Customer service is on hold
I reluctantly faced one of the simpler but more infuriating challenges that life throws at you. It can be summed up in three words: telco customer service. (Eds - this is a distressing column. Let’s start with some cheery hold music.)
I’ve had a mobile phone account with a leading telco provider for a number of years. Since moving to my new house over a year ago the coverage in the area has been terrible and as such I queried the problem on numerous occasions. It recently came to a head and I did the unthinkable – spent two and half hours of my life either on hold or chatting with one of a multitude of provider staff.
I spoke to iPhone, billing, the provider service centre, customer support and mobile customer support – I was flung like I rag doll around from representative to representative and each time I had to relay the same information; name, address, date of birth and nature of the problem. On two separate occasions, just when I thought I was making progress, the connection failed while I was on hold and just like Groundhog Day I was forced to start all over again.
Two and half hours that I will never get back, two and half hours that I could have been spent doing countless other more productive things. Two and half hours without a resolution to my problem.
As I watched the seconds change into minutes and then to hours, I kicked myself for being so persistent. Was the waiting worthwhile?
No. Unfortunately that made me persevere even more since I couldn’t lose valuable time for no reason. In the end however I did gave up; I was tired, pissed off and deflated.
I’m not the first one to have experienced this level of customer service, it seems to go hand in hand with many of the major institutions these days.
The simple fact is that if you want to do something that involves spending money, the customer service is efficient and well oiled. If you have a problem or God forbid you no longer want to be associated with the company in question, watch out because you’re in for a long and bumpy ride.
It feels like a scam. Why is this form of customer service so difficult, has it always been this way?
In my youth I worked for Microsoft in the inbound call centre so I can appreciate the job of the consultant, but standards have dropped since then. We were told that a customer must never be left on hold for longer than 3 mins; I was left on hold for over 7 straight minutes.
Is it poor training? One thing is for certain, it’s not consistent training. Across the many departments I spoke to, I experienced varied levels of service – some were fabulous, others atrocious. How can that exist at the same call entre?
The cynic in me says that call centres are designed to be difficult so as to deter customers from leaving or querying incorrect bills and problems. Also, given the lengthy wait times on the phone they’re designed to generate income at the customer’s expense, since they’re rarely toll free.
The worst thing of all is that we have no choice but to use them. If you discover that you’ve been charged $300 instead of $30 in your bill, where else can you turn? I would bet that many cases go unattested – who’s got the time?
Last year consultancy firm Accenture surveyed 3500 people on their customer satisfaction opinions and the results were sadly unsurprising. In retail, 60% of the people said they refused to buy a particular brand if the price was too high, but this number jumps to 75% if the service is poor. Customer satisfaction at Australian telecommunications and pay TV companies was just 17%, well below the global average of 28% . Not a wonder that the telecommunications regulator this year began an inquiry into improving the deplorable service that customers are experiencing.
Customer service levels are low in many sectors which is not only bad for the customer but equally bad for businesses. With the world financial markets still unstable, businesses need to be doing everything necessary to stay buoyant. Remembering that a happy customer is a walking advertisement has got to be a good place to start.
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