        Although I’ve had a Nokia for the last three years or so, I will NOT get another Nokia. Not because of the phone itself, but because of the service (or lack thereof) from Nokia tech support!

        I took my phone in to my service provider (great customer service!) stating that I could not place any call with a “6” in its number (a corroded contact problem). The phone was sent out, a loaner phone issued, and I was on my way. Four weeks later, I’m notified that my phone was back. I went to get the phone and while there, attempted to call my work to let them know I would be a few minutes later than expected (and to check the 6). Guess what! The “6” key still did not work. No problem. My provider sent it back out and I was on my way once again. When it came back (another four weeks), I was told that Nokia refused to repair it because of “user damage.” The tip of the antenna had come off (split at the part’s molding seam). I called Nokia while in the store. After twenty minutes on hold, a first line tech answered. After explaining that the phone was sent in for the six – not the antenna, I was informed that the technician (and Nokia) refused to repair the phone because of the damage. I informed them that the tip had come off over four months prior to sending it in for the original 6 issue. I asked to speak to a supervisor, but was told that that was not possible because I had not given HIM the opportunity to help. I wasted an hour listening to this “jerk” read through a script that had nothing to do with the problem at hand. After all was said and done, he said he would relay this “problem” to his supervisor for further action and that the supervisor would call within two days. That was two weeks ago and my patience is about up. My next calls will be to the BBB, FCC, and a local news station. Hopefully Nokia will get the idea that the customer is the support of their business. Stay tuned…

        • #3054602

          Re: no call from Nokia

          by lisa545 ·

          In reply to No call from Nokia…

          You need to decide how much your own time is worth. Sometimes even when you know the game and have inside info with the company, you’re still not going to get the problem solved. I do think it’s worth reporting problems to regulatory agencies.

          We had a problem with a carrier. Some guy from a totally different state began using our address as his billing address. I called the company and told them to report this to their fraud division. We knew nothing about this guy except that his bill was coming to our house. I also dialed the cell phone number and told that guy I’d reported him. If this was a computer error, he needed to call his carrier to have his address corrected. Bills continued to come. Called the carrier and told them to stop sending them. Also contacted the post office and put a hold on mail from that company. You’d think that would be the end of the story, right? Nope. Began getting nasty collections notices. Called the collections company and got abused. Simply reported them to the State Divison of Banking. And that’s who finally stopped this. The company lost thousands of dollars. Had they done what I suggested, they would have lost probably less than fifty. It’s hard to be sympathetic with these companies when they whine about how difficult it is to compete. Do the basics. It’s that simple.

          If you want to go after a company, you need to collect the date, time, name of person, and a description of your discussion, preferably ALL of them. Most larger companies have trouble ticketing systems, so I also ask for the ticket number. In a way, that makes it easier for the customer service person. On the other hand, it freaks many of them out and makes them paranoid. How do you know that? If you can do it quickly enough, the company will still have documentation. When I report to regulatory agencies, I include that much detail. If an audit happens, the company will be pretty easy to catch. And senior managers get really cranky when you’ve got the details. Abuse always flows downhill so you can pretty much count on ruining people’s day. Small reward for your own ruined days. Without significant detail, managers can pretty much act like you’re lying or crazy or something. Detail makes audits easier. And when either senior management or a regulatory group finally decides to investigate, that investigation tends to be nastier and faster. The dirty laundry is way too apparent. This stuff is supposed to be transparent to the customer and difficult for regulatory groups.

          If you’re not going to invest in specifics, then the game probably isn’t worth playing. If I’m close to the end of my contract, I’m going to send in one complaint and switch companies. I’m also going to warn my friends. I’m probably not going to invest the time unless I’m really angry or trapped in a new contract with a big problem. I did invest in the phone company problem because we were worried about identity theft. Taking the time to detail the problem, particularly with regulatory groups limited any potential opportunities to cause trouble for us. We didn’t know the guy. We weren’t paying. Stop bugging us. Obey the collections laws. The Division of Banks agreed. And the problem went away. I wonder how much companies lose in stupid theft, though. Amazing.

          Best of luck with your Nokia problem.

    • #3054657

      A Seemingly Simple Solution, Yet Not…

      by maddogdr ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
      He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.
      He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it.
      He is not an outsider to our business. He is part of it.
      We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.

      Mahatma Gandhi?

      These are the words that hung on my office wall for over 20 years, while I managed a very successful Customer Service and Rental Dept. for Clark Equipment.
      I taught my team the values of this message and we all operated around this mindset.
      This is the very basis for achievement and growth in a competitive world, and unfortunately, that is the key field here.
      Competition drives incentive, for at least those who will be driven.
      In today’s “Bush World”, where the mindset is; go for the easy money while putting in minimum effort and force the expenses on others, we are seeing the elimination of small business and it’s quality, competitive attitudes. When the customer has no choice, then woe be the customer, because his money is virtually guaranteed to a monopoly, and service becomes a non-issue.
      It’s a sad state of affairs, but becoming more and more prevalent every day.
      Good customer service is a slowly but surely, dying concept and this will not change until the customers realize their own value and powers, and finally force a change.
      My father used to tell me when I was young and foolish and went whineing to him with one of my dilemmas…”Sounds like you have a real problem there, son…Good luck with that!”
      Where it used to really upset me at the time, his message was loud and clear.

      • #3054622

        Sure, but, $$ = power

        by systemsgod ·

        In reply to A Seemingly Simple Solution, Yet Not…

        I agree that the only way change will occur is when customers force it to happen. The easiest way to make such a change is for them to take their money elsewhere.

        Even that isnt enough, though, unless customers make such moves in large numbers. That’s the only real way they can hurt a large corporation nowadays. Smaller businesses cant afford to lose many customers, so, they have to mainatin a good level of customer service or they go broke. Large corporations, however, do business on such a large scale that they can afford to loose some individual customers and not be affected. Take a certain computer company for instance whose name rhymes with “smell”. They direct their large corporate accounts (the ones that make them big $$) to different customer service queues that are staffed by the most knowlegable (and, higher paid) English speaking representatives. Individual customers get sent to the Bangalore queue, and will likely spend 15 minutes of the call (as I did several times) just going over their customer info (name, address, phone number, etc.), before getting put on hold and recieving shabby service and an incomplete solution.

        There are many forces working against consumers these days, and most of it is done in an effort to squeeze every penny from them without giving them much in return. In the US this is coming largely from the current party in power, which has devoted itself to protecting big corporations at the expense of the consumer. The removal of consumers rights even has a name in their talking points: tort reform. The reason is obvious: by limiting the ability of the consumer to engage in expensive litigation, you can effectively remove their power to act against corrupt businesses. Businesses can then effectively abuse (and, in some cases physically harm) the consumer without fear of retribution.

        From the business perspecive it makes perfect sense to save money by charging more and simultaneously providing fewer (or, lower quality and less expensive) services. In fact, people at these companies that do that typically earn praise and promotion (and, raises, bonuses, stock options, etc.). After all, it’s really all about the bottom line.

        If you really want to know why something is done the way it is, all you usually have to do is follow the money and the answer is clear.

        I personally think greed is the new black here in Bush’s America, but, that’s just one man’s observation and doesnt mean much in the big picture.

    • #3054605

      Always a consideration but now

      by andeanderson ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      I have found the epitomy of non-existent customer service is Cingular. They have successfully manuevered themselves into the perfect position of not having to provide any service to anyone at any time.

      My latest run in with this new no-service policy is with the combined AT&T and Cingular Cellular Telephone Service.

      We purchased a Cingular service and Siemens SX66 Pocket PC with Microsoft’s Pocket PC 2003 on it. When I called for support Cingular told me they didn’t provide support for Microsoft Software. I called Microsoft and was told the usual “Your support is provided by your local vendor.” Then I tried to get support from Siemens for their SX66 and was told all support actions were to be handled by Cingular.

      Cingular support basically told me “We only sell the device it is up to you to make it work.”

      That is one of the most perfect “legal” ways for a corporation to be able to say they have “outstanding” customer service. As long as the customer doesn’t actually need and can’t receive service or support it doesn’t need to be measured or reported, giving the corporation a 100% Satisfied Customer Service rating.

    • #3047029

      Customer Service – Thing of the past

      by abnet85-techrepublic ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      There is no longer such a thing as customer service. It has been replaced by Sales. Maybe some consumers have too much money. Maybe we all don’t really know what we are buying or bought. Sales people are mindless cuecard readers. Customer “support” personel have the same affliction. No one listens to the customer when they are buying and definitely not after the sale. If you think this is only limited to Information Technology, try getting you new car fixed under warranty.

    • #3046872

      Cable Company Poor Service

      by daleapp ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      “Customer complaints have grown over the last several years, so much that it has become apparent that the focus on companies is to gather new customers rather than to ensure the satisfaction of the old.”

      I have been with the cable company a long time almost 20 years. Until this weekend never had a problem. Apparently my neighbor had not paid his/her bill in a while and they were to disconnect #301. Well they disconnected #201 instead (me) on Friday afternoon. No big deal I will call and get them to just come and fix their mistake right? Wrong!

      I called in and it took 6 hours over three days with promises of call backs from Managers. I heard it all in the six hours I was on the phone with them.

      Long and short…they have a policy for residential service its not considered an outage until at least three people call in, if you don’t pay your bill watch out you will be disconnected (rightfully so), but Charter Communications apparently does not make mistakes but will certainly try to sell you expensive upgrades to their service.

      I feel sorry for the average Joe on Charter?s network. They soon found out that I am not going to settle for this because I am not their average (not too technically inclined) customer who they can push out until Monday. I know this was their mistake. They finally relented and sent the tech out Sunday afternoon after I had to call and demand once again to talk with a supervisor.

      Recap:
      1. Charter?s Tech makes honest mistake by disconnecting #201 instead of #301.
      2. No big deal, call in and ask them to come back and fix their mistake after verifying my account was current.
      3. Am given the excuses of no we can?t page tech out for only one has to be 3 or more. And/or We don?t have anyone on that can help you. And/or I don?t have the ability to page a tech out for non-commercial issues. And/or It is against policy for me to page someone out unless it?s considered an outage (well heck they obviously believe their Techs. don?t make human mistakes).
      4. Finally got a Tech. onsite Sunday afternoon who told me it was in fact their (Charter?s) fault for disconnecting the wrong unit and that the connections were not labeled. Tech. agrees with me that it was indeed a Charter mistake and couldn?t understand why they didn?t page him out Friday.

      I believe in paying for service and people should be disconnected of they are not keeping up on their bills. Charter is entitled to charge late fees for bills that are not kept up. I also believe that Charter should charge for customer caused problems or prosecute for illegally obtaining and using their services. But this here is not the case. This could have been easily resolved by sending a Tech. out to correct another Tech?s mistake.

    • #3046848

      ~poking bubble with pin~

      by jaqui ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      There is one cable company that does work hard at the customer service, and usually does it very well.
      to the point of giving you a specific time window ( 1 to 2 hours ) where they will arrive there.

      75% of thier service techs are subcontractors.

      so, while it may be the general trend, not every company has fallen victim to this.

      which cable company.. Shaw Cablesystems, a Canadian company, with thier largest service area being here in B.C.

      http://shaw.ca is website

    • #3046823

      Call your congressman, call Ed Markey

      by gnx ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      Call your congressman. They are always looking for ways to deregulate the cable / phone industries. Hey every time Ed Markey opens his mouth, your phone or cable bill goes up. Rep. Markey is on the Telcomm commitee. Companies don’t care anymore. I had a complaint about my bill to comcast and when I said I was disconnecting they actually paid the entire bill for the month except for the federal tax.

    • #3046817

      Fire Wall gone to dust after a few short months

      by jubilee5585 ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      We agreed to receiving SBC’s internet services when they assured me that they had a triple firewall against pornographic e-mails. Their iron-clag system remained intact for only a few months. Now we receive a whole range of filfth and I am just glad we have no young children living in our home any more.
      Also SBC phone rates and plans look SO good but in reality there are always little charges each month that jack up the bill. They always seem to have a good “not reason” for these charges.
      It is time for consumers to start hollering. That is why I am glad to find The Admiral.
      ElizaBeth Jones

    • #3107894

      Philips Electronics has IBM doing Customer Service & it Sucks

      by foothillscg.com ·

      In reply to From my Blog: Poor Customer Service is the new black.

      I had a brand new Philips TV, and the tube went bad under warranty.

      We have a Panasonic TV now. We were reimbursed the cost of the TV after 8 months, but not the sales tax, delivery charges or repair service charges.

      Their customer service is provided by IBM. Need I say more? I didn’t get anything until I told them I had contacted the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Philips didn’t even contact the repair shop that they had refunded our money. Poor operation.

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