The universe must hate me, because I’ve had a serious rash (heh) of customer service debacles over the last six months. Two recent ones–one with Apple, another with UPS–reminded me of an important principle of interacting with big organizations. First, a summary of my conversation with Apple:
ME: My iMac has catastrophically failed twice, and been in the shop four times. Send me a new one.
APPLE: Sorry, it needs to fail three times before we replace it.
ME: (Repeats litany of the misbegotten iMac.) I’ve been an Apple customer for a decade. I’ve easily spent $10,000 with your company.
ME: So, after all this, there’s nothing you can do for me?
ME: Nothing at all?
APPLE: Oh, hang on, here’s some store credit.
And here’s my conversation with UPS:
ME: You failed to deliver the package on the day you said you would. I stayed home all day. I even called at 4:00pm, and your agent confirmed that it would be delivered by 7:00pm. It wasn’t.
UPS: We work with a third-party delivery company. We can’t determine when they deliver packages.
ME: So I have to stay home all day again?
ME: Really? So, despite doing everything right as the customer, there’s nothing you can do for me?
ME: Nothing at all?
UPS: Oh, hang on, I’ll call dispatch and they can narrow the window for when the package will be delivered.
Customer service and customer retention
Companies usually perceive their customer service department as a cost centre. They want to process as many calls as quickly as possible while minimizing the costs associated with those calls. So, they train their staff to parrot company policies and appear to be inflexible.
However, companies also recognize the importance of customer retention. They know it costs a lot more money to replace a customer than to keep one. So, they usually enable their staff to upgrade customers to higher levels of service, or to occasionally dole out goodies to troublesome customers.
The trick is to have a strong case, articulate it calmly and rationally, and not to hang up until you’ve derived some degree of satisfaction. Your ace in the hole should be, “because I’m so disappointed with your service, I’m going to switch to the competition”. This is particularly effective with mobile providers like Fido and Telus–they have whole departments to handle customers who say this.
Assuming that you’ve been legitimately wronged by a company, they can always do something for you.