Posts Tagged ‘ customer service ’

Customer Service is Back!

…and companies like Wide Open West are leading the way.

Have you received the personal cell phone number of a Comcast service rep lately? Have you called AT&T service lately, where the very friendly customer service rep concludes each call with, “I would just like to make sure, before we hang up, that you’ve been extremely satisfied with the level of service I’ve provided.”? Have you issued a brand complaint online, only to have it quickly addressed by a customer service rep on Twitter?

Times are changing…and for the better, it would seem.

For years, the monopolistic monoliths have gained a reputation for treating their customers like numbers…nuisances, even. Poor service, bad attitudes, lack of issue resolution. This is all presuming you had the good fortune to navigate through the automated prompts by either saying or pressing 1 now, only to talk to a real live person 20 minutes into your service call.

But two things have changed:

1.) Social media has changed the customer service landscape, as what were once private service calls can quickly escalate into very public disputes.

2.) Companies like WOW have raised the customer service bar, and their legacy competitors have no choice but to follow suit.

I recently switched cable television providers. Unhappy with extremely poor customer “service” I’ve received for 20 years from what was once the only game in town, I finally got the opportunity to make the switch to a provider who would treat me with respect, urgency and interest—none of which did I ever feel was the case with my former provider.

It was a different experience from day one. I received the personal cell phone number of sales rep, who indicated right away that she would also be my service rep. She told me to call hernot an anonymous toll-free touchtone labrynth—if I were to have any questions or issues whatsoever. (I’ve already tried this out, and the conversation has been direct, instant and personal. When’s the last time you said that about a service provider?)

Once I signed on, I was not forgotten. I received this hand-addressed, hand-written thank-you note from my personal service rep at WOW:

When’s the last time your cable provider did that?

What’s nice is that it seems that the larger companies, who for years have been basking in the comfort of their own monopolies, are starting to embrace this more personalized approach to customer service. For me, though, 20 months of trying harder does not make up for 20 years of bad road. I’m going to give the new game in town a shot; the old game had plenty of chances.

Because if it weren’t for social media, or companies like WOW raising everyone else’s game, does anyone honestly believe these companies would be changing at all? See: your electricity provider.

Doubt it.


Comcast May Care, But They Suck at It

Friends and regular readers know well of my ongoing love hate affair with Comcast. You know, the company with the @comcastcares Twitter handle? It comes as no shock to any of you that my gripe is chiefly with the company’s customer service — or lack thereof — and less so with the company’s actual product offerings.

The latest chapter in this epic is as entertaining as it is sad. It all starts with an impersonal form letter I received in the mail:

Fair enough. Every company (especially those as large as Comcast) sends form letters. It’s what happened after that where the story gets interesting. (N.B.: Please understand that I am a “Valued Customer,” as the letter opens…)

Noting that this is “IMPORTANT INFORMATION,” as indicated by the bright orange call-out box with ALL CAPS, and as reiterated that there is “ACTION REQUIRED,” I take to the streets to do my part as the good customer.

I first go to the Web address they provide, and follow some simple prompts. Predictably, after filling out some basic information, I receive an error prompt reading, “This action can not be completed. Please call 1-877-634-4434 for further assistance.”

Fail #1: Fulfillment. I can’t take the easy step of completing the process online, as they suggest, but instead have to call a 1-800 number. We all know how satisfying that can be.

I call the number, like a lamb being lead to slaughter, only to be greeted by my deepest darkest fear: the automated receptionist. You know the drill:

  • Please enter your account number or telephone number listed on the account.
  • Para continuar en Espanol, oprima numero dos.
  • Please enter or say your account number [again].
  • I’m sorry, we cannot access your account. Please re-enter or say your account number.
  • Please provide your date of birth and the last four digits of your social security number.
  • Please say or enter your mother’s maiden name.
  • Please list or enter all state capitals in alphabetical order.
  • Please say or enter the Pledge of Allegiance in igpay atinlay.
  • Please state why you are such a fool for placing this call in the first place.

Eventually, I find my way through this labyrinth to its final destination: a place to order new equipment. How do I know that I NEED new equipment, you ask? I don’t. I only know that I didn’t “oprima numero dos” a few minutes ago, and for that, I’m extremely sorry.

I hang up in frustration.

Fail #2: Fulfillment (again). I didn’t ask to be a party to this. They sent me an urgent letter! And they have no customer-centric mechanism in place to respond to the action they’ve ordered me to follow!

As is my wont, I take my gripe to the people. Strength in numbers, and all of that. I post the following on Twitter:

I know I’m a baby, but it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to!

Almost as predictable as the first two failures, out of nowhere comes a Comcast, er… “care specialist” …like wind to the Armada. It begins amicably enough. She asks how she can help, which is so sweet of her…

It’s just that: I’ve seen this movie before. And I know how it ends. I wind up back at the 800 number only to throw my phone through the wall, injuring an innocent passerby outside my office. No thanks.

I’m not an expert in social media, perhaps, but I know what makes the customer happy. A public conversation about a private matter is not one of them. So I decide to direct-message this nice young lady (how do I know she is young? just wait!) to take it offline. No can do. She’s not following me.

Fail #3: Not understanding Twitter, the very medium she’s using to solve the issues of the day. What she SHOULD be doing is taking me to a private channel to resolve the issue. This starts by following me, then sending me a nicely worded tweet offering to continue the conversation via DM. From there, perhaps we exchange e-mail addresses, and get beyond the 140-character constraints. Maybe we even offer to call each other. Who knows? I just know that I do not need to flood my followers’ Twitter streams with this nonsense. And neither does she.

I even try to help her out…doing her job for her…and suggest that very thing!

What do I get as a response? Condescension and total lack of understanding:

I thought my response, while admittedly snarky, was enough to illustrate my point and put the matter to rest:

But no. We move on to the fourth fail.

Fail #4: Insult your customer.


Making a presumptive and derogatory comment about the character of the customer is not a way to endear yourself to that customer. But you would think this would be plainly obvious to a member of the “Comcast Cares” team. But I digress…

Naturally, I take offense. Do you blame me?

And now I’m REALLY doing Bonnie’s job for her!

Finally, she followed me back. And sent me a DM on Twitter. And did enough checking on me to find my phone number. To her credit, she called me and faced the music. I admit, I wasn’t polite. But I calmly explained the many and varied failures chronicled above, plus the fifth, most important among them:

Fail #5: Waste your client’s time with unnecessary and poorly conceived marketing promotions. In the end, they were just trying to sell me another digital converter. I have three. Do you think they might know that, or have a record of it when we went through this rigmarole a year ago?! I suppose I could add Fail #6: Not knowing your own customer.

But here’s the thing. It’s not just that Comcast doesn’t know their customers—they don’t understand the very premise of customers to begin with. And this is why we all root and pine for the day when a competitor can successfully come in and build the better mousetrap. As soon as we are freed from the shackles of this de facto monopoly, we will be well on our way, dear Comcast. And will you blame us?

Probably. You often do.


NOTE: I, through all of this, do not blame Bonnie for a minute. The blame belongs squarely on the shoulders of the company that trained her…the company that has fostered this customer-last culture for decades. Bonnie is but a cog in the wheel.