groupThere is nothing and I mean nothing that frustrates me, ticks me off, and causes me to stop using a product faster than dealing with the people on the “customer service” lines of businesses. I don’t know about you, but whenever I have an issue and call one of those numbers I think my body and mind are conditioned to automatically go into fight-or-flight mode.

For instance, I purchased a product on auto-shipment in December (it is so much easier and cheaper to have the product shipped every month than to have to remember to order it). So I waited for my product to arrive in January. It is now February and the product has not arrived. So I decided to check on my order via the website. There’s no order on autoship. I thought perhaps I didn’t sign up for it; I should have called, but it was late. So I went with the info on my account and put in place a new autoship order … I looked at the screen and it wasn’t on autoship either … or so it would seem. I decided to call customer service. After a 30-minute wait time and a subsequent conversation with customer service, it seems I had to call back because I did have an autoship in place, but someone programmed it not to ship in January (huh?) … and then the new order, which should have also been autoshipped, wasn’t in the system. “Call back to speak to the appropriate person at 6 am tomorrow.” I wasn’t happy, but I said okay.

For any of you who know me well, I am not a morning person. But I called at 6 am the next day. The call began with the person answering the phone informing me that he was a specialist and would help me even though I was wrong to call his number (So wait a minute: I was wrong to call the number that was given to me upon order confirmation? What?). The gentleman on the other end of the line then asked why I was cancelling the order: “Well I just told you it is a duplicate order. Why do you think I am cancelling the order?” He starts to ask what was wrong with the product, what didn’t I like. It was 6:30am at that point, and my responses were becoming politely hostile (if you get my drift – no yelling, but …) I told him that I didn’t want a duplicate shipment, I didn’t want to be persuaded to keep the order, and I certainly didn’t want to be sold another product; I just wanted the duplicate order canceled. His response? “I am doing that but I have a script and I need to ask you these questions.” The reality is no, you don’t need to ask me those questions because it is simply a duplicate order. It has nothing to do with the product. I am still receiving your product. I just don’t want two orders of them every month.

I understand the intent of scripting the customer service center. I get it. But I don’t get conditioning customer service people not to think. I don’t get scripts that don’t allow the agent to make reasoned and informed if-then sequences. If I tell you I have a duplicate order, then you don’t have to ask me why I am canceling this specific order.

In recent months I have stopped using products and services because of this kind of poor customer service. I have an issue with the product and then am forced to deal with 30 layers of automated call screening to reach a live person. Then said person tells you how lucky you are that s/he is willing and able to help you, and then proceeds to try to convince you either you are wrong about the product, to buy another product, or to do something other than what you called in to do!

I have tried telling them to skip the script. It doesn’t work. I have tried to be patient and understanding that they have a script. Yet when you get customer service people who are obviously off script in other ways but still insist upon following a script … it’s not only frustrating, it’s infuriating. I don’t understand why companies spend millions getting us to buy their products and go cheap on the customer service.

The worst example I had of customer service in the past few years was with a cable company. Every few months they would visit my office and install new equipment for my business Internet (because the equipment kept failing). Finally, I gave up and moved my service to another provider. I turned in all the equipment. A few months later I was getting bills for equipment I didn’t have. I went into the brick-and-mortar store with my receipts for the equipment. They acknowledged the receipts but said the inventory numbers didn’t match, so I just needed to pay for the missing equipment (obviously that’s not going to happen). I called the company to deal with the issue. Everyone with whom I spoke acknowledged that I turned in one of each piece of equipment I was supposed to have, but the inventory tags didn’t match. I argued, “Why would I turn in equipment and keep this one piece?” They didn’t know but they were sure it was in my possession so I needed to pay for it. After several minutes of back and forth on the topic, the customer service agent said they would send someone to search my house for the equipment. What?!!!

“Ballistic” is the word that comes to mind to describe my reaction. I took to Twitter and tweeted “@XCompany wants to search my house for cable box turned in – really…” or words to that effect. I really wanted more than 140 characters, but it was safer that I didn’t have them. @XCompany’s social media team was much savvier than customer service. In less than 15 minutes, my issue over the cable box was resolved. What does that tells us?

Customer service should be about more than sticking to a script. It should be real people treating customers with care. When I call in to say I need to cancel a duplicate order, I should be able to do that, simply and easily. If I call in with a question about a product or an issue, I want the agent to listen—really listen—and hear what I am saying. Acknowledge that I am entitled to call, to ask questions, and yes to cancel an order without pushback, without delay. All I want from customer service is the same level of courtesy that was extended to me the first time I ordered. Is that too much to ask?

Copyright ©2016 Lea A. Strickland, F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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