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Customer Lip Service: Scripted Responses, Broken Promises and Other Bad Ideas

Make no mistake, this is a tale of woe. I’m dumping a long-term service provider for one reason. Their customer service pushed me over the edge.

About 9 months ago, I started having trouble with my anti-virus software. I missed the first clue something was wrong when prompted to buy more online storage. I spent $50 for the extra storage required to backup my files. I received a follow-up call from the provider checking to make sure everything was to my satisfaction. She seemed puzzled I would need more capacity since I was only operating a single email account and didn’t have a significant amount of data to backup. Alarm bells should have gone off but they didn’t. Within five weeks, I was being prompted to buy more online storage. Obviously, something was wrong.

Cut to the Chase
After months of fiddling around and risking my data, I wrote to the company. Their online form was onerous and required a massive amount of repetition. Still, I managed to get through it and received a computer generated reply. Within the hour, I had an email from customer service telling me I had to buy more storage to correct my problem. I carefully explained in my reply the storage was being gobbled and I wasn’t going to buy more.

The Beginning of an Ugly Relationship
A different person replied next. The email started:

I understand how frustrating it is to have to go through this and I regret the inconvenience that it has caused.

I appreciated the sentiment but was frustrated when I was told, again, I needed to buy more storage to correct the problem. I wrote back, again, explaining the problem. I received a prompt reply from another support person asking me to delete all my backup history and rerun my backup. I did. It still failed with a suggestion I buy more online storage. I replied to the email detailing my experience with their corrective action. I explained I was now totally exposed.

Day Two
The next day I received a reply from a different customer support person. The email started:

I understand the inconvenience you have experienced. Please be assured that I will do my best in assisting you with this issue.

I was told the program was causing problems, my case had been escalated and someone would call me in 24 to 48 hours.

Day Five
Still waiting, I wrote back saying it had been over 85 hours and my problem needed to be resolved. Later that day I got a reply from a new support person saying:

I see that we’ve had a great deal of correspondence on this issue already and I’d like to apologize for the time and energy you have expended in an attempt at resolution. I want to assure you that I recognize your frustration and am committed to helping you resolve this matter.

I was told, again, my case had been escalated and someone would call me in 24 to 48 hours.

Day Nine
I sent a terse reply saying I was furious and wanted some help. I also mentioned I was ready to cancel my account.

Later that day I received a reply from yet another support person saying:

I can imagine how frustrated you must be. I guess I would’ve felt the same as you, if this had happened to me.

It is certainly not our intension for our customers to have anything but a pleasant experience with XXXXXX.

Let me assure you that what happened in your case is not typical of XXXXXX’s level of customer service. We continue to be committed to providing you and all of our customers with the highest standards of service in the industry. I apologize, if we failed to meet your expectations.

The note goes on to say someone had tried to reach me but they had the wrong number. They quoted my number on file, which happened to be correct. They requested a convenient date and time to phone me along with a primary phone number and an alternate phone number.

I suggested a phone call between the hours of 12:00 noon and 5:00 pm would be ideal. I reminded them I lived in Western Australia. I provided two phone numbers and a request to contact me as soon as possible.

Day Ten
I get a reply from ANOTHER support person saying:

I understand the inconvenience you have experienced. Please be assured that I will do my best in assisting you with this issue.

They go on to say I could expect a phone call within 24 to 48 hours. While all the platitudes have sounded like they were written by the same person, this sentence was exactly the same one used by the Day Two support person.

Day Thirteen
My phone rings at 6:45 am. It was the promised call from the supervisor. I explained it was extremely early, I was walking out the door to an all-day conference and wouldn’t be available until the next day. I requested, again, that someone phone me between the hours of 12:00 noon and 5:00 pm

Day Seventeen
I purchase a competitive product.

Day Eighteen
My phone rings at 2:23 am. It was the promised call from the supervisor.

Where Did it All Go Wrong?

  • No one owned the problem. Every communication from the company came from a different person. I certainly got the impression of being on the customer service treadmill.
  • The sympathetic beginning to every reply was rendered ineffective by the broken English used in the rest of the letter.
  • Every promised deadline was missed, telling me there was no sense of urgency.
  • My details were correct but I was told they weren’t.
  • The obvious lack of attention to international time zones is inexcusable for a product with global brand presence.

In Summary
I really liked my anti-virus software and was willing to work through a problem. I spent 20 years in the software industry and understand bugs infiltrate even the best products. I’m currently using a different anti-virus product I don’t like as much. Due to shoddy customer service, I have been left with no alternative.

The Take Away
When you pay lip service instead of providing customer service, expect to lose business even from long-term, loyal customers.

How does poor customer service provoke you?

Related Post:
Is Your Customer Service a Thinly Veiled Sales Job?

*photo courtesy of vlima.com at www.flickr.net