Okay, first of all, I was NOT hacking into the CIA mainframe. And I was not downloading pirated music and making Bono and Lily Allen cry. I was merely updating my facebook profile or something equally innocuous when – boom – the internet broke. Sudden, devastating, and unexpected. All I had were the words ‘Server connection reset’, whatever that means, to tell me what might have happened.
Excellent. Except that it wasn’t the server to Facebook that was a problem. No, I couldn’t actually get onto ANY website, which suggested that ALL servers WORLDWIDE had been reset. Woah.
And the only explanation I could come up with: It’s the Apocalypse!
(Between you and me, I have a small mental list of all the things I plan to accomplish if the world order ever does collapse. Bottom line : the apocalypse need not be a bad thing because there are some things I can only do when the CCTV cameras are all broken or turned off and the mob has its back turned because they’re too busy looting. But more on that later.)
Then I looked out the window and realised that the world was not in flames, and zombies were not roaming the streets, and in fact all evidence pointed to ME being the only affected party in this tragedy. Sadly, suffering the apocalypse alone is a lot less exciting than fighting through hell with a fellow group of survivors.
Still, fortunately I am not entirely without skill in the area of repairing modern electrical devices. Thus, using all the training and experience that life had furnished me, I:
Turned off my modem.
And then I turned off my laptop.
And then I waited a couple of minutes.
And then I turned on the modem again.
And then I turned on my laptop again.
And… that didn’t work. At all.
Waves of despair washed over me.
I was alone in the world, cut off from everything. And that’s not just a punishment in itself, because even more vexing than having no internet is having to contact my internet service provider for help. I hate my ISP. Their product is very good when it works… but their customer service is exceedingly poor when it doesn’t.
So I walked out of my apartment, went to recharge my mobile (I don’t have a landline), took a deep breath and a deep scull of something alcoholic (metaphorically, not actually) and called my ISP’s Help Desk.
It goes without saying first of all that in accordance with all helpdesks these days, and probably falling under the marketing euphemism of “for your convenience”, I was asked to navigate a gauntlet of Interactive Voice Response menus to get where I wanted.
First, I needed to enter my phone number. Then I listened. Then I selected option 2. Then I waited for the next set of choices. Then I entered 2 again. Then another set of choices… and now I needed to enter my phone number. Yes, again. And then my geographic area…? What geographic area? Do they want me to spell out ‘England’ on my alphanumeric mobile keypad? Whatever, I figured at worst, they’d transfer me through to a person if there’s an error, right?
Pause. Pause. Wait. Pause. Ah, an automated response: “We’re currently experiencing technical difficulties”.
Then a click.
Then a dial tone.
They hung up on me!
An IVR just hung up on me!?
Yes, it had. Oh, but not before also delivering a (priceless) line saying that I should also check online for solutions to my problem. Check online… for solutions to ‘why can’t I get online’?? It’s about as asinine and tactless as telling a man dying of thirst that you can’t help him, but perhaps he should find some water.
Just to prove that it hadn’t been an error on my part, I tried that again. And… same response.
I went for a walk.
I tried to calm down.
I walked back to my apartment.
An hour had passed and the internet still didn’t work. I sat down and called them again. Menu choice, enter phone number, menu choice, menu choice, enter phone number, enter area code… pause for effect.. Wait for it. And… Advice to check the internet, acknowledgement of technical difficulties, and then a click and a dial tone.
I… I can’t even begin to articulate how unacceptable that kind of behaviour is!… I certainly can’t articulate it to the company, because as mentioned they’ve only got an automated system and they’re not in right now but if I’d like to call in again later…?
But believe me, the one thing I wanted to call in was call an airstrike.
I would love to know: who are these people? Who is responsible for this abominable customer service delivery? Who is it that says “Yes, this is acceptable. Yes, this is how our company should respond to customers”. I want find out, and I want to nail these people to a WALL and confront them with the consequences of the anger they generate.
The problem is that it’s never the low-level people you interact with (if you’re lucky and can even get through) with who are at fault. And the upper echelons are too deep into games of golf and outsourcing to have any clue what goes on. And all the middle management people are too well hidden to ever be punished. And of course you can swear at an automated menu system all you like – it’ll make no difference.
I was feeling rampant, and at this stage there was one option I was angry enough to try. Way up in the menu system there is an option for ‘if you’re thinking of leaving us’. And you know what? Yes. Yes I was. Bring it. I Dialled. I hit the menu. I entered my phone number. Another menu selection, followed by another menu selection, followed by….
“Our service centre is now closed. Please call back on Monday”
And you know, if I had telekinetic powers, most of the western hemisphere would be a smouldering cinder right about now, and the governments of North Korea and Iran would look justifiably puzzled and swear it wasn’t them.
This is execrable. This is the kind of contempt for customer service that I am spending an increasing amount of time butting my head against, and I hate it.
And this is a Sunday evening… which means tomorrow morning I’m meant to go to work and sit down and work on analyses that will HELP THIS VERY SAME company in their aim of acquiring MORE customers. Customers who will then be able to experience the sparkling customer service ethos I’ve been subjected to this day.
Yes. I work for this company.
And come Monday, my motivation to do anything to help them after this was, to put it mildly, minimal.
I decided that as a marketing analyst for this company, I would be remiss in not recounting my experience to my employer. It’s what they pay me to do, after all> in the same way as I’d be remiss in not pointing out some numbers that don’t add up in our figures.
So I bided my time, waited til Monday morning, logged in at work, and found our public internet site, and searched for its feedback section. The objective was: leave some frank feedback that will ruffle some feathers (and if I’m particularly lucky, not get me fired.)
I find the section eventually, and my heart sinks further as I learn that it’s not a straight email address to which feedback can be mailed.
Instead, it’s one of those web pages that require you to fill in an online form. And online forms are simply a new form of corporate bullying: mandatory fields.
Email address : obviously. Customer number : sure. Last name : why not. But first name? And first line of residential address? And Online password? And Postcode? And phone number? And mobile number? And email contact authorisation? What the hell is this…?
And I love the way they clarify ‘online password’ as “the number you quote when you call us”… yes, I remember calling you : you didn’t even connect me to a human being and I never got a chance to quote it to anyone! They also advise that if you’ve forgotten your password then you need to provide three answers from your last bill. Which is sent to a different address. That I can’t access at work.
It is plain that just like their ‘Help’ Desk, this company has ZERO intention of making it easy for customers to EVER contact them, for any reason, ever.
But I play their game. I make a phone call. Amazingly, I get through to them. And then they cheerfully tell me that my password has been changed and should be effective at latest within 24 hours.
Well, probably a couple of hours. But at most 24 hours.
… I’m almost speechless at this point.
I wait a couple of hours and mail something swear-word free, though the word ‘retarded’ is featured. It goes without saying that I quickly get a cheerful email informing me that the company have received and are grateful for my feedback. And they’ll get back to me within three working days.
Which was THREE WEEKS AGO
And then, last week, I noted an article on our intranet where a customer service team was patting itself on the back for the excellent customer feedback it had received for its new Twitter-based help-line. And I just thought… you BASTARDS. TWITTER? You have a whole team on twitter, which next to NOBODY in our customer base uses, while you completely obscure, abandon and give no crap about all the regular customers who want to get through to you on a phone.
Because let’s face it, if you’re capable of contacting a help desk on Twitter, chances are your problems are pretty minor. At least you’re ON the internet.
I wanted to pour scorn at the intranet article – write a comment blasting the company for its completely misdirected and paltry efforts at customer service. But I held back. Instead, I wrote a personal email to the article’s author calmly stating my opinion.
I did this, mailed it, and….
…I quickly got an out-of-office autoreply. He’s not in right now – he’s on holiday, and will be back in a week.
Sparkling customer service, from beginning to end.
postscript : I’ve since learned that the person who wrote the article didn’t actually ‘write the article’ – the person who did so simply copy-pasted another template. I’m now trying to get in contact with them.
postscript2: the person apologised and put me through to the customer service group directly. They are yet to get back to me two months later.
postscript3: as at two months later, my original feedback has still not been responded to.
My ISP’s customer service is crap. And I work for the company.