Saturday, October 23, 2010

Consumers deserve better...

There was a time when companies delivered on their promises of good products and good customer service. A customer did not have to contact the President or CEO of the company in order to get satisfaction or resolution to a problem. One simply contacted the sales or service representative and they helped solve the problem right on the first try. That was then. This is now.

When I email a customer service representative of a company I do business with, I expect to be able to resolve the problem at that time, unless it requires deeper investigation, which after a reasonable amount of time, I expect a response. This rarely happens and when it does, it is the "I'm sorry there's nothing we can do" that is the final answer. That is not good enough for me. But alas, generally I am left with one choice and that is contacting the head of the company for a resolution, which for me, has been successful 100% of the time.But I shouldn't have even had to go that high in the first place. If I have to go all the way to the top for a simple solution to a problem, the company is in big trouble.

Why do companies operate like this?

A few possible reasons:

1) The company has an early cancellation policy with an exorbitant penalty to cover their "loss" should a customer be so disgusted with the service they decide to cancel. A great number of customers likely stick with the service to avoid the huge penalties. But if they do cancel and pay the penalty the company makes out pretty good. 

2) The company is part of a monopoly and the customers are stuck with few choices in service. If you want a particular service you have a choice of maybe one or two companies to deal with. If you really need or want the service, both companies have issues, it then becomes a decision of the "lesser of two evils."  

3) The company leadership is so completely disconnected from its customers it has no idea what is going on though I find this hard to believe (but it is possible) given all of the internet discussion forums where angry and dissatisfied customers can post their complaints for others to view. Perhaps the corporate headquarters is in the United States, but the customer service is overseas in Pakistan, India or some other country. Perhaps the customer service is in the United States but the workers are paid crap so they don't care. But in both cases, where's the oversight? Somebody is in charge of the quality of service, no?

In the end, is it possible that a company is so successful profitwise that they can absorb the losses incurred from bad customer service?  Is it possible that those in charge do not ever hear about the internet complaint forums that list hundreds of complaints about their company? What company would not want to know what people think? What company would not care?

Who can truly survive doing business like that? I suppose monopolies help it along. If the choices for services are severely limited, customers have the choice of no service or crappy service. A lot of people think something, though flawed, is better than nothing. That bites. The reality is that perhaps we as consumers are partly responsible for this. When we accept less than the quality we're paying for, the quality we deserve, then we perpetrate this and allow it to thrive.Interesting thought isn't it?

In the meantime, this post does not come out of nowhere, it comes about because I've written yet another CEO today, this time Mike White of DIRECTV. This one is over a $10 disconnect fee. I am being charged because one hour after ordering a Comcast channel (to watch the Redkins games), I found I could not view it and immediately called DIRECTV. They informed me it is always blacked out in my area and they cancelled the order and waived the disconnect fee. My recent statement shows the $10 disconnect fee and now DIRECTV customer service told me there's nothing they can do, that policy dictates if one cancels the channel before thirty days, one has to pay the fee. Like so many "zero tolerance" type policies, this one allows no room for common sense in problem-solving. This time, as usual, instead of arguing with customer service, I went directly to the CEO with my case. I'm sure there's something he can do. Or so we'll see.

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