Friday, June 15, 2012

Customer 'Service'

Dear Companies,

If you are going to call a department in your company 'Customer Service', you better have a little service.  There is nothing I hate more than bad customer service.  In an age where companies only survive because they are great at something, it surprises me that so many companies with extremely poor customer service are still flourishing.  Here are my four customer service rules, please listen to and try to abide by them:

1) If you have a 'Live Chat' section on your website, it better be live:

There is nothing worse then signing on to chat with a customer service representative and having to wait as long as you would while being on hold on the phone.  Make sure you have adequate staff to handle a live chat if you are going to offer this service.  If you can't handle this, don't offer it.

ING has a great live chat section.  If there are representatives available, you are able to go into live chat, but if not, you aren't.  I tried to talk to someone on the TOMS website today in 'live' chat, and I was all alone in the chat, waiting, and waiting for someone to respond.

2) You better respond to your email inquiries quickly:I can understand a couple day wait, but it better be no more than that.  Again, if you can't handle it.  Don't offer it.  But really, you better be able to handle it.  Because my generation and younger have grown up on email.  And that is what we expect.

I recently emailed TOMS about a quick question regarding an exchange I wanted to make (but couldn't make until my question was answered).  2 emails, and 3.5 weeks later, I still hadn't had any response.

3) Don't put me on hold indefinitely:

Once again, this is a staffing issue.  But it is also an information issue.  Most people who know me know I like to have a plan.  Don't tell me you are going to visit me today, you better tell me at what time you are going to walk through my front door, and how many people are coming, and if you will be staying for a meal, and what you want to do, etc.  I like to know the whole thing.  If I don't, I get stressed.  So when I call a company and hear the dreaded "we are experiencing a higher call volume than normal, but your query is important to us, so please stay on the line until the next available representative can serve you" (on a side note, every company ALWAYS seems to be experiencing a higher call volume than normal - I would like to know when your lower call volume is so I can call then!) I am driven crazy.  How long will I be on hold?  Should I waste my time being on hold, or will I just have to hang up in an hour without having my question answered.  So if you are going to indefinitely put me on hold, at least give me an estimated wait time.  Or tell me what number I am in line.  I am much more likely to stay on hold if I am number 5 in line than if I am number 252.

Service Canada is awful to try to get in touch with (take it from me, I have had to contact them often), but if you need to call them do it first thing in the morning.  Remember, they need to be open 8-8 in everyone's time zones so they are never really just open 8-8!
4) Just because I am your customer doesn't mean I want you calling me to try to sell me something:

BMO does this all the time.  We have gotten rid of almost all of our bank accounts with them, but they are always calling us to try to sell us more of their products.  I will tell you what would have gotten you more of our service, proper customer service in the first place.  We are pulling our accounts from BMO because a rude customer service agent told us we should, and yet instead of improving their customer service, they spend money on getting people in other call centres to call us and waste my time by trying to sell me more products.  I am not interested, BMO.

ING Direct has the best customer service I have experienced in a long time.  I really wish that more organizations would use them as a model.  I have never been on hold for more than 1 minute, I get quick email responses, and direct chatting is simple and almost always available.  And in this culture, I think customer service is just going to become more and more important.

I hope you can adequately adjust to follow my rules.  Because in the end, it is all about me (right? right?)



  1. I disagree with you on the Service Canada front. I have dealt with them recently A LOT too, and 9 times out of 10 their service is exceptional.

    You're right, there are two prime times to call - morning or evening (a Service Canada representative told me that) and if their call volume is too high, you can't even get to the cue (which is frustrating for those who are willing to wait). But they do give you an estimated time (20 minutes). Each time I've actually timed the wait (it always seems longer than it actually is), it is actually shorter than the time they estimate.

    I did have a bad personal experience with them, but the next time I visited they more than made up for that. Apart from that one experience, each interaction I've had with them seems to be above and beyond.

    1. You have probably dealt with them more than I have. I have only had one instance of good customer service from Service Canada. I often found them extremely rude. But you would probably have a better picture than I would, and have probably contacted them more than I have.

      Also, I had never experienced them giving me a wait time (as far as I can remember), I am glad they are though!

    2. It doesn't mean your experiences are invalid! They usually only tell you a time right at the very beginning and then later just tell you that "the next available representative will help you" or whatever they say, which can be infuriating. Next time, listen for the time guesstimate at the beginning of the hold call.

      I know with customer service people, they can't do anything more than their scripts and their company allow them to do. It can be frustrating for both ends. I used to get SO frustrated when management would tell me there was nothing we could do for people, I would tell them that, and then after complaining to management, they would be taken care of. It made ME look bad, like I wasn't trying to help them. :(

      I know this is outside of your point. I'm tired I guess. The point is, it is usually the company, but sometimes just a rogue, annoying customer service representative that doesn't represent the company.

  2. Great blog Amy - this is your forte I know - but still - I appreciate your analysis. I think as well it is important that they not only respond in a reasonable amount of time, but they respond appropriate to the issue. Also - have you sent this to any of the companies you mention in your blog? I think you should.

    1. You are right! I hate when companies don't respond appropriately, even if they have responded in good fashion - I can't believe I overlooked that. And no, I haven't sent it to them.