Sunday, August 22, 2004

Frustrated Consumer - Customer Disservice - Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Nothing makes me angrier than the state of customer service in the new millennium. I believe I speak for the majority of consumers when I say, quite bluntly, this sucks! In days past, customers were both solicited and treated with respect while shopping in a store, especially if they were looking for big ticket items. Furthermore, after the item was purchased, if a problem ensued, the store or the service contract provider would make it right. Not so any more. Let us take "the story of the refrigerator" as an example.

My sister recently needed to buy a new refrigerator. She embarked on this task in a methodical fashion, first researching all product candidates for features, price and value. This project alone took several months (she was not going to part with that hard-earned money lightly, and I do not blame her). Having narrowed her decision to a few possible choices, she and I went to a store, checkbook in hand, ready to make a purchase. Several sales personnel were on the floor, doing nothing except taking personal calls on their cell phones or talking amongst themselves. None of the sales people seemed in any hurry to interrupt their personal business to take care of a paying customer. We thought that a little odd, given the size of the commission the sales person would receive upon conclusion of a decent sale. Ha! Most stores have done away with commissions as a way to cut costs and save the consumer a little money. But I digress. I will address my feelings about THAT issue later.

After about twenty minutes of actively looking at refrigerators and receiving no assistance whatsoever, I walked off in search of a manager. After I found the person in charge and explained our problem, he said he would make sure someone came to help us. Another 15 minutes ensued before a reluctant salesman approached us to ask if he could be of assistance. My sister explained that she needed a new refrigerator and pointed to the three models she had chosen. She asked him if he could explain the differences in the machines and how that translated to the difference in price. He said he had no idea what she was talking about and went on to say that he had to leave in a few minutes for a date. The store was about to close - maybe we could come back another time. As IF!

A few days later, on to a different store. Similar scenario but we were approached much faster. My sister asked her questions and made her decision. She purchased the refrigerator, a mid-level Kitchen Aid, for about $1700. It would be delivered in a few days.

Fast forward fourteen months. My sister opened the refrigerator to discover the food inside was not cold. Thinking someone knocked the dial on the temperature gauge over too far, she slid it to coldest. Later, she checked and the temperature had not changed. She called the long term service contract provider (in this case, General Electric) and was told they would send someone out in a few days. A few days! Her food was spoiling. Service man shows up, tinkers around and leaves, telling her it's fine now - problem was caused by a piece of ice stuck in a pipe (this makes no sense). Next day, temperature had not cooled off and the NEW food was spoiled. She called the service provider again and again, it is a few days until he can come out. Different guy. Says he knew the machine was not fixed, it needed a new part and that had to be ordered. Part is ordered and my sister is told it will be a few days before they can come to fix it. Service man shows up, puts in new part and tells my sister, "It's still not fixed, it needs an entire new motor. I knew this before I came out." My sister asked, "can you get the part right to me right away?" She was told it will be 10 DAYS!!! It was August, in Los Angeles NOT Antarctica. As of this writing, the problem is STILL not resolved despite phone calls to the manufacturer, service provider and store where the item was purchased.

An additional aggravation with today's customer service or lack thereof is the "new self promotion" speech you get when calling a service provider. "Hello. This is WHO THE FUCK EVER. How may I provide you with very excellent service today?" First of all, the term "very excellent" is at best, redundant, and at worst, indicative of a lack of knowledge and proper use of the English language. Whoever came up with THAT line should be shot. I hear that line a lot, no matter which company I call. And I always respond with my stock line, "For starters, you can lose the hyperbole." I think the term "hyperbole" has been dropped from the dictionary because no customer service representative ever seems familiar with either the word or its definition. After my "excellent service rep" regains composure (and presumably, looks up the definition of hyperbole), I then go on to say that the use of that line as an opening comment does NOT leave me with the desired imprint, that is to say, upon concluding the call, I feel as if I have been provided with excellent service (whether I was or not) simply because it was stated at the outset. Actually, the use of that line angers the heck out of me. It always brings to mind that old song "A little less talk and a little more action, please." As the customer, I believe it is up to ME to decide if the service I received was excellent, good or bad.

Use of the self-promotion speech as detailed in the paragraph above is only one of the many frustrations associated with calling most companies nowadays. Such conversation frequently only happens after one hears a number of outgoing messages in multiple languages urging the pressing of one button and another, being put on hold for lengthy periods of time (during which the unsuspecting caller is forced to listen to a bombardment of self-serving sales pitches for unnecssary items), and finally, being routed back to the original answerer to either begin the entire process again or worse, have the company hang up on you.

I think the term' going postal" should now be changed to "going consumer."

1 comment:

SHELBY ROCKS! said...

like ur blog kinda long post shorten em up a little im from kentfeld too