by Mike Masnick

The Lack Of Service In Customer Service

from the where-are-the-humans? dept

We're supposed to be a service based economy with so many people employed in service jobs. If that's the case, many are wondering, why is it so damn hard to get a human being on the phone when you call customer service? Everyone has stories about insanely long hold times, being cut off, touch-tone menus that don't make sense, being trapped in IVR-hell, and my personal favorite: simply being told to call back some other time when they aren't so busy. The thing is, technology should be used to make the customer experience better. Instead, it's mostly being used to make supporting customers less expensive. Companies need to realize that customer service is not a cost center - but it's how they build loyalty and repeat customers. This isn't an anti-technology rant. There are certainly customer service technologies that do make the customer experience better. However, most companies don't seem to think through that aspect of customer service, and are only looking for ways to cut costs.

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  1. identicon
    mark, 25 Sep 2003 @ 11:30pm

    No Subject Given

    Your call is important to us, please stay on the line. What utter passive-aggressive bullshit. If my call was important to you a human being would have answered. The option tree and the 25 minute hold time are an extra helping of arrogance. Don't give me that crap about expense. Use some of that bloated CEO paycheck to hire a couple operators.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    dorpus, 26 Sep 2003 @ 12:22am


    Yes, some businesses could hire more humans.

    As a counter-point, when I complained about a mystery charge on my credit card (which later turned out to be OK), it seemed to have flagged my account on their end, so when I made an unusual purchase (enrolling for an IEEE conference), human operators called me up to ask about it. Something similar happened before too when I bought a new suit.

    This month, I had a HUGE credit card bill because of moving expenses and Berkeley tuition, but nobody has called to ask about it, since I guess enough time has passed since the complaint about the mystery charge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    westpac, 26 Sep 2003 @ 6:23am

    Re: Counter-trends

    I had that happen when I purchased some software from a company in Europe. I also came back from a vacation once and had about five messages on my machine from a credit card company who was worried because of charges on my card that in a two-day period ranged from Nashville to Rapid City, SD. I told them we went to see Mount Rushmore and they said, "oh, OK."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2003 @ 8:40am

    Outsourcing telecommunications

    What I'm sick and tired of is after waiting for umpteen God damned minutes to get an actual live human being, I'm then connected to some idiot 3rd world country person who has not mastered the English Language. Yesterday after holding for 20 minutes to cancel an order I got some idiot on the phone whose English was abhorrent. I told her to connect me to a customer service representative that speaks English. Why am I expected as the customer to attempt to interpret some outsourced telephone representatives lack of communication ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2003 @ 8:42am

    No Subject Given

    No Your Call is NOT very important to us.
    Nor do we care that you wait forever.
    My solution is to set the phone down and walk away.

    I may not get service, but I've assured I've added to their 800 # costs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    westpac, 26 Sep 2003 @ 9:37am

    Re: Outsourcing telecommunications

    what's worse is when you call someone about a legitimate problem (billing issue, etc...) and they use that as an excuse to try and sell you some more services you don't want. I called a credit card company several months ago to dispute some charges on my card and the person said "while I'm waiting for approval on that..." and launched into a sales spiel for some credit security something or other. When he was done I didn't say anything because I wasn't really paying attention, so he repeated the entire sales pitch again. This time I said "no, I'm not interested" and almost immediately he had my confirmation back. Always fun to get twice the annoyance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2003 @ 9:54am

    My 2c

    First, the metoos:

    If my call were so important, then I agree: pick it up.

    If a company outsources to India, please make sure that the rep who phones my phone can understand my regional accent, and that their accent is clear enough for my region as well.

    When I'm yelling into some third-world MBNA rep who can't figure out that I'm not Jon Watney and that maybe I shouldn't be hearing about his credit history, I think that the outsourcing to India has gone too far.

    But hey, what are we, the apathetic sheep consumer going to do about it? It's not like we're going to up and move all of our accounts, are we? Are we going to start some movement that rates banks in terms of hold times and milkshake-thick accents, and actually try to get people to abandon those banks that are the worst? Banks only hold our money in accounts as a half-courtesy, these days - look at the (dis)interest - and really don't care if we up and leave, and most of us either have decade long loans or have our money tied up on some bank's mutual funds.

    We can't easily move, and most of us instead just dread the long hold times and the painful part where we actually talk to someone. This, to us, is less work than migrating our stuff, which we should do as capitalists.

    In fact, capitalism rather depends upon us immediately voting with out feet, every day, and we don't, because it's just too painful. In this respect, and after seeing the state of our country leaders, the RIAA and the medical system, capitalism has oh, so soundly failed.

    We just don't see it yet - how do we express our distaste for society? Join another? Yeah, like we're gonna move to Mexico, but that's the thought.

    In short, then, this all may appear to be capitalism not working for us, but really it's us who doesn't work for capitalism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    mark, 26 Sep 2003 @ 12:49pm

    Re: My 2c

    You realize that if you jump credit card companies too often, your credit score goes down. Our corporate overlords don't want the sheeple getting uppity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    data64, 26 Sep 2003 @ 1:26pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Would you be willing to pay 25% higher for the product/service if a human being would always answer your call to customer service?
    The reason companies do this is sheer economics. It sucks for us consumers but just whining about it without understanding does not help.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2003 @ 1:58pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Oh bullshit.
    Where do you get your 25% figure ?
    Its so stockholders can be paid higher dividends.
    And its because Sheeple like yourself have been brainwashed into believing you deserve less than decent customer service.

    And since most of the customer non-service jobs are being farmed out to India it means that corporations are paying substandard wages to others helping to drain $$$ out of the USA.

    You have little to no understanding of sheer economics and your post points this out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2003 @ 2:01pm

    Re: My 2c

    Mark makes a very valid point.
    Your credit scores are seriously affected by jumping from one credit company to another.
    Damn us uppity Sheeple !

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Ross, 26 Sep 2003 @ 2:13pm

    Re: My 2c

    Has anyone contacted Dell's tech support for anything lately? Good luck understanding what Habib is trying to read from his manual..... (most) Everything has been outsourced to India just to save a dime and at the same time letting go of hundreds of talented personnel within the US. Now that is bullshit. All to fatten the wallets of the Executive Chair and staff because the employees still in the states don't see any increases in pay, dividends, profit sharing, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2003 @ 8:18pm

    I've got a technology that will help...

    ...it's called outsourcing to India.

    You can 100s of people on the phone for pennies on the US$ (at least for a little while longer) for the cost of a voice menu system, first tier support to screen the idiots and a competent core of folks who can actually help.

    Sorry if the news is depressing... but you need to hear it anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2003 @ 3:35am

    Re: Counter-trends

    I'm always glad when they check weird charges. They are surprised when I thank them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    ::CORY::, 28 Sep 2003 @ 8:29am

    No Subject Given

    Speaking as someone who runs a Customer Service/Tech Call Center that hasnt outsourced to India, I must say that the customer is the one who keeps the customer from receiving prompt help.

    A huge percentage of calls are a waste of time that the customers should have either: 1) have known better, 2) could have figured out on their own with a tiny bit of effort, or 3) could have figured out on their own by visiting the support site.

    Not to mention the calls from customers who are trying to use the software or service for something it wasnt even intended for and assume that since it doesnt work that it's broken.

    From my perspective if you want to help with this epidemic of being on hold for help, make sure you've helped yourself as much as possible first. If everyone would do that, then the call centers of the world would be freed up with actual problems that would require a 3rd party person to assist.

    Running a call center is extremely expensive operation that people just assume should be built into the system nowadays. Imagine for a second if the automobile industry worked this way, you're car would NEVER get fixed if you called someone each time something happened and expected them to assist you in every step of the way to repair it.

    And also remember, I highly doubt a lot of 80 year old grandmother's read TechDirt, so the reader's opinions on this site are slightly skewed to the geek side and trust me, those 80 year old grandmother's are hogging up about 90% of the call center's time and effort.

    So the moral of the story is, close your web browser, pick up your phone, call your 80 year old grandmother and fix something broke on her computer. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Mike (profile), 28 Sep 2003 @ 3:11pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    I just want to say, for the record, that my 80 year old grandmother does read Techdirt religiously (twice a day). But, that's because I write it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Paul English, 1 Dec 2005 @ 7:25pm

    The IVR Cheat Sheet

    I'm trying to collect a list of "cheats" to get you through to a human quickly. So far I have 110 approved listings with hundreds of others in queue to be verified.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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