23 Apr 2007

On Customer Service

Author: q | Filed under: Frustrations

What the hell has happend to the notion of customer service in today”s business environment? In the 20+ years I”ve been in the IT industry, I”ve always done my best to ensure that my clients are pleased with the service they”ve received from myself or my team, becuase I”ve occasionally received poor treatment from other agencies, and I”ve never wanted to have anything like that kind of reputation. The more I deal with larger companies, though, the more I think that the focus on customer service has simply been done away with.

Today”s example comes from a worldwide shipping organization. I recently had a package shipped in from out of the country, and today I received a notice in the mail that I had an unpaid invoice to that shipper. I called to inquire about the unpaid invoice (since I”d never received an invoice and had no clue what I could have had shipped that I didn”t already pay for) and the first agent I deal with faxed the invoice over to me. Looking it over, it still didn”t make any sense. So I called back a second time to get clarification.

Boy, was that a mistake. After the phone agent explained what the charge was for, I expressed concern that there was nothing in the packaging that indicated that I”d be accepting any additional shipping charges by accepting delivery of the package, and that I had not received any invoice or communication of any kind about additional charges. Before I could say that I”d be sending a payment off for the charges, the floodgates opened. The phone agent immediately went into yelling mode and accused me of attacking the company. She said that they expect people to know that there are customs charges for packages coming in from out of the country. When I cut her off to explain that I wasn”t trying to “attack” anyone but was trying to get clarification on the unexpected charges,she cut me off and started yelling louder that they normally waive these charges for someone that doesn”t understand about customs charges and that my account was clear. Then she repeated that she cleared the charges because it wasn”t cost effective to have these conversations,gave her name, and hung up.

If you”ve been reading my recent posts on the fun with Dell, you know that I generally try to give a company an option to improve it”s product when I see an issue, because that”s what I”d want to do. So you might expect that, since I have the phone agent”s name, I”d call the shipper, speak to a manager, and discuss the phone call in more detail, giving the manger an opportunity to discuss handling customers with the phone agent, and why yelling at customers is generall not a good idea.

Not this time. This time, I”m speaking with my dollars. I”m no longer using that shipper for sending packages (not that I do a lot of this, but they”ve lost all future outbound shipments from me). I”m also going to request any vendor I deal with to use a different shipping option, including the US Postal service where applicable, instead of this particular shipping company, because I don”t want them to make any more money on shipments that have anything to do with me or my company. I recognize that I can”t completely circumvent this shipping company in all likelihood, but I”m going to do everything I can. Because I don”t want to get into a discussion of how much billable time I lost tracking down this particular shipment because they didn”t attempt redelivery during the window they indicated, and I had to travel to their holding facility to pick it up myself. I”m not going to give them example after example after example of how they could make simple changes to improve their customer satisfaction on their product.

All because the agent lost her cool and started yelling at me.

You yell at me, you lose my business. I”d expect the same from anyone who got yelled at by me or one of my employees. Fire me if one of us yells at you. Because that”s just unprofessional. And if you can”t treat me professionally, much less as a human being, you”re not getting my business.

And even if I had “attacked” the company (whatever that means), that”s still not an excuse to lose control and shout at a customer. That”s where I draw the line, and that”s why I will never voluntarily use the services of this shipping company again.

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