4 Lessons from Customer Service Purgatory

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail asking me to call an organization regarding an event registration I had sent. I called the phone number and extension as outlined in the e-mail, and was informed by the automated voice mail system that there was no one to answer because they were training a new team to handle the registrations. I was asked to leave my name and number so someone could get back to me. I did so. No reply.

I called again. This time there was no message about training a new team, but I was asked once again to leave a message. I did so. No reply.

I called again last week. I was placed in queue and informed by the recording that my call was very important. After a couple of minutes the call forwarded to voice mail, asking me to leave another message.

Frustrated, I immediately called back and listened to the entire front-end menu which ended with "If you feel you’ve not received an adequate response to earlier messages press 9". I did so, and was promptly forwarded to voice mail asking me to leave a message and someone would get back to me IN TWO BUSINESS DAYS. Are you serious?!

The kicker? The phone menu for this organization begins with the statement "we are committed to exceeding your expectations."

Lessons from this story:

  1. Don’t ask customers to call you if you know you’re not going to be able to answer the call and resolve the issue. You’re setting yourself up for disaster.
  2. Don’t ask customers who have not received adequate response to an earlier message to LEAVE ANOTHER MESSAGE. If you can’t have a live human being answering the phone during regular business hours, then don’t even tease your customer with the option. You’re only going escalate the situation.
  3. Responding to irate customers in two business days is unacceptable. We live in an age of instant communication. Answer the phone. Reply to the e-mail. Even if you can’t resolve the issue right away, at least respond and acknowledge the issue now!
  4. Don’t tell your customers that you’re committed to exceeding their expectations unless you’re prepared to actually do your homework, find out what those expectations are and do what is necessary to actually exceed them. A hollow promise is worse than no promise at all.

  2 comments for “4 Lessons from Customer Service Purgatory

  1. January 22, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    I had a similar thing happen to me. I called a call center and every time I pressed the key to get to an operator, it went to a fast busy signal.
    I finally got fed up and went to their web site and sent an email explaining that I could not get through and I needed someone to call me on my line and help me.
    Two hours I got an email back explaining that they had been in a holiday party and simply turned their phones off, but I could “Go ahead and call back now.”
    They took the time to answer my email, but did not take the time to read it or actually do what I asked. They got to turn their phones off, I was so shocked, I could not believe it.
    Many call centers have systems that are unconsciously,(maybe consciously) set up to discourage customers from calling. They make the customers jump through hoops, but they can always blame it on the customer for not being patient enough.
    Sometimes, call centers can become simply a way to cop-out from actually serving the people that buy our products and services.
    AC

  2. January 22, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    You’re right, AC. I recall one call center visit our group made many years ago. We were shown the master “switch” for the phones. When we inquired what the “switch” was used for – we were informed that sometimes they would just turn the phones off while they were in a meeting (all the customers would get a busy signal during that time).
    What was even more crazy is that we had to explain why this was a bad idea. Oh well, I guess you could call that job security. Thanks for sharing, AC!!

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