Your call is important to us

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 couldn’t care less about you. If you have an unusual situation that requires more than a few minutes of their time, you’re costing them money. The old threats of “I’ll never do business with you again” and “I’ll go to the press” are meaningless now. They don’t care if a few bad apples (who would otherwise bother their expensive customer service centres) end their service and go to a competitor. There’s plenty of other fish in the sea. And going to the media, which is a horrible nightmare for small businesses, doesn’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. That’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, it’s better to provide crappy customer service (but have your PR guys talk about how you’re improving to the media) and lower prices than to raise prices and have qualified, local people answer the phone.

And that’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.

2 comments

  1. Last Minute Guy

    Jul 31 2007

    One of my biggest pet peeves is not being able to understand the TECH support, or worse, them not understanding me and making me go through their script no matter what the reason I am calling. Sympatico is famous for this.

    So here’s a little tidbit I was given (hopefully correctly). Apparently all of Sympatico’s French speaking CSRs & Tech support agents are required to be bilingual. Next time you call tech support press 2 for French service and you will be connected to someone in Canada. Just tell them you need to be served in English and don’t want to speak to someone overseas.

  2. Fagstein

    Jul 31 2007

    Thanks for the quote. Here’s the original post for those interested.

    I’m frankly very skeptical that the situation will ever really change. There will always be customers that use customer service lines so much they don’t bring in any profit anymore. Many cellphone contracts include clauses that allow the provider to dump customers that become a burden on them.

    So long as the number of screwed-over customers stays small in relation to the majority who rarely call, they can be written off. The cost to satisfy all of them is too prohibitive, and spending that money to reduce prices or increase advertising will help the bottom line more.

    So long as you don’t screw over armed forces veterans, politicians or newspaper columnists, chances are nobody in the media is going to pay any attention to it.