Tag Archives: customer service

The interrogative customer service experience

Have you noticed this?

Next time you call in for customer service, you will probably be asked to have a conversation with a disembodied voice recognition system. It may even refuse to help you unless you have that conversation. The days of being given a list of numbers to push may be passing, and I at least will lament them. I’m not interested in discussions with robots, but I will follow my way through a numbered menu.

When you do reach a human being, observe this: how long are you interrogated before the person gets around to asking the reason for your call? I find this trend amazing. For all they know, I might just want the company’s mailing address, which certainly doesn’t require them to validate my identity. And yet it’s the same machinegun barrage every time, just automatic, and we put up with it.

We are the customers. We call in. First our vendors expect us to tell our troubles to a robot. Then, reading from scripts, they expect us to answer a ton of questions before they will answer a single one. It isn’t the representatives’ fault, of course; it is how they are trained. But it is affecting my business decisions, because this isn’t all right. This is like being a suspect in a police investigation, where your questions are not wanted, and where you are the one expected to be answering the questions.

Why do we take it in silent acquiescence? Why do we let cable and insurance representatives treat us like the police treat suspects?

We are a supine people.

I’m not taking it in silent acquiescence any more. If that’s just “their policy,” then fine. I also have policies, and I have every bit as much right to set policies as any corporation. My policy is that I would rather pay more to a vendor that does not expect me to have conversations with disembodied voices, and that answers the phone by introducing itself and asking why I’m calling today, or how it can help. And if they don’t like it, tough, “that’s just my policy, ma’am.”

I don’t think Warren Buffett realizes how far from his ideals Geico has fallen, but pretty soon I won’t be needing my BRK.B shareholder discount any more.

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Why I don’t take Paypal

Not long ago, I had an editorial project in which the client pretty much needed to pay by credit card. Mostly because I figured it was something I’d have to make possible from a business standpoint sooner or later, I made a commitment to signing up with Paypal to accept credit cards.

Before I’d ever billed anyone through Paypal, I came to dislike them. I had some concerns about the information they required and the steps they took to set up the account, and after a couple of dismissive phone conversations with representatives, I already doubted this relationship was going to work. However, it was a way to accept credit cards, and I had agreed to do that, so I had to hold my nose and prepare for it. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad; maybe I was through the annoying part.

Months passed, I did the work, great client relationship. Coachable author, great story, happy times. When I completed the edit, the time came to get paid. I created the invoice in the approved fashion, and my client paid promptly. The resulting fee, deducted from my proceeds, came to $50. While I had known it would be about that, I mention it to make the point: at this juncture, they are a paid service provider, and I’m paying the bill, and the question here is: what value do I get for my $50?

Paypal advised me that I could not have the money yet, but that the ‘approval’ should take 24 hours or less. It took so near to 24 hours that one suspects there was no actual process, just hanging onto the money for a day’s float. All right, fine; then I checked in, and found that I had to affirm that I’d provided the services. Oh, brother…but I did. (If I had not, does one suppose there would be a client payment waiting?) And now I am told that my funds will be available in twenty-one days.

This is what my $50 bought. It also bought a rather unhappy client, which I cannot afford. I didn’t ask about all the details, but the client said: “The thing made us practically sign away our firstborn to make that payment.” That’s not the way I treat my clients, nor am I at all happy that it was done by an agency I paid $50 to act on my behalf. I just hired service my client did not appreciate, and it reflects on me, and while I may not have dictated the behavior, the responsibility is still mine. I chose and paid the service provider.

So if you’re thinking of signing up to take Paypal, it looks like what you can expect is for your client to get a runaround, and if all goes perfectly, you can have your money twenty-two days from date of actual payment. While Paypal gets to hold onto your money for all that time, you pay them not quite 3% of your proceeds for all this great service. Just because that’s pretty much the standard Visa fee does not make this a good deal. It’s only a good deal if everyone gets great service.

To me, this wasn’t worth $50. This is the last time I am doing this, because neither I nor my client is happy.

Why don’t I just tack on a fee and keep taking Paypal? Now that would be even worse client service. “Hi. My payment provider is going to annoy you. And just to make your day even brighter, you have to pay the fee they charge.” That is exactly the screw-the-customer mentality I’ve been cursing for years in corporate America, and where the matter is left up to me to decide, I refuse to perpetuate it.

Therefore, once I get this money safely away from Paypal, I will close that account. While it would add convenience for some clients for me to accept credit card payments, the associated aggravation–including where I either choose to screw the client or get screwed myself–is not worth it for any of us.

The stock response from the is “if you don’t like their policy, don’t use the service.” Not to worry. And no, when I cancel it, I am not going to tell them why. At least, not for free.

If they want to know why, the fee is $60. And they may have their answer in twenty-one days. And I will not accept payment via Paypal.

PS: the saga continues. To their somewhat credit, I got a notice that my money would be released sooner. When I got home, I attempted it and discovered that, unless I also give them my SSN and link the account to a credit card, I can only withdraw $500 per month.

Cold day in hell before I give them one more bit of sensitive information. This is hostage-taking.

I should have all my money by March. Isn’t this just marvelous?

PPS: called to see if closing the account outright would get me paid in full. The rep seemed able to lift the $500 limit at that point. Imagine that. Suddenly I am able to ask to have all the money in my account. I have minimal faith that I will actually see it there.

If our call was really important to automated phone systems…

…they would operate something like this.

–Thank you for calling Feculent, the world leader in male bovine waste processing and distribution.

  • For English, please hold your horses.
  • Para continuar en Español, oprima ocho.
  • To hurl racial slurs at us, press nine, and leave your slur at the tone.

–Welcome to Feculent. We are committed to getting you off the phone as cheaply as possible. Please, seriously, no joke, listen to all the following options before making your selection.

1) To stab zero repeatedly until you get a human, please press one.

  • Your approximate wait time is measured in weeks. Please hold. All calls are answered in the order received.

2) To accuse us of shocking maternal relationships and prostitution, press two.

  • For haiku format, press one, and leave your message after the tone.
  • For rap format, press two, then dis us after the tone.
  • For incoherent rage, please press three, and fulminate after the tone.

3) To explain why you shouldn’t have to pay your bill, or why you didn’t, press three.

  • If you’re a deadbeat, press one.
  • If you are a flake, press two.
  • If you’re an honest person who simply would like a minor consideration based upon years of faithful patronage, press three, and our Universal Loathing Technicians will be with you shortly.

4) To fire us, press four.

  • If you are really calling to beat us up for a better price, press one.
  • If you just want us to drop dead, press two.

5) To order new product, or to hear more about our products and services, press five.

  • To convince us you’re serious, press one.
  • If you just thought that was a good joke, press two.

6) If you are a bored, lonely senior citizen with a wandering mind, and just want to talk someone’s ear off, press six.

  • If you are harmless, press one.
  • If you are a perv, press two, and our Pervert Task Force will help you.

7) If you plan to just demand to speak to a manager, and do not yet realize that you will just be handed to another random person who will play the role, press seven.

  • If you are relatively calm, press one.
  • If you are close to a stroke, press two, and our system will dial 911 for you.

8) If you have no sense of logic, and would like to be connected to someone who can only repeat the same phrases until you hang up in frustration, press eight.

  • For someone with a heavy Indian accent, press one.
  • For a heavy Filipino accent, please press two.
  • For an Idaho accent, please press the potato key.

9) If you are calling with any sort of positive message at all, press nine to be connected to a representative who will change your mind.

  • If you have already changed your mind, press one.
  • If you are a Pollyanna who really believes it will matter to us, press two. Someone will be with you shortly.

#) To hear all that crap one more time, press pound.

Do you promise not to put my tires on someone else’s car?

We had that conversation today down at Les Schwab.  Last fall I had to buy new studs for my wife’s car.  Les Schwab put my tires on the car of a mediocre local news anchor.  The only credit they earned occured when the supervisor came out to the waiting area and enumerated this event to me.  Too stunned to speak at first, I just stared at him with the you could not possibly be this stupid look.  Moreover, I was in no way compensated for the extra hour and a half I had to sit around waiting for them to fetch her car back, get my tires, put them on Deb’s car, etc.  Sorry.  You’re screwed.  You will be delayed another hour and a half; no, it is not your fault; no, you will not get that time back, nor anything for it; yes, we really do expect you to just meekly accept this.

I don’t do ‘meek’ too well.  I am resolved not to let them forget it soon.  If that’s the only compensation I get, besides sinking this particular banderilla, very well.

This led to today’s odd conversation as I had the studs swapped out for the regulars (required soon by law).  I went to the counter, and asked how long it would be.  I explained what had happened last time, and asked if she could promise they would not give someone else my tires.  If she would promise, I would dare go eat some guilty pleasure lunch across the street.  Otherwise I would stand there and never take my eyes off my tires.  This was the part where she was supposed to show shocked disappointment and wonder what could be done to restore my confidence.  I didn’t think very much of her attitude, quite frankly; she acted almost as if I were making it up.  She didn’t quite eyeroll, but Les Schwab got another black mark for that.

Guess they’ll just have to wear it.  It’s not like I would tell the story on the Internet or something.