Category Archives: Customer anger

Bad Process. Bad Customer Service. Common Practice

Yesterday Bank of America put me through a very unpleasant but very common experience. Their ebanking center tried to pay my BofA card account out of a long-closed checking account. The payment was not made; they didn’t notify me of the problem; then I got a late notice and fee. Happens all too often – no big deal. But when I called to find out what happened and straighten things out, I reached a contact center just out of civilization’s reach. The agent tried persuading me I couldn’t enter my online account using the credentials I’ve used before, and I never could have. She was absolutely clueless. So I demanded a supervisor, got one, identified the problem, reversed the fee, etc., etc.

BofA’s problem is endemic. Companies hire raw, poorly trained front line agents who can’t resolve issues a high percentage of the time, either leaving customers angry or having to reroute them to a supervisor – and the companies believe they’re saving money. Any rudimentary process map showing frequencies and costs would blow their “belief” right out the window. Too bad Microsoft couldn’t patent this process, because then others wouldn’t be able to repeat it. But it’s like “monkey-see, monkey-do” out there (my apologies to any monkeys reading). Microsoft and other big call center players start this practice, and before long it’s standard fare.

Where are these companies’ brains? Guess I shouldn’t ask that in a PG blog.

Time for Tech Support to Eat its Own Dog Food (and that includes Google & Microsoft)

We users of tech support services are getting lots of pushback from technology support services of software sellers in particular but tech support in other sectors. Your problem? You believe we’re being rude, disrespectful and otherwise inappropriate. And you’re right. But you’re wrong, too. Rather than bitch about us, how about doing something to address the problems that make us so ornery? Yeah, you’re doing something. You’re exacerbating our problems by eliminating all possible human contact and pushing every possible means of support to the web – so when we do finally get you on the phone or on chat we’re already boiling from trying to use the junk you throw up on the web and call “self-service” (and I do mean “throw up” literally).

For example, Google just directed me to an endless string of “self-help” areas without ever leading me to a person – or even usable information. I finally stumbled across a live chat facility; got connected to an agent; who knew nothing about the problem I was trying to solve; but who did know a link that would supposedly show me how to correct the problem. As usual, I followed the link; was directed to do something with buttons nowhere to be found on the indicated screen, or any other screen I brought up; end of “help.” The next day I figured out on my own a workaround that gets me what I want but will leave Google endlessly running AdWords reports for imaginary ads. At least it’s their problem now.

Then you have Microsoft. Same policies, although they give you an offshore phone number to call for “support” from someone who speaks English as a fourth language. Seems like a means of discouraging calls and forcing those needing support to use their FAQs and links to useless information that’s rarely even on topic.

Here’s a novel idea for you. If you don’t want irate calls from us when we finally find a phone number to call, just try using your own instructions before posting them. Or better yet, have an admin person with only basic computer skills try them. You’ll be shocked. And the end results of fixing before posting will be a whole lot better than “blaming the customer,” which is all you’re doing now.

Can Best Buy be Saved?

 

If Best Buy founder Richard Schulze and his team succeed in their planned hostile takeover (and take-private) of Best Buy, they face a daunting turnaround task. How do they fix this?

My wife’s computer crashed at a horrible time, and she needed to replace it immediately. Reflexively, she went off to Best Buy and returned with a new Dell. Before long, said computer started operating erratically, so back to Best Buy and the Goof Squad it went. And then…

1. Goofy sent it somewhere (Goof Squad central?) to be repaired

2. The repair shop took an extra day testing it after it was “ready”

3. Goofy local kept it for an extra day while he retested it

4. When my good wife picked it up, it wasn’t fixed (they claimed it was a software problem and not their responsibility); plus the microphone was no longer working

5. The thing continued running erratically

6. When the hard drive finally failed completely (see #4), we discovered ourselves we could send it back to Dell directly, despite Best Buy’s representation they provide the warranty service

Seriously, why would they want it back?

Do Sellers Need to Act in the Public Interest?

 

Putting “should” considerations aside, on the hole, do you believe acting contrary to public interest really hurts sellers? This question is really about buyers and whether they still care.

I can think of several examples that might support both “yes” and “no” answers. Looking back just a week, it doesn’t appear the Walmart job action affected much – in part because it didn’t attract enough workers. But on the flip side, Costco financially outperforms Walmart, and I believe very positive worker attitude driven by above industry scale wages and benefits has much to do with that (not that many people know that Costco pays better, we just see the positive effects while shopping). Another example that sticks in my mind is Target stupidly contributing to a PAC opposing marriage equality. The public outcry was intense and forced Target to give to gay rights causes and start carrying merchandise such as same-sex greeting cards.

The Target and Walmart examples give contradictory answers, and I’d like your observations and input.

How Would You React to a Black Friday Strike Against Walmart?

 

Judging by the number of class action employee suits filed against it (many won by plaintiffs), Walmart may be the most abusive major employer in the U.S. Walmart store workers are planning a one-day “strike” on Black Friday to protest benefits and working conditions (for international members, “Black Friday” is the day after our Thursday Thanksgiving holiday when Christmas shopping “officially” starts, and it’s the heaviest retail sales day of the year). Because Walmart is 100% non-union, participation levels are anyone’s guess, but the organizers are promising to have pickets outside stores, and they predict enough people won’t show up for work to cripple operations.

Please put on your own personal shopping hat and shed your business identity. As a shopper, how will you react if this action proceeds as planned? What impact will it have on your view of Walmart? Please comment generously. This is book research. :-)

Thanks,

Dick

Why Are Companies Feeling “Entitled” to Their Past Revenue/Margins?

One of our major utility companies just filed a rate increase proposal to make up for lower energy demand (they’re big on conservation). Interesting logic and even more interesting expectation. Likewise, we’re hearing large banks say they have to “make up” for lost revenues after being stopped from collecting unsupported fees. In both cases, companies are considering current income/profitability as an “entitlement.

 

Does this strike you as decidedly un-capitalistic, even for a regulated utility?

Is Loyalty for Suckers?

A Time Magazine/Moneyland contributor posted an interesting thought last week (http://tinyurl.com/9942w2v). He titled the post, “Proof That Loyalty Is For Suckers: Best Customers Get Penalized With Higher Bills” and gave several relevant examples. What does promoting low introductory pricing for new customers say to current customers who are paying full freight? Would you do this in your business?

 

“Averaging” Customers – Necessary? Misleading? Or Both?

What’s your knee-jerk reaction to hearing someone say, “our average customer?” Mine is to wince. Describing customers according to statistical averages – age, income, net worth,  shopping trips per week, number of employees, annual revenues, number of vendors used for each purchase category and on and on – tells us something about customers. Seeing a statistical distribution across each of these parameters tells us lots more. But still not very much. We can’t understand customers without understanding their behaviors,  And you can’t average behaviors. What’s the average of leaving a restaurant angry and believing you overpaid?  Might as well average a tomato and a pork chop.

Nonetheless, we let the impracticality of assessing and responding to individual behavior dictate use of statistical averages to describe customers. Then we enhance the data by imputing behaviors to people we don’t know. Is this the best we can do?

How should we go about understanding our customers?

Are We Witnessing the “Half-Life” of Customer-Centricity?

The optimist in me says, “Probably not.” The realist in me suspects we are, for several reasons.

-Customers were initially grateful that many companies appeared to be searching for comity. However, buyers now appear to be moving through this phase, which I call “play nice.” Now they’re seeing through the many insincere seller efforts to look and sound more customer-centric and becoming more cynical and mistrustful of sellers than ever. Hence, an increasing percentage is no longer “playing nice.”
-Influenced not only by transacting business over the web but by not seeing the “what’s in it for them” from forming relationships with sellers, many buyers are trying to minimize contact with sellers, preferring efficiency over spending time interacting with sellers.
-The more latitude sellers give buyers to “have it their way,” the more idiosyncratic customer behavior becomes – to the point where finding common approaches to satisfying varied customer preferences is becoming very difficult. “Process-on-demand” (term coined by my colleague Bob Starinsky) is beginning to replace customer best practices.

I’ve gone into much more detail in a new white paper, titled, “After Customer-Centricity Comes…?” http://tinyurl.com/9huk63k

 

Please know in advance that I’ve “trampled over” a number of customer-centricity’s sacred cows, and even more of marketing’s. But please don’t shoot the messenger :-).

Is Customer-Centricity Already Irrelevant?

I’m right now in the process of writing a full article on this topic, which is how I get to the bottom of perplexing questions.  The article is far from done. In fact, I want to read portions of Doc Searl’s excellent new book, “The Intention Economy,” before I wrap it. However, I can already share what I’m seeing through customer lenses.

Customer-centricity is a halfway point between win-lose favoring sellers and win-lose favoring buyers, with the latter being a place business absolutely doesn’t want to go. So in a sense, business (at least enlightened portions) created customer-centricity to stop customers from “crossing over to the dark side.” But a sizeable percentage of customers in developed economies have already pierced the customer-centric line of defense – and have crossed over. And a lot more are coming.

The consequence? Companies have to be prepared to become “customer-reactive” and deal with customers who don’t give a rat’s a** about whether or not sellers survive. Very different business model than customer-centricity.

Are others seeing the same trend lines?