RIP Customer Service

RIP Customer Service
October 8, 2012 Derek Fournier

I’m not sure why I am surprised, but it appears that customer service is dead. I had two great examples of the crappy state of affairs that I want to convey (and hope to help you avoid) by description.

I use a large national bank. I know, many have tried to sway me to the quaint local banks but there is something warm and comforting about a faceless behemoth watching my money. (Yeah, I know, my bitching about their lack of a soul or customer service focus after that lead in feels a bit foolish in retrospect but go with me on this.)  The bank I use is Bank of America. I had a need recently to get a cashier’s check and chose the rainiest day in history to accomplish this task. As I drove into the seemingly empty bank I spied five empty drive thru lanes. They were covered, warm and inviting and seemed to be the answer to my prayers given the torrential downpour I was driving through. I don’t usually physically enter the bank anyway. (That is so 1987.)

I pulled into the commercial lane and lowered my window, choosing my typically self-deprecating approach. I explained my need to the nice young lady at the window and explained that I know such a task may not be standard for drive through window transactions hoping to disarm her. She was having none of that and explained I would have to come inside the completely empty bank to complete my simple transaction. I looked at the rain, looked at her and then clarified that I would need to leave this empty drive through, come through the downpour and speak to her inside the bank.

Yup.

Okay, that is stupid. I get the rule. But this is not where the stupidity ends. I parked and ran through the rain to the empty bank where there were at least seven employees milling about doing nothing related to servicing customers. I came to the counter where the girl I spoke to moments ago at the window turned around and walked three steps to assist me at the counter.

“How are you today sir?” she asked.

“Wet,” I replied.

I repeated the transaction request and tried my best not to plot the demise of everyone in the building. As she hurriedly typed away, she informed me that the cashier’s check was going to cost me $10.00. Now, this was a business transaction out of a business account but she informed me that due to my ‘relationship’ with the bank, if I were to use one of my personal accounts it would be free.

I have multiple bank accounts with this bank. Personal. Business. Checking. Savings. Credit. The whole swath.

I told her the transaction was business-related, but given my other accounts, couldn’t they waive the fee?

“Nope.”

Apparently, her powers of perception greatly exceeded my assessment of those skills as she asked if I wanted to speak to a manager at her branch.

“No, I will speak to a manager at some other bank later this week,” I replied, convincing myself that I had won.

Fast forward a week and I want a new cellphone. I have been making my previous model work for far longer than I normally endure technology. I am a Verizon client and have historically had good customer service experiences with the company. I whore out entirely to them from home television and internet to all of our cell phone accounts. They have been hounding me for months about my eligibility to upgrade my device (and sign in blood to another 2 year contract, the life blood of the cellular industry). I finally decided I would step up and get a new device, and despite the recent decline in customer service at their local stores, I ventured in to see what the scoop was.

Well I saw the phone I wanted and was told the $199.00 price was the *most* I would pay as an upgrade and that I would most likely pay less. I worked with the person and found out that no, I had to pay 199.00 and I needed to pay an “Upgrade Fee.”

Yes, a customer of the company for almost a decade ready to sign up for another two years of paying them for spotty coverage, and not only do I pay what any clown from the outside world would pay (no preferential treatment to keep me a happy customer) but I would have to pay them an “Upgrade Fee.” I left and decided I would call their support line who had previously provided some relief from this indignity.

Not this time.

The young lady really wanted to help, or so it seemed, but the facts were that if I wanted to upgrade, I needed to pay the price and the “Upgrade Fee” (which she said I got a break on compared to a new customer as there was no activation fee which was 5.00 more). I would also have to adjust my plan (which was currently unlimited but had been terminated) so I would have to go to a lesser but just as expensive plan.

Shit!

So now I sit looking for a new bank and trying to figure out how to start a cell phone company because both of these places suck. In a market where people are struggling to find and retain loyal customers, how can two industries genuinely care so little about us? I have had enough!

Until tomorrow, when the reality of finding better customer service hits me and I realize that crap is what we have to deal with and, despite our constant moaning, nobody has stepped up to provide better.

Maybe someone should. They might make a lot of money.

I would give them some of mine.

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