Customer Service?


(In response to Jon Alexander’s The Customer is Always Right article.)

A few weeks ago, I had a key cut in a little shop in town. Unfortunately, when I later tried it at home it didn’t work properly. It wasn’t the end of the world; these things happen. The next time I passed the shop I called in and told the proprietor. 

“Sorry,” she said, “let me fix it for you.” And she did. That’s customer service. It turns out I now need another key cutting. Guess what? I’ll go straight back there the next time I’m in town.

Two months ago, I decided to change my mobile telephone contract and spoke with a member of staff at the company with which I have held an account for nineteen years. Unfortunately, when the new SIM card arrived it didn’t work. It wasn’t the end of the world; these things happen. I called the company back and spoke to another member of staff there, whereupon I slipped down the rabbit hole and entered the Excruciatingly Exasperating (TM) world of call centre Customer Services.

Apparently, the instructions with which I had been provided by the original call handler were incomplete. Days later, after countless utterly fruitless calls, I managed to get through to someone who sounded like they understood my problem. I grasped hold of this individual, clinging to their words as a drowning mariner clings to a fortuitously passing piece of driftwood. Speaking in soft, calming tones, my saviour explained the situation: it turned out I should have been told about a fourteen-day period during which their internal “systems” would process the order. Talking me gently back from the ledge upon which I was precariously perched he assured me – assured – that he had effected the necessary change, and that my phone would work once again in a maximum of fourteen days.

He lied.

At this point it would have been useful to contact this person again. This, however, proved impossible. I hadn’t been allowed to take his name because of “security”. Security – the handy catch-all that in a post-9/11 world lets anyone in a call centre completely off the hook. My incorrectly identified saviour hadn’t lied out of malice, he just didn’t give a toss. Failure to do his job properly, to provide a customer with service, would have absolutely no consequence for him whatsoever. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Knowing this, he simply didn’t care.

Eventually, after two letters to the CEO, the company’s high-level complaints office has admitted there is nothing they can do. I have been offered seventy pounds by way of compensation and some more money off a new phone. I didn’t want a new phone. I didn’t want compensation. All I wanted was for someone to take some bloody responsibility and stop treating us, the paying customers, with the maddening indifference to which we have all become accustomed.

I had a similar situation with an insurance company earlier in the year – another intransigent berk (and yes, I do know what that word means) who wouldn’t listen to a perfectly reasonable request. They gave me fifty quid in compensation too. I now need another policy. Guess where I’m not going.

Matthew Corrigan is a Country Squire Guest Writer and a superb author whose excellent novel OSPREY shines a satirical light on a dodgy politician with a flying wind turbine scam. His books can be found here