Customer Service Is Dead

I’m fairly certain that customer service is dead and I’m sad about it, you all. I’m not saying that service is across the board terrible all of the time but I honestly think the idea of customer service has been dying a slow death and has nearly reached the end. When I have mediocre customer service it feels like such a treat lately and I’m kind of sad about it. When the young kids at the grocery store offer to help me with my groceries, it just melts my heart. I feel like everyone needs to work in retail or food service before becoming a functioning adult because MY GOD! I know this makes me one step removed from telling those god damn kids to get off my god damn lawn, but customer service is going away and I’m not quite ready to let it go. Let me rant about it for a moment, will ya?

Scenario #1 – Certain Online Retailers
I’ve emailed two companies this week regarding issues with online purchases. Both INSTANTLY emailed me back. I was impressed for a second thinking “Wow, live people actually available to answer my simple questions. Awesome!” Until I realized both were auto-responders saying “Hey we got your email, we will read it sometime soon and answer you.” 4 days later I haven’t heard from either company.

What I needed: A simple answer
What I got: SPAM. Which, for the record is not what I consider good customer service. And also a week’s worth of waiting with no response from either company.

Spam, in my opinion, doesn’t help my experience. I don’t need to be emailed to let me know you are going to email me. I mean, that seems sort of inefficient, no?

Scenario #2 – Bookstores
So Borders is out of business and Barnes & Noble is kind of hanging on by a thread and our local bookstores are dangerously close to becoming extinct and we’re all supposed to rally together because big, bad Amazon is putting them all out of business. And you know, I do think about this and want to make a difference. So sometimes I say to myself “I know I could order this online and have it show up to my door in 48 hours, but maybe I will support a business in my community and walk into a bookstore and grab a copy.” Well let me tell you how that has worked out the last 3 times I tried.

First, you have to figure out how the hell the bookstore is organized and what category your book fits into. Brick and Mortar stores have no search button. While this does make me feel inconvenienced, I do realize I am being ridiculous. But the thing is — I am also an educated ridiculous person with fairly good powers of deduction and if I can’t figure out what category the book I want fits into — HOW THE HELL CAN I BUY IT?

Oh! Right! I can ask someone in the store! Great! This only works well if you are buying some non-embarrassing book. I realize this is more of a person problem, but I seem to only get the urge to BUY THE BOOK RIGHT! NOW! when I am shopping for things with names like “7 Ways to Seduce Your Soul into Speaking Its Love Language” or some shit, and I really don’t want to say that out loud to some Emo looking high school student wearing a Justin Bieber tee with his skinny jeans. Why must I feel judged while making a purchase? At least Borders used to have little computers where you could search in silent embarrassment all alone to find out that no — that book is not in the “Self Help section — it’s in the Love Languages section…duuuuuuuuh. What? You didn’t know that was a section? Yeah, it’s all the way in the back to the left of the bathroom.
It’s not the low overhead warehouses are putting big corporations out of business, it’s the fact big box bookstores don’t put OBVIOUS self help books in the self help section and my shame will prevent me from asking Mr. Emo.

But listen, I’m not a total psycho, I buy non-self help books too on occasion, so sometimes I do ask: “Hey Mr. Emo — do you have a copy of BLAH BLAH BLAH.” And then they check in their little computers, because HELLO A BOOKSTORE NEEDS A SEARCH FUNCTION, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! And do you know what has happened the last 2 times that I have asked? The person helping me says this:

“We actually don’t have that in stock at the moment, but we can order it and have it shipped! Straight to your house!”

But do you know what I hear when they say that:

“Thanks for driving 25 minutes across town and dealing with Mall Parking Situation, but we don’t have what you want. It wasn’t just that our sophisticated organization system alluded you, or that our categorization was slightly specific in a way that no thinking person could understand, it is that we actually don’t have what you want. And what we are willing to do you for you is exactly what Amazon would have done for you, at home, in your pajamas, with no Mall Parking Situation — but we are going to charge you 30% more. Doesn’t that sound amazing?”

Forgive me for not crying out in fucking elation.

Scenario # 3 — AT&T Wireless

I’m just going to put it out there that I equate dealing with cell phone drama like dealing with financing a new car. No matter what research you do, or how wonderful your experience is in the moment (which is hardly ever) you are always going to get punk’d in the end because you NEVER had all of the information. Even if you did months (or years) of research, you still will never have all of the information. The best you can expect is to come as armed as possible and roll the dice. And I hate that.

Yesterday I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy an iPhone I’ve been researching it forever, I know exactly what I want, I’ve come as close as possible to being able to accurately estimate the amount of data I will use, I understand all aspects of the new plan I will need to upgrade to and I just needed to make it happen. And do you know how I could have done that? Online and at home. In my pajamas. And while that is generally my preferred method, since I was going to change the cell phone plan I have been on for 10 years, buy a new phone, get insurance, get some accessories and all of that rigamarole I kind of wanted my hand held a little. I’ll admit it, OKAY? I WANTED SOME CUSTOMER SERVICE. SEEEEEEEERVICE!

So I go into our nearest AT&T Store. I’m greeted by some tiny young thing who is clearly doing expediting at a hugely busy location asks me what I need:

“I’m looking for a white 32gb iPhone 4s.”

“How about a 64gb one?” (Thanks for the upsell, but not what I asked for, by the way.)

“Nope.” I say, “I just need a 32gb one.”

So she goes to check and comes out shaking her head. “We only have 16g ones and 64gb ones. It’s probably better to go bigger. Should I set up a 64 for you?”

Ummmmmm. No. So I ask her if she can check with another store for me.

“Oh, the only person who knows how to do that just went to lunch.”

I look around the store and see no less than 11 employees working. Apparently all 11 of them have not been trained on how to make a phone call. Noted.

So we head to the next store. AT THE MALL. Where we are greeted by ALL 11 EMPLOYEES of that store. At once. Standing in front of the door like a school of sharks. Their simultaneous greeting echoes in the completely empty store.

“What can I help you with today?” asks the overly zealous sales person to run to us first”

“A white 32g iPhone 4s.”

“Oh you won’t find any size iPhone 4s in Sacramento. They don’t exist. But you can order one. And I can handle that for you. Why don’t you come over here to the computer.”

“Wait, so you are telling me that no store ANYWHERE has any size iPhone 4s models. What about 16 or 64gb?”

“Nope,” he says, “And I know this for a fact.”

“Oh…hmmm. Okay. Well can you maybe call another store for me and see if they have the model I’m looking for.”

“Yeah, actually our systems don’t have that functionality. But we can go ahead and get your sale started now and it will arrive here at the store in 3 to 5 days.”

****Their systems don’t have that functionality.****

Hmmm…I’m sorry, does that mean their phones don’t actually make calls? Their fingers don’t have the ability to dial? I’m not sure I understand. What I do understand is that no one gives a rat’s ass about my needs as a customer and they would just like to make a sale.

And since we know how I feel about the MALL PARKING SITUATION, why the hell would I have THE STORE order me a phone when I could do that shit at home, and have it SENT TO MY FRONT DOOR? Where this is NO parking situation. So 2 hours and 2 stores later, that’s what I did. I went home and ordered it myself. Figured it out myself. Upgraded my account online myself.

BUT I WANTED SOME SERVICE DAMNIT. And that seems to be more and more elusive these days. Am I a giant old fogey in training, or is this just the way of the world now?

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13 comments to Customer Service Is Dead

  • Lesley
    December 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    So true…although I did have one good experience last week at TMobile. We went in to the Arden store planning to move our business account over to AT&T (so we could get iPhones) and instead ended up with two awesome Android phones and a $150/month savings on our bill. Normally phone companies are the worst!

  • Christy
    December 30, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    OMG, I feel ya. I have been in customer service in one form or another since I was 15 so I’m a bit picky about the customer service I get. And 99% of the time these days I’m super unhappy with every CS person I run into. I’m a 36 year old old fogey and I’m proud of it. :)

  • Matt
    December 30, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I am 100% certain we will see a world where the only brick and mortar store is Nordstrom. They get it. I think the problem can be isolated to poor training in every instance.

  • Jesabes
    December 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    You know whose customer service I’ve always been really impressed with? AMAZON. I’ve long since ceased to feel guilt about ordering everything from them.

  • Stephanie
    December 30, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I am sooo with you. Customer service BLOWS. Now lets talk about customer service in a socialist country where nobody gives a shit about making money. Nevermind, its depressing, lets not talk about it. Just be glad that at least the sucky customer service reps you are dealing with speak English. Wow, I might be a little bitter about this. Happy new year and keep writing I love it.

  • Diane
    December 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    SHOULD I SET UP THE 64GB FOR YOU? I want to throttle her, my goodness, the audacity, LET ME GET MY CANE FOR TO BEAN HER WITH IT.

    Man, if that doesn’t just get me all KIDS THESE DAYS, but seriously? I know they are told they HAVE to upsell, but I wonder if you could have gotten yourself a 32GB white iPhone from her if you’d gone in asking for the 16GB.

    And I hear you on the bookstores. I feel like, as a LIBRARIAN with a DEGREE in INFORMATION SCIENCE, I should be able to walk into a bookstore and have SOME FREAKING IDEA how to find a book. I went to school for years! To learn this! But what they do is keep things as unorganized as possible to force browsing and raise sales. YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to go all crazypants in your comments, but it makes me so mad!

  • Lizzie
    December 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Hear hear. And damn kids and lawns and al that too. I recently went into a b&n and even the staff person that I asked to help had no idea where to look for the book. Totally helpful.

  • AndreAnna
    December 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    You know where I’ve had the best AT&T cell phone service? Like AMAZING? At Best Buy. When Mike found the phone thathe wanted cheaper at Walmart but no one would help him there, she used HER OWN phone to call and double check the price and THEN price matched it for $150 LESS, under Walmart’s. He had his new phone, cheaper, and set-up within an hour. ALSO, Best Buy has this thing where if you put an extra $30 down at the time of purchase of a new phone, you can get $150 off a new phone at your next upgrade when you turn your phone in. Um, that would make his next phone FREE.

    Anyway, now I sound like a Best Buy Wireless commercial, but I guess that’s what happens when you have good customer service – people use their mouths to share.

  • Dr. Maureen
    December 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    The phone store does not have phoning capabilities? Hm. I am doubtful of this claim.

  • Maureen
    December 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Well, we just got back from a trip, and I have my own little customer service story to add. We rented a car from Budget in Orlando, and went to pick it up after a long travel day. I had prepaid for the car, so should be easy right? When we got to the counter, the rep said “oh, I see you are down for an economy car, I will upgrade you to a midsize, most people feel safer in those.” I said, “is it more expensive?”, thinking maybe the holiday spirit got into him, and he might be giving us a free upgrade. Nope, I would get to pay an extra $30 a day. So I said no, I was fine with the economy car. This guy would not take no for an answer. He kept pushing it, saying maybe he could get his manager to get the price down to an additional $20 a day. For a car I didn’t want. Gee, thanks. He just kept acting like it was his call on adding another $300-450 to our bill. He kept going back to the safety issue (???) and I said “we are from Alaska, we drive on snow and ice, these roads are a cakewalk compared to that.” I should have asked for a manager right then and there, but after no sleep I was honestly afraid of what might come out of my mouth. Finally just told him I was not spending one more dime than what I prepaid, if he was so concerned about us he could upgrade us for free. Suddenly he wasn’t so worried about us, and we got our perfectly serviceable little car, which we loved. We don’t rent cars very often, and this experience has put me off Budget big time. I just wonder how many people actually give in after the badgering, because he acted like it was just a given that I would agree.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I am joining you in the cane skaking and off my lawn you whippersnapper crowd. I will say that if you want good customer service though, Disney certainly shines. We had nothing but bend over backwards, how can we help you have a magical day kind of customer service. They were amazing.

  • Tara
    December 31, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I was standing In Starbucks, waiting for my drink when I read the first part of this post and was, at that moment, experiencing horrible customer service as I read (my drink was never announced, though I was standing ~2 feet from the pickup area, and the two people behind me got theirs before the barista told me the one sitting there was mine).

    It’s really frustrating to real with bad customer service. I get so sick of the haphazard, rude attitudes that I get everywhere I go these days. Especially since I worked in customer service-related fields for a long time in my teenage and college years.

  • Kimberlie
    January 2, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    I agree that most stores now have customer-no-service. I did have a good experience over Christmas though. My husband decided he wanted a specific tshirt that I could only find and have delivered in time from CafePress. It was ridiculously overpriced but arrived and was exactly as pictured and great quality, but I’d ordered a size too small. I emailed them and they emailed me back within 4 hours apologizing (Even though I clearly ordered the wrong size, not their fault). They told me to keep that shirt and they’d ship out a larger size right away at nomcharge We had it in 3 days.

    Also, Groupon has great service. They refunded a laser hair removal groupon I bought when the salon and I had a difference of opinion on what constitutes a bikini area and refunded a restaurant groupon when the restaurant went out of business. No hassle either time.

  • San
    January 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Oh, this post made me laugh…. but just because you are a great writer. Sadly, I’ve been in this kind of customer-service situation too many times before. I am willing to support local businesses or physically go to a store, but ONLY if I feel I am getting some service there…. I really hate how the people at AT&T (or other providers) are trained to just talk you into a more expensive, fancier phone than you need.
    For peet’s sake, they tried to talk my (technology-illiterate) MIL into getting a smartphone when she has trouble retrieving your voice mail. This is NOT good customer service, Verizon!

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