Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How May I (Not) Help You?

This is a blog about business etiquette but I often use it as an opportunity to muse (rant) on the sorry state of what passes for customer service these days. And why not? The definition of etiquette is to have an awareness of the feelings of others and how your actions might have an impact on them. If that's not an apt definition for customer service then I don't know what is.

A recent shoddy customer service experience got me thinking about the customer service practices that have the most destructive effect on my resting heartbeat. That's no short list of course but, after much internal debate, I managed to narrow it down to five. I'd love to hear what yours are as well.

1. Having to listen to advertisements for the very product/service I am unhappy with while I wait for assistance - To me, there is no greater arrogance than the assumption that unhappy clients want to listen to you trumpet the virtues of your product while they fume at the other end of the receiver. You know who you are telecom conglomorate!

2. Not being able to press zero immediately - I don't know about you but the first thing I do when I dial a 1-800 number is try to zero out to a live human but the systems are on to me and a friendly voice tells me in no uncertain terms that "that command is not available".

3. Punching in all of my details on the phone only to have the customer service rep ask me for them when he/she finally answers the phone. What was the point of me entering my 10-digit phone number and 15-digit credit card number if it disappears into obscurity?

4. Customer service reps who call me back and only leave their first name and no extension - Whenever this happens, I call the number only to have someone ask me for the full name of the person, which I, of course am unable to provide. The person on the phone then offers to help me but only if I repeat the same sorry lament I gave to the other person before.

5. No apology - How hard is it to tell an irate customer that you're sorry they had a bad experience? No matter how upset I am, if the first person I talk to apologizes, things seem to go well. On the flip side, my rage increases with each unapologetic person I talk to.


  1. Absolutely agree on all points. No. 3 has always been a sore point for me especially when dealing with Bell. You know darn well they MUST have call display on their screen and yet they ask for your number and then if you get passed to someone else they ask for it AGAIN. Even if you use their new voice recognition service and need to speak to an agent you still need to give your number.

  2. I had a similar experience with Rogers where I was waiting at home for a cable repair guy and when I called customer service to see where he was I was told that they had no way of getting in touch with him! Um, don't you own a cell phone division?

  3. I hate having to ask customer service reps twice for something that should have been offered in the first place. It's not fun being the squeaky wheel.

    Great post, Louise.

  4. Great post Louise - have to agree with #5 whole heartedly. Since when did a sincere apology fall by the way-side in customer service?

    Can't imagine either one of us being in business very long adopting what some in the service industry feel should be the norm these days. One can only wonder. Cheers,