Customer Service Optional – The Computer Says No!

You may well know this brilliant turn of phrase from the infamous Little Britain comedy sketches. However, this is a real life customer service ‘nasty’, albeit in very abbreviated form to be of more general interest with some real learning points!

Does your system drive your people or do your people drive your system?

This is a really fundamental question, don’t you think? Why?…Because….if your company or organisation has this the wrong way round, then your people are forced to behave in a certain way to meet the requirements of your system, rather than your system having to meet the requirements of your people and business. Does this make sense for good customer service? It seems logical to me, so highly illogical that it could take three months to get a new mobile phone upgrade resolved!

Corporate silos

Can you imagine a situation where you find an error on your mobile phone bill and call to discuss which then causes a chain reaction of different departments being unwilling to help? ‘This was the fault of the store, so you will have to go back there to resolve this‘. ‘We can’t help‘, ‘you must‘, ‘we don’t’ and ‘no you can’t speak to a manager, as they will tell you the same thing‘, were responses thrown back at me repeatedly. Are you not one and the same company? The bills say so but the call centre clearly thinks differently, as passing the blame to another part of the company is the way they do things around here!

Reactive and inconsistent customer service

Isn’t it galling that only the threat of making a formal complaint spurs some action in many organisations? All of a sudden the same unhelpful call centre person calls you back immediately with a ‘peace offering and a special upgrade deal’.  Not exactly consistent customer service, is it?

The upgrade department couldn’t have been more helpful and all was looking good until my agreed ongoing loyalty discount was conveniently overlooked. This was finally sorted and I had a potentially excellent new contract lined up, or so I thought! Bad move on my part as I followed the advice and did go back to the store, as I like the human touch, which was why I went there previously and they had been most helpful. Not so this time, as they checked on their computer and ‘couldn’t possibly offer the same deal to me in the store but they could give me a phone to contact the call centre’. Yet again, the computer says ‘no‘ and customer service was ‘optional!’

After a long and heated exchange and finally managing to speak to a ‘supervisor’, I was told that ‘we cannot have made such an offer’, which eventually changed to ‘the upgrade offer was only available from the person you spoke to on the day you originally called’. Was this ever mentioned? Of course not! Still I had their word that they would email the people I had previously spoken with and we agreed a date and time I would receive a call back to resolve things.

And so the days and weeks went by and Christmas came and went. Despite repeated messages and making a formal complaint the call still never came. I am a very patient person and I still had a phone that was working on a good tariff, so it wasn’t critical, just highly frustrating, unnecessary and downright inefficient!

How to get action!

Here’s the thing…. if you want action it appears that you have to make a complaint against how your complaint is being handled! This is now the third example I have come across recently, where action only happened after taking this route faced with problems in large organisations. Remarkable, don’t you think? Whatever happened to the Customer Service department taking your complaint seriously first time round? Do they hope that people will go away if they don’t respond? It would seem so.

Resolution or…...

The day of reckoning finally came and lo and behold a helpful human being who was keen to resolve my crazy saga. I finally received a call to confirm that my original upgrade offer would be honoured and I would be getting my new phone within 48 hours. Progress at last and only three months late! Maybe not …….Three days later and still no phone. Yet another call to the Customer Relations Manager, who I was now on first name terms with and guess what? …..’The computer says no!‘ I was given all sorts of technical reasons why the system wasn’t accepting the dispatch order. Sorry but do I care about this? All I want is my new phone which I was finally promised and now your systems are stopping you sending it to me? Unbelievable, isn’t it? ‘I’m sorry but we will need our IT department to override the system, as we can’t do it’. How long will this take? ‘We can’t say as it could be at least a day or two or longer’. Both the Customer Relations Manager and Dispatch Manager were mystified by the problem. However, I still didn’t have a new phone, as the system still ‘said no‘. Finally, another week later, I received a call and the computer now said ‘yes’ and the phone was on the way to me and this time, duly arrived!

Attention to detail

So, I finally had my phone and thought this was the end of the saga but oh no! Despite numerous emails and texts, the system wasn’t showing the correct tariff, with the agreed discount, which had triggered the saga in the first place! More calls to the Customer Relations Manager, who finally made the changes to the system whilst on the phone to me. Interesting, as if this could be done, why could not all the other much needed changes be made on the system by ‘humans’ right from the start or is it easier to say ‘no’ and blame the system?

Learning Points

It is not my aim to bore you with my unbelievable ordeal, as this is just the tip of the iceberg but more so to highlight what can and is going wrong in so many large organisations. How can such unbelievable inefficiency be allowed to happen? Why don’t different parts of the organisation speak to each other, look to understand and help resolve each others problems? Do you not have forums to encourage working together, rather than in silos? Why is the computer saying ‘no’ all the time? Is the system driving the people and constraining the business or are the people and the business driving the system so customers get what they want when they want it with the minimum of fuss? Clearly so many questions, which cannot possibly be answered when ‘the computer says no’.

Can you now imagine how great things might have been and could be in the future, if the computer said YES first time round? How great would the customer service and this company be, rather than customer service being ‘optional’?

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