Business

The Other Side of Customer Service

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First, A Little Background

I read a lot of information online. I don’t get a paper edition of any newspaper, and I even rarely watch the news on TV because I get all I need online. I enjoy the ability to pick out the articles I want to read when I want to read them and to be able to consume information from sites I enjoy. This means I read a lot of blogs these days as well. Say what you will about the reputability of blogs in general, I find many of the postings on blogs much more than I do many news sites.

Anyway, in my perusing, I have read many a rant about terrible experiences with customer service. These range from not being able to close down your AOL or cell phone account, to a complete inability to get a service agent that has a clue about the service you are needing help with. I feel for these people, and the situations they are often describing sound horrific. I have had my own customer service woes and even one shocker that made me want to reach through the phone and strangle the rep on the other end of the line.

A Personal Example

In my extreme situation, I was trying to cancel a credit card that had gone past its promotional period and had lost its usefulness for my situation. I had other cards and this one had been for a business startup that I didn’t need to carry the card for any longer. So, like the average consumer, I looked up my statement and called the number provided. After wading through the menu options, I finally arrived at a live person and made my request to cancel the account. I expected a few “save sale” attempts, and my expectations were met. I politely declined and waited for the rep to get the job done. Instead, the rep took it upon himself to ridicule me saying things such as “So, are you just a freeloader then? You just got our card for the zero interest period and then you’re off to get another card?” I was floored. The comments continued for a bit until my blood pressure rose and I had a few choices yet calmly worded things to say back to the rep. I had never been so insulted in a customer situation before and I really was at a loss as to what to do. I requested his name, agent number and to speak to a supervisor at which time he hung up on me. I’m not sure if this was a prank or if he had not taken his medication that day, but he was way off base and out of line. I called back, got a supervisor, but there was no record of the call (of course) and I had no identifying information to help track down this imbecile.

The Customer Is Not Always Right

Throughout my life, I’ve always heard the phrase “the customer is always right” as a mantra to how service should be given by “good” companies. Though this may have worked in some previous generation, I am here to tell you that the customer most definitely is not always right; in fact, in my industry, the customer is often wrong, and not all that intelligent either. I know, that sounds pretty harsh, and I’ll give a few details to soften that statement a bit.

I work for a company that sells informational products online, most of what include a monthly membership that customers can keep for as little or long as they want. We offer a free 14-day trial on most of our offer pages that allow the customer to check out what we have and decide to keep it or not. We make this very clear in the process that if the customer doesn’t want to keep the product, cancel (by phone, email or online) and they are charged nothing more. If they want the product, they get charged automatically each month until they cancel. Think of Columbia House Records, BMG, a monthly gym membership, etc. Not that hard to understand, right? Apparently not.

We get the craziest people calling, irate that they have been charged for a membership, and they have the widest variety of excuses, claims and outright lies they give to try and get their money back. We have come to know that these customers usually fall in one or more of the following categories:

  • Forgetful – they don’t remember what they sign up for online
  • Fraud – the favorite among most is to claim that they never signed up for this and someone has stolen their identity (even though we have all their info correct, even the IP address of their ISP that points right to them has actually done this)
  • Scammers – those that are trying to get something for nothing with online offers, or even worse, try to trick you into giving a refund when they have also charged back the transaction to try and double dip against the company to get some “free money”
  • Angry people – will try to bully or scare you into refunding everything ever charged because of how angry they are
    Bluffers – threaten legal action of every possible kind to get their $1.87 shipping fee back
  • Selectively illiterate – they can’t read the important facts of what they are signing up for, but they sure can pull out that credit card and enter the number into the right boxes
  • Imposters – will act like they are someone else, such as a bank manager, police officer, etc. to try and sound official to get you to refund fees for the “victim” they are helping
  • Victims of a disaster – some major catastrophe in their lives has happened, so you must feel obligated to give them a refund on anything you ever charged them.
  • Liars – fall into any of the above categories, but they can get even more creative when pressed for details.
    The list can go on, and on, and on, and you get the idea.

The Vocal Minority, Again

To temper the above description, I happen to know we hear from the lively, noisy with apparently the time on their hands to check their bank statement daily go to battle with customer service over a few bucks, but not enough sense to use that time to actually track the obligations they signed up for. We have thousands of clients, and the majority of them either a) cancel using one of our easy options, typically online or by email, during the trial period if they don’t want the product or b) use the product for as long as they want and then cancel when they are done. Who we hear from are those that simply do not want to take responsibility for their actions and want you to “make it right” by giving back the money rightfully charged to them because of their choice to buy something.

These people drive me, and our entire customer service department crazy, but they are 99% of the people they get to deal with. You may wonder why it bothers me because I don’t work in customer service; my office is right next to them though, and I often overhear the conversations or the summary they share with each other on the particularly ridiculous gems.

More to Share

So, one series of posts I’d like to start sharing are some of these “gems” as I call them. Where possible, I might even share some recordings of the really good ones, but we’ll see on that. Just the summary alone should be comical enough that you’ll enjoy reading them. Either that, or you’ll simply shake your head at the type of people we get to hear from.

How these people are ever given the ability to make financial transactions is beyond me.

James

James Deakin lives in California USA. He is an author of two famous novels, Rage of Angels and When Tomorrow comes. He is also the founder of classof2k9.com