What I’m Thinking About: Customer Service

Customer Service

I have a bill on my desk that is twice what I expected. It arrived from my accounting software company several months ago. Because I have this company set up for monthly auto payments, this large bill has already been paid … even though I have no knowledge of the what or why. And finding out? Well, that’s what has me thinking about customer service and my/our role in its deterioration or improvement.

Do we have a role to play in how we are treated by our chosen service providers? What makes us hesitate to act?

The accounting software I use is extremely popular. It came highly recommended by my accountant and my bookkeeper. Making the initial purchase and getting set up was not terribly difficult, but trying to find out about this mysterious payment … I’m at about 10 phone calls and two emails. Still no answers to my questions.

The biggest issue seems to be that, as a customer, I don’t matter. There’s no connection being made between me and the company’s bottom line, its brand message, its values, my ability to be a referral, and so on.

When I call the company for help, I must first answer five automated questions about why I’m calling and my account information. This sequence ends with “One moment please” and then I hear this message:

“All (company name) representatives are currently assisting other customers. For your convenience, please press 1 to leave your callback information. Your call will be returned in the order in which it is received. For immediate assistance, visit (website chat) or (online community). Otherwise, please give us the opportunity to assist you and call back later. We look forward to helping you and thank you for choosing (company name).”

This is what I experience when I listen to this message:  It isn’t convenient for me to leave my number for you to call me back. I’m calling you between meetings or workshops or deadlines and this moment is the one that’s convenient for me. I may not be available when you call me back – and I may be the 100th customer on your to-do list. If I thought this issue could be resolved by online chat, that’s where I’d be, and I know the online community cannot help me with an unexplained invoice. I am giving you the opportunity to help me, but you are not taking it and you are not looking forward to helping me. I don’t matter to you at all.

But what prompted this post is … when I have reached and spoken to someone and they’ve put me on hold, this same message kicks in and my call is disconnected. This has happened more than once. And when I ask the new person who answers if I can talk to the person who put me on hold, they either ask for an extension or tell me there’s no one with that name in the department.

Years ago, whenever I encountered a ridiculous customer service experience, I would always let the company know. It was a personal policy of mine. At that time, I believed that no company would purposefully frustrate, ignore or anger a customer. I’d take the time to track down a senior manager and provide them with all the details. Companies were always grateful for my efforts; they wanted to know, wanted to improve.

There’s definitely been a shift. Part of this shift relates to the service provider. They know they have my data and that I’m sharing the platform with a bookkeeper, an accountant and a business coach. They know it will be incredibly inconvenient and time-consuming to choose another provider. They know that … I’m kind of trapped, and they treat me accordingly.

And part of this shift relates to me. My time is limited and, having already dedicated 30 minutes on several different days without resolution, I find myself weighing time and money. Do I really put more energy into this?

The answer, this time, is “yes”. The possibility occurred to me that the company was unaware that putting customers on hold was disconnecting them. It was also possible that customer service agents were using this maneuver to eliminate calls they didn’t want to handle. In either case, senior management would definitely want to know about it, wouldn’t they? Certainly, all the companies on my client list would want to know about it.

I searched LinkedIn and found the name of a Senior Director. I used Google to track down her email and sent her a message. She replied with a promise that someone would contact me to resolve my issue. “Whew,” I thought to myself. “It still makes a difference when we speak up.” That was July 12 and … I’m still waiting.

And I’m still thinking. Should I/we be taking the time to tell our providers what’s not working for us, hoping for improvement? Or should I/we take the passive-aggressive approach, venting online or silently leaving to work with another company? Or should I/we add up time and effort, and accept terrible service as a cost of doing business?

For the time being, I’m going to continue to work on getting this issue resolved. What do you think?



10 thoughts on “What I’m Thinking About: Customer Service”

  1. I think absolutely yes, we should be taking the time to voice our issues! Today is a day in age where we have more power than ever as consumers to make a difference, particularly in where we spend our money, as there are so many more options available to us. While you may have your ‘hands tied’, so to speak, there are always other companies who genuinely care and go above and beyond to provide value to their customers. The choice is yours to decide if it matters enough to you. Personally, I don’t tolerate negligence well.

    • Wow, Christine, I love this comment. You are absolutely right and I know your words are going to inspire and motivate a lot of people. Thanks!

  2. I completely agree with Christine, in today’s day and age we have a stronger voice than ever before.
    Sadly Mary Jane I have experienced the same issues with various companies- long wait times, no call back and finally…when I get someone live we get disconnected!
    I know my venting doesnt always produce the result I want, but I do feel better knowing they know I am unhappy. I have also gone on social media occasionally to vent.
    It is inconvenient and time consuming to switch providers, but that is the biggest way to express your unhappiness with their service.
    would love to hear if you ever hear back from the senior director:)

    • Another “Wow”, Ava. I’m very heartened to be receiving such powerful statements from people. It says a lot about how we will shape the future of customer service. Thanks for sharing and I will update everyone on this story.

  3. Frustrating! If I were “trapped” like you, Mary Jane, I too would try for resolution including compensation for my inconveniences. If I eventually didn’t get both, when I’m ready, I’d switch to another vendor and not bother to respond to any questions about why I left them. I feel the clearest message to providers of unacceptable service is when their customers walk.

    • Thanks, Geoff. You are SO right. Moving to another vendor is the clearest message we can send. And I hadn’t thought about requesting compensation for the time and effort this is taking. I’ll keep you informed about how this turns out.

  4. I like your thoughts & am going to chew on them. Here’s what I do: call until I get a mature responsive person-and don’t back down. I have 3 services I’m having beefs with but only two risk losing my business-the other is the CRA . Customer service is my business. Make it yours

    • This is great, Sara. In fact, I think I’ll use that line in my future conversations with the company. “Customer service is my business. Make it yours!”.

  5. You are certainly doing this company a huge favour by persisting in trying to let them know how many really bad glitches are in their “customer service” system. As the senior employee you reached through LinkedIn still did not deal with the problem, I suspect there is a serious problem with the leaders of the company. I will be really interested to know whether they respond appropriately in the end.

    Today, I find that the organizations I deal with either have very good customer service or simply awful service. It is very time consuming to stay with the poor service provider, but they could certainly use your expertise, if they are ever able to recognize that.

    • Thanks for your comment, Eileen. And yes, it turns out there are several serious problems faced by the company. It goes well beyond phone skills. Tune in to next week’s post to learn about what happened after I published my post.


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