Keep Customer Service From Suffering By Role Playing
I’m writing this is writhing in frustration from several sources all related with customer support. Dare I say that I’ve had it with the avoidance techniques that are currently being deployed by several organizations to prevent a person from having to talk to their customers?!
I remember when Customer Service was a thing of beauty! A thing that companies bragged about! Yes, I’m that old! I remember pulling into a service station, the bell would DING, and without hesitation, the service attendant would come to the car and ask, “Unleaded or Regular?” and “Fill it up?” Once he got the gas nozzle running into the tank, he would again, without hesitation, clean my windshield. And when I paid him, even in cash, he had the change right there. But most importantly, when the transaction was complete, he would say “Thank you and come again!” That’s so different from today when I check out at the department store and the transaction is ended with “Next customer!” shouted to move me out of the way.
All of this could be resolved if we just would put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. A bit of role play would truly open the eyes of corporations, retail stores, and online vendors … if they truly care about customer service. But that question is always answered without a word spoken, and by their actions.
Here are a few examples, and what could be done to resolve these issues:
I needed to contact my orthopedic to cancel an appointment that I worked diligently through their phone maze to schedule. I waited on the phone for the “next available representative” for quite some time before they gave a URL that I could use to cancel my appointment. With all the glee and joy of an 8-year-old at Christmas, I dropped the phone, went to the site, and GoDaddy told me the site is available for purchase. (In hindsight, I should have purchased the site name and held it hostage in trade for “next available representative”!) After all that, what was I to do? I had to get back on the phone and wait again. Finally, after 27 minutes of waiting, I was transferred to “Cindy” –who has a phone that she never answers—where I was able to leave her a message to cancel the appointment.
Now, what if the orthopedic doctor would simply call in to cancel an appointment just to see if he could? What if he went through the process of sitting in the waiting room to see for himself how cold and unwelcoming it was?
The First Internet Provider
Back in October, I was told to change out the sim card in my hotspot router, which was working FINE, absolutely FINE. So, I did. On October 24, it stopped working. Apparently, the carrier could deactivate some 35,000 or more sim cards all at once but could not activate the same number of cards immediately after. Yes, that’s what they said. I had to move to highly expensive hotspot internet, which cost me $250 over a 21-day period. During that time, they would not answer any support calls. The support line would take you through the phone maze and then drop you like a hot potato! It didn’t matter how many times I did it – the result was always the same. Coincidence? I think not!
Finally, I got an email address I was told to send my new and old SIM card numbers to, and it would be resolved – in 24 hours! Yahoo! I began to regain trust in the organization and did exactly that. Days later – still nothing. To make matters worse, I’d been so happy with their service before this time that I’d recommended it to neighbors, friends, and family, and they were all down, too. No emails were ever answered. All I had to go on was what my reseller, anxious to keep his customers, would tell us. To this day, they are still down.
What if they had tested some of the SIM cards instead of allowing the carrier to deactivate all their clients at one time? What if they had done a trial run? And what if they had ramped up their customer support capabilities for this system-wide change in case something went wrong? Perhaps customers would have been able to reach out to someone and get some sort of condolence if nothing else.
Given that I had no support, was going deep into the pockets with internet hotspot charges, and had no recourse, I had to go to another provider. That just happened to have been the carrier that caused this problem. Ah, sometimes you can run from the bear, and sometimes you just have to hug the bear and take the beating. That bear became my second internet provider against every fiber in my body!
The Second Internet Provider
Now, why would I defame the name of this provider/carrier even though they have treated me like dirt in the past? Oh, that would be beneath me, right? Yet, I can tell you that their name is just three letters and contains an “&”.
This is not my first pony ride with this company. I had them before and quit dealing with them solely because of their customer service. It all started when I called for support, and the customer service lady told me that I had the wrong support number for my issue. Honestly, there must be 100 numbers for support with this company, all with misleading names and the attitude of “it’s not my problem.” I called the number she gave me only to find out it was to connect me with “hot sexy ladies in your area”. Well, that will put you in the penthouse suite of heated angry!
In another incident, I noticed they had left my international calling on my bill for 6 months after I had called to have it turned off. I’d been paying for it every month…Tada! I found a level of heated anger even higher than the penthouse suite! That built more distrust of their representatives. Eh, I’ll just cut the details of the past out at this point and move to the current situation. (But only after telling you they left my old internet down for 4 days due to a cut line and would not answer my calls. That’s what led to going to the first Internet provider).
Since my first internet provider was not coming back online, I was forced to go back to the bear and welcome him back into the house. I asked SPECIFICALLY for the advertised 100GB UNLIMITED hotspot plan. I was told that I would get the 100GB UNLIMITED plan. I received a router and sim card, brought it home, and to my delight, I was getting 25MBPS up and 3MBPS down! This was double what the last provider could give me. Oh delight, joy even, flooded my heart, and for a while, I felt like these folks might have rectified their poor customer service. The bear became a soothing teddy bear.
Of course, that was just too good to be true. Due to some over-usage by others in my home, I quickly reached my 100GB UNLIMITED cap to find that it was in fact, LIMITED. Funny, that’s not what I thought “unlimited” meant. I began receiving data alerts that I had gone over my limit and an additional 10GB would be added for $25. Now, that wouldn’t be that bad, really. But I was also getting another message via email stating I was over my limit (that word again!), and they had added 1GB to my plan. How much was the 1GB? I still cannot tell you. After 47 minutes on hold, being told by a recording to go to a community forum to search it out myself, I waited patiently. And then it happened…the call magically ended.
I found a second source of support in a phone app for my account where I could chat back and forth with a bot that was to connect me to a LIVE PERSON! I waited, again being continually asked to go to the community forum. (I did, by the way, but the answer wasn’t there.) I waited and waited, and finally, the recording said I’d have 14 minutes more to wait. I had all my information together – my account, my dates of emails, my alerts on the app that were contrary to the emails, and then it happened. I got a message on the bot chat stating, “Session has ended due to inactivity”. I just stared at the screen in disbelief!
I just wonder if the corporate heads at that company have ever tried to get support through the same lines as their customers. Or do they know how frustrating it is and just avoid it like the dust beneath the refrigerator; they know it’s there, but they don’t care to do anything about it.
The Urgent Care Center
Feeling exhausted and congested, a week ago I decided I should get tested for COVID. I was second-hand exposed before Thanksgiving, so it could be I had contracted it. For the sake of my hubby and others, I needed to know. As it turns out, I was indeed positive for COVID. As they gave me the results, the nurse asked, “Do you need your lab results?” I said no. I just wanted to get home! I mean, I knew the results now—why would I need it in writing? Come to find out, my hubby would need it in writing for his work. They put him in quarantine with me, which I think was a wise decision on their part.
Trying to get the paperwork for those lab results placed me in the pits of customer service hell again! There is NO WAY to speak to a person at the facility. I tried every phone maze I could get through, and it wasn’t possible. One of the recorded messages gave a URL to go to for medical records. AH, lab results would be medical records! I filled out the form, signed it digitally, and it said I would be emailed the results in 2 days. Guess what? That’s right – 4 days passed, and nothing was mailed.
Yesterday, with COVID, I had to have my husband drive me to the facility. I put on my mask, maintained my distance, and pretty much exhausted my anger at not being able to reach them by phone. To that firestorm, the sweet front desk attendant told me, “Well, I can get that for you.” In just a few minutes time, she had printed it out and handed it to me. God bless her!
BUT…it should not have been necessary for me to have to go to the facility to get the documentation. Obviously, this facility has been designed NOT to allow communications without you showing up in person. Now, why would any organization do that to their customers?
The Doctors Office
During this flood of frustration and turmoil, I also received word that one of my medications needed a prescription refill from the doctor. Typically, this is a non-issue. They have a portal I can go to, log in, and send a message. Usually by the end of the day, I’m getting a notification from the pharmacy that it’s being filled. However, my doctor’s office is going through a transition as they are merging with a larger group. They have been renamed, are on a new system, etc. A week ago, when I went to the portal and entered my request…nothing happened. It took me a few days to realize it. Then, when I went back into the portal, I no longer had the ability to send a message.
I pulled up their phone number and called. Welcome to “new name” Medical, they said, and a whole new phone maze began. I chose a number and waited … for a full 43 minutes before I had to hang up and move on. I tried it again the next day and continued to wait. Becoming impatient, I tried hitting zero, which has been known to get me to a person faster in some situations. But not this one – it hung up on me. I called again several times and couldn’t wait.
Yesterday, I called EARLY – as their doors were ready to open, and I waited. After a few minutes, an attendant answered my call. I explained that my medical prescription needed renewed. What came after that was a circus with three bears and an elephant! Their new system did not have my insurance information in it. I had to chase down my cards and read them to her. I then put my cards back, only to hear that when she pressed enter it removed one of them. Back to the cards, give the numbers again, and then wait. Wait while she found it in the old system to bring it into the new system. When she did find me, she read off my prescriptions – every single one from past and present – but couldn’t find the one I needed. Ah, wasn’t that just fate at this point? I told her the name, the MG, who provided it, etc. She could not find it. I then had to chase down the last bottle and read the name to her. At that point she found it and said she would send it over for the doctor to prescribe again. Yet today...I still haven’t received word that it was done.
As we were getting off the phone, I told her I tried to add it into the customer portal, but it didn’t give an option to leave a message anymore. Her response was that I should have been using another URL. Hmmm…how was that message given to the patients at the facility? No one had communicated it to me, the old web site was still up and running without any notification of the change, and I remained in baffling ignorance as to how I could have known.
Do Some Role Playing
We customers don’t expect much these days. But if you frustrate me during my few customer service communications, I guarantee you I will remember it, as will others. We will hold it against you like an angry wife who is tired of picking up your socks! We’ll stay silent, trying to be gracious, until one day, it’s OVER!
My recommendation: Play the role of your customer and do it often. You’ll not only find the quality of the person-to-person interactions that occur with your staff (if you’re kind enough to provide that type of support), but you’ll find the flaws in your customer portals, your phone system, your website, and so on. Perhaps, if all organizations did this, customer support would return to the precious level it was years ago when the bell would ding, and the serviceman would appear with a smile and gratitude.
Stay tuned to the ArcherPoint blog by following us on LinkedIn for our upcoming series on customer service improvements.