What the World Needs Now is Phenomenal Customer Service

What the world needs now is phenomenal customer service.

Of course, this implies we have customer service to begin with. Scratch that. What the World Needs Now is ANY Customer Service. With the increase of personal debt, the need has never been greater.

Recently, I helped my mother with her creditors in a proactive effort to handle her debt. My mother had suffered a fall and subsequent delusions, so I gladly stepped in. Even though I was somewhat removed from her financial situation since it was not my debt, the process of actually talking to someone was emotionally exhausting.

As I made phone call after phone call, I thought to myself, we spend some of life’s most miserable moments waiting to talk to a human on the other end of the line. We go through endless prompts, punching in numbers, the sixteen-digit account number, the last four social, zip code, phone number, address, etc,…only to repeat the exact set of information to a live human after an often agonizing wait. Why? Why do we this?

It’s to break us down, to make us feel powerless. That’s why.

I know it’s for security purposes, but there must be a better way. Shouldn’t all this technology eliminate steps, not add them, and make the process more efficient? Ha!

It didn’t used to be this way. Remember when you could simply dial and talk to a live person? For those of you who have never experienced this, it’s a real thing that used to happen. A problem could be handled swiftly. They would ask for your name first, not a number.

They certainly wouldn’t question you if you wanted to cancel something. I mistakenly got cable a few months back. I was swindled. This lady kept me on the line, talked my head off, promised me several “gift cards,” so the cost of signing up was nil; it would all balance out. I broke, I agreed. Of course, in the end, the ONE CHANNEL I wanted was NOT in my package.

After cashing in the gifts, I put in an email to cancel. They charged us for the next month anyway. Apparently, the way it works is that you need to give a verbal cancel to process the electronic cancel. I couldn’t talk to anyone again, so my loving husband assumed the task of canceling, which took over an hour. I felt truly terrible. It was all my fault!

I wouldn’t be surprised if wedding vows soon incorporate a non-cable clause:

Do you solemnly swear to never subscribe to cable for so long as you both shall live?

I do.

Somehow, wanting to go back to the simple phone call with a human feels like I’m balking the progress of technology. It seems to be written in the stars that we will have a relationship with robots. Science fiction promises we will, and most everything in sci-fi comes true, right? I’m all for sci-fi dreams coming true via Star Trek:

Computer: Fix me a roast beef sandwich and delete all my email messages.

It seems we wouldn’t be too far from that email request, but the one big hurdle for robots seems to be intelligence. I listened to a NPR interview recently where I learned that a robot is really not bright enough to differentiate trash from critical information. Thus, the menial task of cleaning a desk is an impossible request for a robot.

Siri, my lovely, seems to be unavailable when I need her most. She’s “unable to take requests right now.” Really? Is she doing her nails? Talking to SKYNET, hmm?

In the meantime, I know that I don’t like talking to the tinny voice of a robot calling and pretending he’s human. Do you know this call? I hang up immediately, thinking I’m not talking to this voice that makes my hair stand up on the back of my neck.

Seeing all the robots join forces at Amazon for the big holiday rush ($775 million dollars worth of robots) makes me shudder. Just a bit.

Kiva robots ready and waiting. Photo source: Business Insider
Kiva robots ready and waiting. Photo source: Business Insider

 

Photo Credit: Brandon Bailey/AP
Robots at work. Photo Credit: Brandon Bailey/AP

Does this make me anti-technology? Is the gap of humans coexisting with robots too preliminary to even care. They’re not very smart. Yet. Personally, I think we should keep it that way. Even Stephen Hawking, one of our finest minds, voices caution. You know, the singularity is near.

But this begs the question, how stupid is useless? It’s a conundrum. If they are too stupid, we have no need for them.

We could have lots of jobs in customer service, bring them all back. There could be the possibility of service with a smile on the other end of the line. The possibility at least.

I know one thing. If Amazon sends you the wrong gift this holiday season, it could be the robot’s fault.

photo credit: plαdys via photopin cc

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37 thoughts on “What the World Needs Now is Phenomenal Customer Service

  1. I’ve also wondered why I have to type in my account number when I phone someone only to have to tell the human later. I want to say “don’t you already know it?” but I’m so relieved to finally get through to a human I don’t want to annoy them.

    Fortunately my “main” bank answers the phone instantly, straight to a human being. Which is very fortunate as they supplied my mortgage and that was stressful enough without having to talk to a computer every couple of days. The company I work for is the same, one of the reasons I love working there.

    As for AI (I also read Stephen Hawkings’ words) – Cylons, Daleks, Terminator anyone? 😦

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    1. Exactly, Alistair. By the time you get the human voice on the other end, you’ve moved on from the prompt misery. I want to say the same thing. I think it’s security, but what is this really about? Probably just to annoy us. It doesn’t speed anything up.

      I think the smaller banks may operate this way. That must be helpful when discussing your mortgage. That’s another call I had to make when I helped my mother. That call was especially difficult I remember. Good for your company. Companies that have good customer service are special in my book. That’s cool that you work for one.

      Someday, those robots might take over. I think we’re going to see a lot of more of them in any case.

      Like

    1. I should have known you would have a tip! Thanks, Mark. I will check this out. Do they have a listing for every company? I notice these prompts have changed. The push zero option isn’t always there.

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  2. Hi Amy 😀
    Press One for Ralph’s comment.
    Press head against wall and bang repeatedly.
    *rotten music*
    Hang up !
    Smash phone against fore mentioned wall.
    Fill dents in wall and repaint.
    xox ❤

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  3. I’ve found that pressing “0” over and over or saying “Customer Service” often gets me to a real person, helpful or not. Discover has always had excellent customer service and right now, we have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card and can always speak to a live person immediately. Spoiler alert–it’s only free for the first year. But we’re enjoying that year!

    janet

    Like

    1. Oh, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. That sounds inviting. I dealt with Chase, but not the Sapphire variety. The “0” is not always available like it used to be, but that’s certainly something to keep in mind. Sometimes, I’ve simply been disconnected. I notice it’s not always an option in the prompt the way it used to be. Hmm. Enjoy that card. I like to hear about companies that do it right. I used to have Discover. Thanks!

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  4. Sigh. What drives me crazy is how hard it is to find customer service phone numbers for all of these internet-based companies. We had a problem with Amazon a couple of days ago and neither my wife nor I could find a customer service number to call them. Yeah, sure, I could send an email, and then wait a day or two to hear back from them, but by then the problem would have been moot because it was a shipping issue. Amazon didn’t mind putting the U.S. Postal Service’s phone number on their website for shipping inquiries, but, darn it, they certainly weren’t going to have an Amazon number available.

    I, too, marvel every time I have to enter my information via the keypad and then verbally when somebody gets on the line. Security reasons? What security reasons?

    Like

    1. That is another problem! Just finding the number. You have to solve their mystery puzzle to find the number. My sister told that she couldn’t call Apple to talk to someone about her iPhone. You need to make an appointment! Who wants to make an appointment when they have a problem with their phone? And this from a company who makes user-friendly products. I think maybe they’re banking on problems going away, like your shipping problem. That’s very sneaky of them.

      The double dose of info, yeah, that’s the only thing I’ve come up, that’s it’s for security! But really? No! Probably not. More like to drive us crazy.

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  5. I think we can all relate to this. So frustrating. And when we do get humans, we keep getting transferred to other humans and have to tell our story over and over again. Then, usually after all that, when we finally get transferred to the human we’re supposed to be talking to, we get disconnected before the transfer goes through so we have to call back and start all over again. :/

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    1. Oh yes, Carrie. The big transferring run around, and if that ends in being disconnected, it feels hopeless. I know that feeling. When that happens I want to deal with it on another day altogether! Retelling your story over and over feels like punishment. When you have to go through so much effort to find the right department, that is especially painful.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve had two terrible customer service experiences with FedEx in the last month. Both times they screwed up ultra-urgent deliveries, and both times they worked harder to blame me than they did to resolve the issue they caused.
    Contrary though, when I went to Sprint to close my account (after my contract had already expired), they did it without question or pressure or offers of “free” this or “upgraded” that. It seriously took like three minutes and I was finished; no begging for them to do what I asked them to do.

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    1. I think it’s most troubling when they try to blame you for their inadequacies. That is the worst customer service, Melanie. I’m glad to hear you had a positive experience with Sprint. They rate highly now for me. I have AT&T, and they gave me the runaround with cable. If I ever switch, I may consider Sprint. Thanks!

      Like

      1. I had trouble with AT&T a couple of years ago. After my divorce they refused to change my name on my account. So I cancelled my service.

        Like

  7. It’s a business in itself, the way of phone operation, where people get paid off your waiting just as the robotics industry gets paid no matter how sucky their service.

    To think: paid not to care? Only when you don’t have a choice. (Insecurities also play a role; some people actually don’t want to talk to a real person for fear of judgment.)

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    1. I guess it’s the new business model! It’s sucky. Your time is of no consequence.

      Sometimes I can deal with the prompt and don’t want to talk to someone. I know that feeling. Other times, not so much. When you need to explain something and it’s more complicated, then I need to talk to someone.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Well said, Amy! I’ve worked in customer service for almost a century (it feels like, and I don’t any more!) and I remember when they first introduced the press 1 for this, 2 for that etc… at least caller knew they couldn’t get through when the line was busy. Now, I have the joy of calling customer service (instead of being called), and I can honestly say I dread it.

    Like

    1. Hey thanks, Tom! Oh, it’s great to hear from the customer service perspective. A lot of times, the actual people I talk to are pretty nice, and I think understanding of the situation. It’s the framework that is horrible! It’s true, we don’t have the busy signal. I’ve actually forgotten about that! But we do wait, don’t we? Oh yes, the joy of the call, the dread. Well, I guess we’re all human after all.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You struck a chord with this post, Amy. As technology has advanced, customer service has declined. I see that as just another way corporations cut costs to increase shareholder profits and, that other money-suck, inflated CEO pay. The run-around you mention is very familiar to me, too. Before I cut my cable in July 2013, and I’d have Internet problems, I would call to file a report. When I’d go through all the prompts after saying “my Internet’s not working” I’d get a recorded voice telling me that all of the customer service agents were helping other customers so I should just file my complaint online. By the time Tiffany in India took my call (and the wait could easily clock in at well over half an hour), I would feel ready for a straitjacket.

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    1. Oh, the straitjacket feeling. Yes, I understand completely, V. It’s just amazing to me how much is spent on technology, and around and around we go. Just tonight, after thinking about comments here, I tried to simply press “0” and you know the voice challenged me! She said, maybe I can help you. I don’t understand, she said several times. It was maddening! I just want to talk to a person, I’d say. Maybe you would like to use our website. Well, your website said to call…just madness! They need to sync their online/offline resources or something. And, then when you talk about other countries as far away as India, well time is out the window. Who cares about time? Who cares about waiting on the phone all day? No one, I guess! It’s straitjacket crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I totally sympathise. Our street lost its broadband internet on Thursday last week and most other peoples came back to life at 10pm but mine was still not working on Friday. I told them everything was working fine until it went dead and that my wifi was still a perfectly strong signal. They refused to listen to me and insisted by router or hub was too old so they sent me a new one free of charge but that would mean no internet for 3 or 4 more days. I should say, they told me all this after making 6 or 7 calls to try and get hold of someone who could help rather than recite the company line. To make things worse or rather even more stupid, I had spent all of the friday working out of cafes and restaurants that have free wifi and I could see on the service providers website that there were still a few lingering problems even by their own admission. Anyway this frustrating ending had a happy if predictable ending…. I reset the power for the 9th times and it all worked perfectly and their status page showed things had cleared up for the neighbourhood just a few minutes earlier too. Now what do I do with my brand new superhub 2? I’m sure not going to upgrade mine now as if it goes wrong look at that great technical support I had. You want a Christmas present Amy? 🙂

    Like

    1. If it works, don’t fix it, Stephen! That could be another disaster. I wouldn’t know what to do with a superhub 2. I don’t even know what that is! But thanks for the offer. Like you, I don’t touch anything that’s working. We are such at the mercy of technical support (ie customer service) because we can’t fix the stuff we depend on everyday and need. Now we can’t function without it. It sounds like you had your share of frustrating events this past week. Congrats on it working again. I hope you are smooth sailing now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have been away from WP, well just
        posting the minimum to keep my hand
        in so to speak but I am coming back in
        the New Year so I will be calling in on you
        a lot more then 🙂

        I hope that your Christmas will be awesome Amy 🙂 😉

        Andro xxxx

        Liked by 1 person

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