Customer Service Hoops

Dear companies providing customer service:

Yes, I know it’s cheaper that I use your website, and I’m really smart, so normally your website might even be a viable option, even though it’s laid out like crap, and it’s not exactly intuitive, and it doesn’t answer questions the way I wish they would be asked.

Yes, I understand that you’d MUCH rather I go through 400 steps on your Interactive Voice Response Unit and decide which chute to traverse, and sometimes, I can navigate that and get done what needs doing (best in class for useful IVRs, in case you’re wondering, is American Express), but sometimes I cannot.

PLEASE DON’T MAKE IT HARD FOR ME TO TALK TO A HUMAN OR I WILL BE MIGHTY ANGRY.

This morning, this means T-Mobile. Don’t make it hard for me to get done what needs doing. Don’t hide stuff on your site. Don’t make me BEG for humans.

Customer service NEEDS to evolve. Because just as Google is your *real* home page, Customer Service are your *real* best opportunities to keep me happy with you, NOT a bolt-on cost center.

ChrisBrogan.com runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • http://www.amhbusinesssolutions.com Ann Harrell

    Yesterday, I suffered through several voice prompts while attempting to order a part from SEARS Direct. Repeatedly, the system said it could not hear/understand what I said. After five minutes of sheer frustration, I hung up and went online to order the part. If not for the fact that the part could only be ordered through SEARS, I would have gone elsewhere.

  • http://twitter.com/debdebtig Deb

    As a person who works in product support I totally agree. Thankfully, our company does it the right way. We go the extra mile for our clients to make sure that there is someone at the other end of the phone and not a survey. Surveys when trying to get to customer service SUCK and should not be the norm. Unfortunately, they are for most companies and they need to wake up. Customers want to have a person to help them through a problem not a list of questions.

    Wake up T-mobile and everyone else out there, customers are the KEY to your business treat them like GOLD not like a number!

    Thanks for the post, you definitely got my blood boiling this morning. :-)

  • http://www.amhbusinesssolutions.com Ann Harrell

    Yesterday, I suffered through several voice prompts while attempting to order a part from SEARS Direct. Repeatedly, the system said it could not hear/understand what I said. After five minutes of sheer frustration, I hung up and went online to order the part. If not for the fact that the part could only be ordered through SEARS, I would have gone elsewhere.

  • http://twitter.com/debdebtig Deb

    As a person who works in product support I totally agree. Thankfully, our company does it the right way. We go the extra mile for our clients to make sure that there is someone at the other end of the phone and not a survey. Surveys when trying to get to customer service SUCK and should not be the norm. Unfortunately, they are for most companies and they need to wake up. Customers want to have a person to help them through a problem not a list of questions.

    Wake up T-mobile and everyone else out there, customers are the KEY to your business treat them like GOLD not like a number!

    Thanks for the post, you definitely got my blood boiling this morning. :-)

  • http://pikesthinking.blogspot.com/ Walter Pike

    I COULD NOT AGREE MORE !!!!

  • http://pikesthinking.blogspot.com/ Walter Pike

    I COULD NOT AGREE MORE !!!!

  • http://www.jonathanfields.com Jonathan Fields

    Maybe if companies explored viewing customer service not as a necessary cost, but an opportunity for both marketing and revenue, they’d change the way they handle it.

    Would they entrust sales or marketing to a mechanized phone system? Don’t think so.

  • http://www.jonathanfields.com Jonathan Fields

    Maybe if companies explored viewing customer service not as a necessary cost, but an opportunity for both marketing and revenue, they’d change the way they handle it.

    Would they entrust sales or marketing to a mechanized phone system? Don’t think so.

  • http://www.native-edge.blogspot.com Andrew

    The best customer service recently? Freshbooks. They are several time zones away from me and they still manage to do it well. Is it a coincidence that they also have a really use-friendly application. I think not.

  • http://www.native-edge.blogspot.com Andrew

    The best customer service recently? Freshbooks. They are several time zones away from me and they still manage to do it well. Is it a coincidence that they also have a really use-friendly application. I think not.

  • http://www.90steve.blogspot.com Steve

    We jumped from T-Mobile to another company this year primarily because of their lack of customer service. Once you do get to a human with them, by the way, it does not get much better. Some companies just don’t get it. Good luck.

  • http://www.90steve.blogspot.com Steve

    We jumped from T-Mobile to another company this year primarily because of their lack of customer service. Once you do get to a human with them, by the way, it does not get much better. Some companies just don’t get it. Good luck.

  • http://www.mediaphilosopher.com Marcel LeBrun

    Amen. A shift in thinking has to occur here. How is it that certain companies behave as if they can’t afford to talk to their customers?

    On the one hand, the marketing department will spend millions in advertising to reach customers and try to incite some response (Action, purchase, etc.) and they are thrilled with 2% response rates. But then when a customer self-selects and actually calls the company (with a specific need), the customer gets the message that they really don’t want to speak with you.

    I had a similar experience with my digital TV satellite provider. I’ll go anywhere to find answers except calling them because it is so painful.

    Someone has switched the price tags!

  • http://www.mediaphilosopher.com Marcel LeBrun

    Amen. A shift in thinking has to occur here. How is it that certain companies behave as if they can’t afford to talk to their customers?

    On the one hand, the marketing department will spend millions in advertising to reach customers and try to incite some response (Action, purchase, etc.) and they are thrilled with 2% response rates. But then when a customer self-selects and actually calls the company (with a specific need), the customer gets the message that they really don’t want to speak with you.

    I had a similar experience with my digital TV satellite provider. I’ll go anywhere to find answers except calling them because it is so painful.

    Someone has switched the price tags!

  • http://www.jonathanfields.com Jonathan Fields

    Had to add a second comment, just remembered an incredible customer service experience…at Costco.

    Was online returning a defective kitchen appliance and the person in front of me brought back a cooked piece of meat they’d bought a few days earlier and asked for their money back because it didn’t taste good.

    The customer service rep happily accommodated them. I was so blown away, I asked the woman if extreme requests like that were unusual and she said they happened all the time and they honored pretty much every one.

    Interesting approach.

  • http://www.jonathanfields.com Jonathan Fields

    Had to add a second comment, just remembered an incredible customer service experience…at Costco.

    Was online returning a defective kitchen appliance and the person in front of me brought back a cooked piece of meat they’d bought a few days earlier and asked for their money back because it didn’t taste good.

    The customer service rep happily accommodated them. I was so blown away, I asked the woman if extreme requests like that were unusual and she said they happened all the time and they honored pretty much every one.

    Interesting approach.

  • http://biggsuccess.com George Krueger

    Great post, Chris! It’s always more exciting to go after new customers. But it’s usually more profitable to thrill the ones you have. Oh well … if the large companies want to ignore their customers and make them feel like a number, it will just create more entrepreneurial opportunities!

  • http://biggsuccess.com George Krueger

    Great post, Chris! It’s always more exciting to go after new customers. But it’s usually more profitable to thrill the ones you have. Oh well … if the large companies want to ignore their customers and make them feel like a number, it will just create more entrepreneurial opportunities!

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    Try swearing a lot, and angrily.

    I’m not kidding. Some IVR units now are programmed to recognize voice stress and a few other factors, and if they detect stress, transfer you to an operator.

  • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

    Try swearing a lot, and angrily.

    I’m not kidding. Some IVR units now are programmed to recognize voice stress and a few other factors, and if they detect stress, transfer you to an operator.

  • http://tuleydocs.com Matt Tuley

    We’ve all been here, and it sucks. And I don’t get it. Study after study has shown that its much more expensive to acquire new customers than keep existing ones. Why do so many companies seem to prefer dropping tons of cash on advertising to get new customers and cheap out on the customer service that would keep the ones they have. Cable companies and banks are easiy the most guilty of this, in my experience.

  • http://tuleydocs.com Matt Tuley

    We’ve all been here, and it sucks. And I don’t get it. Study after study has shown that its much more expensive to acquire new customers than keep existing ones. Why do so many companies seem to prefer dropping tons of cash on advertising to get new customers and cheap out on the customer service that would keep the ones they have. Cable companies and banks are easiy the most guilty of this, in my experience.

  • http://rolandhesz.com Roland Hesz

    The “Big Pink” – I know, I know, magenta – seems to be the same all around the world.
    But this is true to almost every single mobile phone company and internet provider.

  • http://heszroland.hu Roland Hesz

    The “Big Pink” – I know, I know, magenta – seems to be the same all around the world.
    But this is true to almost every single mobile phone company and internet provider.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com chrisbrogan

    @Christopher — If I hung out with you for 2 hours a week, I would be so much smarter in just a few weeks. I used to program IVRs, but left before they got that smart, evidently.

    @George – you and Marcel made a similar point, and I agree with it.

    @Marcel – absolutely on track. A company needs marketing, but what’s the spend? Is it 60/40? Is it 70/30? When thinking about it from a strategy standpoint, or even just allotments, if you don’t acquire, you don’t grow. If you don’t preserve the base, you can’t pull in revenue. Hmm.

    CEO types, what’s your take?

  • http://chrisbrogan.com chrisbrogan

    @Christopher — If I hung out with you for 2 hours a week, I would be so much smarter in just a few weeks. I used to program IVRs, but left before they got that smart, evidently.

    @George – you and Marcel made a similar point, and I agree with it.

    @Marcel – absolutely on track. A company needs marketing, but what’s the spend? Is it 60/40? Is it 70/30? When thinking about it from a strategy standpoint, or even just allotments, if you don’t acquire, you don’t grow. If you don’t preserve the base, you can’t pull in revenue. Hmm.

    CEO types, what’s your take?

  • http://www.andrewcafourek.com acafourek

    This is the polar opposite of my T-Mobile experience. In my 2.5 years as a customer, I have long thought that they have some of the best customer service I’ve ever encountered!

    Not to mention, they have the most accurate voice recognition system I’ve encountered yet…at any time all you have to do is say “Let me talk to someone” (or something along those lines) and you will get transfered almost immediately.

    So while I agree that many companies need to shift their customer experiences to a more positive realm, I think you are way off base on T-Mobile’s service.

  • http://www.andrewcafourek.com Andrew Cafourek

    This is the polar opposite of my T-Mobile experience. In my 2.5 years as a customer, I have long thought that they have some of the best customer service I’ve ever encountered!

    Not to mention, they have the most accurate voice recognition system I’ve encountered yet…at any time all you have to do is say “Let me talk to someone” (or something along those lines) and you will get transfered almost immediately.

    So while I agree that many companies need to shift their customer experiences to a more positive realm, I think you are way off base on T-Mobile’s service.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com chrisbrogan

    @Andrew – I’m sure they manage standard issues fairly reasonably once you get to them, but I’m saying this: go to their site, find the toll free number for service. How many clicks did it take you? How much navigation on the audio platform does it take you? How many steps between prompts and a human?

  • http://chrisbrogan.com chrisbrogan

    @Andrew – I’m sure they manage standard issues fairly reasonably once you get to them, but I’m saying this: go to their site, find the toll free number for service. How many clicks did it take you? How much navigation on the audio platform does it take you? How many steps between prompts and a human?

  • http://www.camprunapup.com Katybeth

    The words I loathe the most….”Thank you for your patience”

  • http://www.camprunapup.com Katybeth

    The words I loathe the most….”Thank you for your patience”

  • http://ardephwerk.fr Rachael Hampton

    For those who are expat and can’t call the toll free. Finding a local number can be even more a task.

  • http://ardephwerk.fr Rachael Hampton

    For those who are expat and can’t call the toll free. Finding a local number can be even more a task.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com chrisbrogan

    @Rachael – great point about expats. That’s harder still.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com chrisbrogan

    @Rachael – great point about expats. That’s harder still.

  • Jim Goodrich

    I used to work for a corp whose approach was the Internet is just one of the ways to get to us for help and we answer the phones live 24/7 with no call time limits for the support staff. That’s a great customer service approach. A variety of methods to get help, pick the one best suited to you.

    Unfortunately, that corp got acquired and it all went away. And they put the live support staff on time limits to be cost effective. So that when you do get a live person it’s a situation of Angry customer, meet stressed out Support staff. Not a formula for success on any consistent level.

  • http://withavoicelikethis,com Jim Goodrich

    I used to work for a corp whose approach was the Internet is just one of the ways to get to us for help and we answer the phones live 24/7 with no call time limits for the support staff. That’s a great customer service approach. A variety of methods to get help, pick the one best suited to you.

    Unfortunately, that corp got acquired and it all went away. And they put the live support staff on time limits to be cost effective. So that when you do get a live person it’s a situation of Angry customer, meet stressed out Support staff. Not a formula for success on any consistent level.

  • http://www.jaduka.com Bill Binnig

    I definitely share your pain. It seems like like telecom companies are the worst – I recently had a nightmarish experience with Verizon – which is ironic given that, at it’s core, IVRs are a telecom service.

    Under full disclosure, I work for Jaduka, a telecom-related company. So, I understand why a company wouldn’t want to publish their corporate phone directory online. But, I’ve always thought a great customer service solution would be to list specific customer service functions by the most commonly requested help or FAQs and then provide a privacy-protected call link, like Jaduka’s Click-and-Connect or dukaLINK to the right specialist.

    Similar to GetHuman or NoPhoneTrees.com, but the company would never have to list the specialists number and could use automated call routing to find an available agent on the back-end. The customer is still having to self-select the right person to speak with, but its done in a much better interface for the task – a freeflowing Webpage versus a serial audio phone tree.

  • http://www.jaduka.com Bill Binnig

    I definitely share your pain. It seems like like telecom companies are the worst – I recently had a nightmarish experience with Verizon – which is ironic given that, at it’s core, IVRs are a telecom service.

    Under full disclosure, I work for Jaduka, a telecom-related company. So, I understand why a company wouldn’t want to publish their corporate phone directory online. But, I’ve always thought a great customer service solution would be to list specific customer service functions by the most commonly requested help or FAQs and then provide a privacy-protected call link, like Jaduka’s Click-and-Connect or dukaLINK to the right specialist.

    Similar to GetHuman or NoPhoneTrees.com, but the company would never have to list the specialists number and could use automated call routing to find an available agent on the back-end. The customer is still having to self-select the right person to speak with, but its done in a much better interface for the task – a freeflowing Webpage versus a serial audio phone tree.

  • http://butwait.blogspot.com Shelley

    @Katybeth True that! When my luggage went AWOL on a trip home last year, the auto-message at the MISSING BAGGAGE DEPARTMENT said “thank you for your call,” and I was constantly tempted to yell “I don’t have a CHOICE!”

    @Bill that sounds like it’s headed in the right direction… yay!

    And Chris, as we say in Quaker Meeting sometimes, “That Friend speaks my mind.”

  • http://butwait.blogspot.com Shelley

    @Katybeth True that! When my luggage went AWOL on a trip home last year, the auto-message at the MISSING BAGGAGE DEPARTMENT said “thank you for your call,” and I was constantly tempted to yell “I don’t have a CHOICE!”

    @Bill that sounds like it’s headed in the right direction… yay!

    And Chris, as we say in Quaker Meeting sometimes, “That Friend speaks my mind.”

  • http://squarevox.com John Whiteside

    T-Mobile – ugh. I once submitted an email support request for a simple question regarding my hotspot account (info I should have been able to get just by logging in to my account) and got an email that said, “We’ve got a lot of emails now, so we’re not answering them; call us on the phone.” Because yeah, that’s more efficient than having someone sit down and respond to the emails.

    They are one of the worst.

  • http://squarevox.com John Whiteside

    T-Mobile – ugh. I once submitted an email support request for a simple question regarding my hotspot account (info I should have been able to get just by logging in to my account) and got an email that said, “We’ve got a lot of emails now, so we’re not answering them; call us on the phone.” Because yeah, that’s more efficient than having someone sit down and respond to the emails.

    They are one of the worst.

  • http://kylecooper.net kylecooper

    I agree with the message but disagree about t-mobile. Their support has always been awesome for me and it seems like I call and get a person almost immediately. As a side note, they also seem to only hire cool surfer dudes and hot chicks in their call centers. I swear I’ve fallen in love with every female t-mobile employee that I’ve ever spoken too. They usually fix the problem asap (for example I had my account transfered once, a problem sending MMS messages, also I once called and talked to a girl for about 20 minutes about how awesome the Shadow was when it first came out, LOL).

    On the other side, Bank Of America is ALWAYS a chore and it takes forever just to get a response from their website. I cringe when I have a problem with them.

  • http://claimid.com/kylecooper Coop

    I agree with the message but disagree about t-mobile. Their support has always been awesome for me and it seems like I call and get a person almost immediately. As a side note, they also seem to only hire cool surfer dudes and hot chicks in their call centers. I swear I’ve fallen in love with every female t-mobile employee that I’ve ever spoken too. They usually fix the problem asap (for example I had my account transfered once, a problem sending MMS messages, also I once called and talked to a girl for about 20 minutes about how awesome the Shadow was when it first came out, LOL).

    On the other side, Bank Of America is ALWAYS a chore and it takes forever just to get a response from their website. I cringe when I have a problem with them.

  • http://theresazagnoli.blogspot.com/ Theresa Zagnoli

    Amen to all the comments. It is amazing to me that companies don’t place more stake in their customer service and that employees are seemingly not held to any standard for their rudeness, inefficiency or disinterest in helping you.

    While there are several companies I could point out, I would have to say Whirlpool takes the award for worst customer service in my book. Long story short – not functioning refrigerator under warranty for full replacement. During my 3 week ordeal (that’s right three weeks without a refrig during summer no less) I was transferred around to countless departments and always heard different answers. Seemed the common thread in all those who I talked to through – I am right and you aren’t. Seems the old adage of “customer is always right” has gone out the window! Needless to say, there won’t be another Whirlpool appliance in my future.

  • http://theresazagnoli.blogspot.com/ Theresa Zagnoli

    Amen to all the comments. It is amazing to me that companies don’t place more stake in their customer service and that employees are seemingly not held to any standard for their rudeness, inefficiency or disinterest in helping you.

    While there are several companies I could point out, I would have to say Whirlpool takes the award for worst customer service in my book. Long story short – not functioning refrigerator under warranty for full replacement. During my 3 week ordeal (that’s right three weeks without a refrig during summer no less) I was transferred around to countless departments and always heard different answers. Seemed the common thread in all those who I talked to through – I am right and you aren’t. Seems the old adage of “customer is always right” has gone out the window! Needless to say, there won’t be another Whirlpool appliance in my future.

  • http://philbaumann.com Phil

    You’d think that with the freer flow of information on the web that companies would finally understand that customer service is really the only important thing that they sell. But alas, it seems they’re probably run by folks who are just either out of touch or really lazy (don’t really want to do the hard work involved with customer service.

    I call the kind of approach you’re talking about Clockwork Orange Marketing (Youtube has clips of what I’m talking about). I’d really love to spread the Clockwork Orange Marketing (COM) meme. It’d be great to mark companies with bad customer service with the COM badge all over the web.

    Clockwork Orange Marketing: let’s stop the torture!

  • http://philbaumann.com Phil

    You’d think that with the freer flow of information on the web that companies would finally understand that customer service is really the only important thing that they sell. But alas, it seems they’re probably run by folks who are just either out of touch or really lazy (don’t really want to do the hard work involved with customer service.

    I call the kind of approach you’re talking about Clockwork Orange Marketing (Youtube has clips of what I’m talking about). I’d really love to spread the Clockwork Orange Marketing (COM) meme. It’d be great to mark companies with bad customer service with the COM badge all over the web.

    Clockwork Orange Marketing: let’s stop the torture!