Apple is a religion and the Apple Store is its church. The Sydney Apple store, on George Street, is a particularly large version of this church.
You know how people in cults and Sci Fi movies always wear clean, mono-coloured clothing. Bing, that’s the Apple Store.
You know how churches are always big and bright and filled with sickeningly happy people. Bing, the Apple Store again.
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People love to complain about the customer service we get here in Australia. In general though, I think it’s pretty good. Especially after spending time overseas where attending to a customer sometimes looks like it ranks below flirting with co-workers or reading the paper.
But do you reckon customer service is now going one step too far. To me, Aussie businesses are going to the extremes of refined customer service when all we really want is the elusive middle ground.
On one hand there is the long-winded and irritating, small-talk fuelled barrage of over-customer service. The one where the kid on the other end of the phone asks for your whole life story.
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The Communications Alliance and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association got one thing right in their recent assessment of Australian “customer management”; there are a significant number of “problem areas” in their industry but they’ve got nothing to do with our collective inability as customers to understand “how things work”. Customer service dropped dead in this country a long time ago, we just took too long to see the warning signs.
Consumer affairs writer, Natasha Bita reported in yesterday’s Australian that although they admit to having a problem with keeping their customers happy, Australia’s telcos are refusing to agree to legislation that would bind them to “minimum levels of customer service” for fear it would make them “inefficient, confusing and undesirable”.
That’s an interesting choice of words for an industry that received 215,154 complaints to the Ombudsman from consumers last financial year. Not to mention a fairly apt description of the current status quo.
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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.
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An open letter to Mr. Greg Bartlett, Chief Executive St. George Bank. Dear Greg,
I used to like St. George. I liked his work against that dragon back in the day, I liked the fact that they let my footy team win the 1975 Grand Final, I like Julie Anthony – I’m pretty sure my mum has some of her records.
I don’t like your bank’s customer service phone line any more.
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According to numerous make-believe statisticians, there’s a 99.9% chance that you think banks are bastards. This obviously means whenever you see a bank advertisement, you’ll roll your eyes thinking, do they actually do half of the things they promise to do?
Here at The Punch, we’ve done the hard work. We visited five of Australia’s major banks in a “taste test” of their front-line customer service, to see whether it fit with the claims of their multi-million dollar marketing campaigns.
Is it scientific? Not at all. Fair? Nope. And it doesn’t review or take into account specific product details - so you can’t tell from this bank which suits your needs best. (David Koch addresses some of those questions in his first column on The Punch today here.) But it does paint a picture of actual service received. And the winner is ...
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How long have you been with your bank? When was the last time you switched all your accounts to another bank?
If you’re like most Australians the answer will either be “never” or “years ago”.
And there’s your reason why bank service will never be quite up to scratch. It’s us. We’re bank suckers. We talk about how banks treat us, and the poor level of service, but that’s all we do. Talk.
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