July 30 2007 by Ellen Roseman
Too bad companies say it and don’t mean it. If your call really was important, it would be answered promptly and expertly. Your requests for help and escalation to a supervisor would be followed up quickly, not left dangling for days. And your unresolved disputes about billing wouldn’t be turned over to a collection agency.
But that’s the lamentable state of customer service today, where technology helps reduce costs and increase depersonalization. Montreal Gazette business reporter Roberto Rocha winds up his series and posts some closing comments at his blog.
I like the response from a reader, who thinks customer service won’t get better until we start looking beyond low prices and become more demanding:
The reality is that large companies couldnâ€™t care less about you. If you have an unusual situation that requires more than a few minutes of their time, youâ€™re costing them money. The old threats of â€œIâ€™ll never do business with you againâ€ and â€œIâ€™ll go to the pressâ€ are meaningless now. They donâ€™t care if a few bad apples (who would otherwise bother their expensive customer service centres) end their service and go to a competitor. Thereâ€™s plenty of other fish in the sea. And going to the media, which is a horrible nightmare for small businesses, doesnâ€™t bother the big companies because they know their competitors have reputations that are just as bad.
Besides, nobody checks out customer service before signing up. They check prices. Thatâ€™s why the small fries, who have great customer service but slightly higher prices, soon find themselves going out of business.
From a strict cost-benefit analysis, itâ€™s better to provide crappy customer service (but have your PR guys talk about how youâ€™re improving to the media) and lower prices than to raise prices and have qualified, local people answer the phone.
And thatâ€™s not going to change until more people start demanding better.
Meanwhile, you can check out the advice I gave Roberto, which he reprinted at his blog, on how to protect yourself when dealing with telecom companies.