It’s an epidemic, a pandemic — of bad service.
Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. Because it wasn’t that long ago.
Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until about 2002. At which point everyone decided to save money by (A) “automating” customer service (B) eliminating service entirely, or (C) shipping it overseas to be handled by people who barely speak English and don’t know anything about the products. That was when you and me, the customers — we who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services — became unimportant.
That was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.
The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if possible.
All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”
Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.
My personal un-favorites include:
- Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching.
- Calls that display a caller ID as a familiar phone number, but which they’ve hacked. Sometimes, it’s your OWN number. Why would you answer that?
- Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of cancer research, who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.
- “Surveys” that are scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.
- “Discount cards” which are just another way to collect your personal information so their company can sell it. You may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.
- Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t remember the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on forever. Worse, you have to listen to the whole spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …” Recently was a year ago, sometimes even longer. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.
Many companies no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.
Our electric company used to have customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi. And no one has a real landline anymore — they are all cable lines.
If your entire life is online, it’s over when your power goes out, which is why I have real things — like books and magazines — I can use even by candlelight. Imagine that! AND I have DVDs that play when the cable is out! Whoo hoo!
Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.
Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers (one of whom is the owner and the other, one of his kids) are probably chatting on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.
There are still some good services out there. Blue Cross has one of them, by the way … and ironically, so does both Social Security and Medicare. If you bump into any others, be sure to tell them how wonderful they are. Maybe it will become contagious.