Everybody Talks About Customer Service
I spent several frustrating hours this morning trying to accomplish a couple of (I thought) fairly simple tasks.
Item 1: Change health insurance coverage. Item 2: Resolve a cable television problem.
I began by making several calls to a large health insurance company (rhymes with "glueboss") and was forced to wait on the line for some 20 minutes. When I finally reached a person, I was told, "Unfortunately our computers are down and we can't access your records." Now, I don't know about you, but to me, those are fightin' words.
The second series of calls began at 12:15 p.m. This was an attempt to change my cable service. In another time-wasting adventure, I spoke to Erica, Kelley, Raquel and Rosemary at different times.
Even while waiting, an annoying recording continued to assure me how important I was to this company. Finally, I spoke to Dan, the supervisor. That was at about 12:45, 30 minutes later. He said someone would phone me soon. I suppose it wouldn't surprise you to learn that I'm still waiting, two weeks later.
Now we're not talking here about the Glockenspiel Telephone & Telegraph Co. We're talking about an international phone service provider, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, that's recently been gobbling up cable television companies.
After these time wasters, I had to reflect on how far customer service has come in the digital age. The answer, unfortunately, is not very far. It's easy for vendors to claim they have excellent service. Few truly excel, and most barely achieve a satisfactory level of customer acceptance.
If you're a manager at an industry supplier, I urge you to phone your headquarters now. See what kind of treatment you (and your customers) are receiving. How long did it take to be connected to a real person?
Or were you obliged to remain in voice mail purgatory? Once you've tried it, you'll find out what kind of treatment your customers-the people that pay your salary, supply your benefits, etc.-and your vendors-the people who help you stay in business-receive when they call in.
With the first quarter's tightening up of the economy, which we suspect will be of short duration, industry vendors who want to be around for the recovery had best put their customer service "ducks" in line. In other words, it's time to service up or shut up.
Comments? Please contact me. We take customer service seriously.
Gene Selven, Publisher