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

2 thoughts on “Customer Service?

  1. Our laws relations & practice need reform so that balance is restored between the obligation to pay, promptly & forthcomingly for goods & especially, services, with an equal obligation to provide exactly what was paid for, equally promptly & forthcoming lily. So that any deviation from what it was clear the purchaser was paying for, will risk the supplier being cast as dishonestly as we cast failure to pay, if the goods or services either lack quality or are not provided as promptly as was payment.

    At present, the supplier is frequently treated as if honest, even if they do not supply what was paid for without causing further trouble to the purchaser, sometimes a great deal more trouble, the purchaser becoming something of a supplicant, begging to be supplied with what they have already paid for.

    I don’t frame this in these terms to be harsh to businesses but to equalise the obligation on one side of the transaction, the supplying side, with the way we naturally generally approach the other side, the paying, which we tend to expect to pay up, up front or are they trying to pull a fast one?

    I recommend being very deliberate at every stage of a transaction. Don’t just fall into line with what you are made to expect to do. Don’t let yourself be treated like a child & be prepared to walk away.

    In Brexit, a pent up need to take control back, was manifest. We want control back from politicians & we want it back from overbearing, spoiled, poorly functioning corporations, so we must hold them to account too. It is tedious at first, it is uphill, but the marketplace we currently have, stacked in favour of the power side of the transaction, is friendly to cheats. Let’s rein them in.

  2. “Security – the handy catch-all that in a post-9/11 world lets anyone in a call centre completely off the hook.”
    Not sure how people in call centres use the security excuse but certainly when it comes to travel the word security is used far too often. How often do you hear this train is delayed because of a security alert at X? It’s mostly because of something else altogether.

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