Friday, July 20, 2012

Is Customer Service Dead?

When is the last time you really experienced good customer service? I am beginning to think it is a dying art. Somewhere along the way we have either lowered our expectations so much that we don't think anything of it, or the providers aren't interested in dealing with customers - just selling whatever it is they are selling.

I just got off the phone with a utility company. Mind you it isn't my current utility company, it is my previous one.

Why would I hear form them? No I called them. This makes the 3rd call I've had with them.

See my current gas utility is requesting specific information from my previous gas utility stating that I have made my payments on time, haven't had any returned checks, and no disconnections. If I am able to provide that information they will waive the $110 security deposit for me.

Certainly if one gas utility was asking for it, another gas utility would be able to provide it without much problem. Right?

Wrong. On my first call, the customer service representative said he would send it. Instead, I received two generic form letters (in two separate envelopes - what a waste) saying my account was paid in full, the other stating it was being reported as current. Well, that isn't what they are asking for now is it? They are asking for historic information. They kind I know they can see on their screen.

So I called again, and asked for the specific letter. I was told they can only send out these automated letters, they can't write what I need them to write. I got a little testy. I wanted to call her a liar. Who says you can't write a letter?

I also worked customer service in a phone center in college. We had automated letters that we sent. But if something came up that an automated letter wouldn't cover we also had letterhead templates where we could write a custom letter and have it signed by someone with the proper "authority". It isn't that difficult. The only difference is you had to actually write it instead of order it by number.

I asked to speak to a supervisor, because somebody there has to have the authority to write a letter. Of course a supervisor is never on duty when you need one so I was promised a return call in 24 hours.

Twenty hours later I receive a call from the supervisor who I can already tell is on the defensive. Why? Don't they want to help their customers? Don't they want to make their experiences pleasant?  Wasn't I a good customer? Apparently not. She isn't helpful and offers nothing. We can't write you a letter. I don't have letterhead. We only send automated letters.

Who do they hire at these places if they don't trust them enough to write a letter! And I wasn't asking for something bizarre, just a simple letter. For heavens sake I will write it myself and send it to you to sign. (I half contemplated scanning the letter they did send me and making some changes in Photoshop, but my conscious wouldn't let me.)

In the end I drafted a letter (on my own letterhead) explaining why I was providing two letters from my gas company that didn't say anything much at all, and included a copy of my bill pay transactions for the last 12 months. I am hoping that the people who work at my current gas company are smart enough to connect the dots and see that I am a decent customer who pays their bills on time and will waive the $110 deposit.

In this situation I have utilized the time of 3 of their employees, 2 pieces of paper, envelopes and separate postage - all for what? It was a net waste for both of us.

My last few experiences with customer service have been miserable. The people setting up new services are cordial and very helpful - they want your business. But once you have the service, pray nothing happens that requires you to talk to customer service. They are no longer in the business of making and keeping customers happy.

I am seriously trying to think of a good one, and I can't.

Scenarios like this are played out across all industries (medicine included). People are told exactly what they can and cannot do. They aren't allowed to think and use common sense to solve problems. Instead, they are given defined boxes that they aren't permitted to deviate from. You may answer the phone, you may push this button, you can say this - but, nothing more.

I dislike boxes, I like people who care.



  1. That stinks & since I'm getting ready to move I know exactly what you're talking about. A couple utility companies in our new city told me the same thing which I knew I didn't want to pay several hundred dollars in deposits, but also knew after spending hours on the phone already I wasn't wanting to call my current companies back. I asked the utility companies what else could be done and they all told me that they would waive the deposits & letters if I sign up for auto billpay through their company website & keep that for at least 10 months. So that might be an alternative option for you. Good luck!

    1. Thanks for the tip, I will have to try that angle!

  2. Why do you need to pay a deposit for your gas!? I've NEVER heard of utility deposits! I simply call the utility company, give my name and SSN, and they ask "do you want actual monthly payments or estimated?"and I pick and then they turn on the utility.

    I experienced something similar in terms of customer service with the State Bar of Michigan. The law school I graduated from sent the same good standing letter four or five times, but the Board of Bar Examiners in Michigan kept telling me it wasn't the right one. Well, actually, they didn't tell me. I would wait for a month, I still wouldn't get my bar exam results in the mail, I'd call, and they tell me they didn't have the right letter. So I'd call the dear sweet lady at my law school's registrar's office, and she'd send it again. And again. And again. And again. Really, Michigan? You couldn't call me and tell me that the letter you received wasn't the right one? Finally, after the fourth or fifth time she sent the letter, I was informed that the BBE had received the correct letter, four or five times. Really? Seriously? I'm so glad Andy didn't match in Michigan. Because I refused to give them another $300 so I could be admitted to the bar. Because they'd probably lose the check and demand another.

    1. We have never, ever had to pay a deposit. Hopefully, we won't have to pay this one either. Our electric company waived our deposit because we have good credit. The only thing I can think of is that this gas company doesn't pull credit reports and requests these credit reference letters instead. I suppose it is cheaper on their end? Who knows! I am less than impressed. We ran into the same scenario you describe with my husbands DEA license. People, get it together!

  3. I want to punch these people in the face FOR you! I agree that customer service is dead, and it is SO frustrating!!!

    The Lawyer has been egging me on to write about a call that I got on Mon. from a collections agency. They claimed that I had a dr.'s bill that wasn't paid, but they couldn't give me the doctor's name (Umm...WHAT?), and also didn't have my correct address on file. They did not identify themselves, but only demanded my new address, which I would not give them. When I started reading to them from the FTC website about their requirements to inform me what the bill was, they got defensive and were basically yelling at me. Then, I dropped the "L" word (lawyer) and told them my lawyer (benefits of dating one) was waiting to be conferenced in on the call. Well, that request was outrightly refused. I ended up hanging up on them, because SERIOUSLY? Like I'm going to give my information out to some stranger on the phone for a bill that was already paid? Ridiculous.

    1. That takes the cake! My blood pressure was rising just reading about that encounter. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing you did something they say you didn't.

  4. I'm totally with you on this one. Don't even get me started about the phone company. Argh!

    I'm following up from your visit to our site, Mother Daughter Book Reviews. I'm following you via GFC, and I'd like to make sure you've connected on Twitter. What is your id? Also, do you have an email subscription on your site? Thanks and have a great day, Renee

    1. I don't have an email subscription option yet. It has never occurred to me, but now that you've asked I'll look into it!

  5. I totally relate! Good customer service is staring to be a thing of the past:(.Stopping by from the Aloha Friday blog hop and am now your newest follower:) Hope you can come check out Crazy Mama Drama !


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