Your Call Is Important to Us – Unless We’ve Pissed You Off.

by Bob Poole on August 16, 2011

This post turned out to be so long I have turned it into two-parts. Part-two will be available early Wednesday morning. Or, why not sign-upto get it in email?

 

You’d think with the economy as slow as it is right now that companies would be doing all they can to retain their customers. It is a fact that it is a lot more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain the ones you have.

But, it appears that once again that the Sales Prevention Department in many companies has reared its head. Instead of investing in the people who communicate with and serve the customer; companies are using this economic downturn as an opportunity to cut-back on customer service.

Instead of doing everything possible to thrill and retain their clients companies are outsourcing their customer service, using half the number of people they need in front-line, customer-centric jobs, and refusing to upgrade both support infrastructure and employee education.

And, when things go to hell and the customer is mad as a wet hornet, the company often uses the economy (or in the case of one company – the heat) as an excuse for the problems of their own making.

Here are a few of my recent personal experiences:

  1. Nature’s Prime Organic Foods – I became a customer in March. Well, I tried to become one. I bought a coupon through Groupon for Nature’s Prime. I placed my order and I also spent another $100 in addition to the $80 Groupon. The first thing the company did was charge my credit card for the entire order despite the fact they were not shipping for a couple of weeks. Those couple of weeks became months.

During all this time Groupon was fantastic. They were also embarrassed by Nature’s Prime’s communication and inaction. As the weeks turned into months, Nature’s Prime refused to communicate with me at all. NONE! They just ignored all requests. And, once again, that is what they did to many, many more customers.

Groupon finally gave up after they missed two more delivery dates and told me to file a dispute with my bank credit card. I sent that message to Nature’s Prime and suddenly got a call. The young lady was much harried and I could tell she was probably getting an earful from customers every minute of her day. She refunded my purchase.

Some companies will never learn they are not in control of their customers. Natures Prime Organic screwed over hundreds of people this year by not shipping their orders after immediately charging their cards. Most of this was part of a Groupon deal. Even Groupon could not get them to comply.

Yesterday the CFO posted on their Facebook Fan page “very pleased to announce the signing of lease for retail outlet/dist. Center in Melbourne Fla.” Fifteen people immediately responded with complaints.  I posted that they might want to consider investing in their people and customer service instead of brick and mortar for distribution. They responded by
removing my and some other posts. Then they took away the ability for people to leave them comments. The obviously believe customer communication is one-way and they are in charge.

I guess they never heard of Dell Hell. Here are some links I quickly found of people posting complaints.

http://natures-prime-organic-foods.pissedconsumer.com/nature-s-prime-organic-foods-groupon-scam-20110712248458.html

http://www.ripoffreport.com/directory/Nature-s-Prime.aspx

http://www.yelp.com/biz/natures-prime-organic-foods-chaska

By the way – they are the company using the heat as an excuse for not shipping. I’m sure the heat has been a problem in shipping at times this summer. But it wasn’t a factor all year. And, the heat wasn’t a reason for not returning calls, emails, and following through when they said they’d do something. And, when you have this many problems turning the conversation into what you think is one-way is a recipe for turning the internet into a megaphone blasting out your  actions.

  • Avid Technology is a large, publicly traded, international audio and video company. One of their divisions is Pinnacle. I’ve used Pinnacle products for a few years for video editing, creation, etc. so a few months ago I upgraded to their latest product called Avid Studio. I’d love to let you read the entire log of emails over the last couple of weeks between their first-level, offshore support and me. You’d either die of laughter or from crying.

Here is a little of our email dialogue:

Me:  I am shooting video in widescreen. I also have Control Panel, Project Settings, and New Movie format set for NTSC Widescreen. I have both tried checking and unchecking the “Detect format from first clip added to project. If we cannot detect the format we will use the format above.” However, when I drag a clip onto the timeline it will only put black borders on each side of the image filling up the widescreen. It will play widescreen movies fine that I previously made in Pinnacle using the same equipment with no problem. Your help is appreciated. Thank you.

Support’s Answer was – “I apologize for the inconvenience. Let me help you with that. That would be great also if you can provide me a screenshot of your problem for me to have a clear understanding of your case. Please give me a screenshot of the problem.”

“Screenshot!” I thought. “This is a video editing problem. How will a screenshot help?”

So I wrote back, “Instead of a screenshot which won’t actually show you what is happening, I created a video of the problem using GoView. All you have to do is go to this URL to see it. I look forward to a solution soon.

Their response – “I do appreciate the video you made. But I still need some information. Please do a right-click on the thumbnails of your videos then select ‘Display Information’ and please tell me what do you see the value of ‘Frame Aspect.’ You can actually toggle the project format and set it to NTSC widescreen or other, but for that to apply in a project, you need to change the settings first then create a new project to apply the changes made in the settings. “

The discerning reader will notice that the last sentence is exactly what I told them I was already doing in my first email.

This went in circles some more and then I asked to have my case escalated to the next level of support. They agreed and I then heard from another guy who I eventually decided sat in the same cubicle as my first support person. He asked me to send him a piece of the actual clip that is not processing correctly. I did a week ago on last Tuesday and he promised to get back to me by Thursday or Friday with a solution. I thought, “Why will it take 2-3 days more for them to respond. “ I was wrong. I’m writing this Monday afternoon and I still have not heard from them.

In the meantime, I started putting some tweets out about Avid’s customer service and looking for help. I also sent emails to two people I knew of from a couple of years ago but did not hear back from them. I did hear from a guy in their home office on Friday who follows their Twitter account and he promised to look into it and he had hoped to get back to me by COB on that day. I dropped him a note on Saturday morning and he said, “I’ll be in touch.”

Let’s stop here since the Avid story is ongoing. It’s Monday at 3:45PM EDT and I’ve yet to hear from the guys at the offshore site who promised to get back to me last Thursday or Friday. Nor have I heard from the guy at corporate who wanted a solution by last Friday but who now says he’ll be in touch. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll have an update.

Meanwhile, we all know what good and bad customer service feels like. With one you come away feeling like you just enjoyed a bite of an Amedei Chuao chocolate bar.

With the other, you feel like you just discovered you’ve run out of toilet paper and you’re in a public restroom.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Henry Posner August 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Excellent post. Thank you. At least you got replies. Last week I tweeted my dissatisfaction with Kohl’s and they never even acknowledged it. OTOH JetBlue immediately resolved my issue after I tweeted.

Peter Keady August 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Great stories Bob. I have similar ones with Coke and Pepsi in the Lehigh Valley.

Hey are those my photos? They look great! Thanks for all the postprocessing magic! You make me look good!

Bob Poole August 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm

@Henry – thanks for the comment. I don’t think you’ll find most retail chains to be serious about customer service. A couple of years ago, Sears site only worked with IE. I pointed this out to them and explained how many million people were using Firefox. It was fixed about 48 hours later. Of course, I never even got a nasty note back let alone a thank you. JetBlue is still ranking in the top ten companies these days.

Bob Poole August 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm

@Peter – Or course that’s your photography! No magic here just your magical eye. You’ll have to share your Coke and Pepsi stories here. My experience is they will usually do anything to knock the other guy out of the club/restaurant, etc.

Becky Blanton August 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Thank God I’m not the only one. The Biggest Loser (good name) Club requires you to CALL someone to CANCEL your account, and then they try to sell you on staying. I cancelled- I thought, but no, they charged my card today. I called and complained and they cancelled it again and promised to refund my money-IN THREE WEEKS!!! Then my HELL with Hostgator was classic. EIGHT MONTHS to get THEM to actually READ my mails and chat. http://beckyblanton.com/2011/08/why-i-hate-hostgator/ Why don’t companies get it?? Thanks for posting this. Feeling pissy enough already today and good to know I’m not alone in consumer hell.
Becky Blanton recently posted..Unexpected SignsMy Profile

Bob Poole August 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Hostgator is not a nice place based on all the complaints I’ve heard. As long as there are companies who continue to think they own the customer and they control the relationship – we will experience this kind of service. Then there are the companies that are making a real effort.

I really badly about the PEOPLE who are making an extraordinary effort in customer service but work for companies like I just described. They are the ones who need to move on and find a company with an attitude that matches their own. Those are the companies and people we need to recognize.

Who are they? Let’s find out later on this week.

Bob Poole August 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Oh no, Becky. You inspire me with the life you live every day.

Steve Runkel August 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Bob
Always enjoy your chats around the water cooler! (notice I DID NOT mention water coolers in my rant below!!)

Your recent communique’s on customer service are, as they say across the pond, “spot on”!
And it just keeps getting worse every day! OK, I’ll “vent-share” with you…

US telecom /cell companies are at the top of my frustration list (I currently have WONDERFUL AND INEXPENSIVE cell service provided by a NON-US telecom company with well above average customer service AFTER years of having used SPRINT, ATT, T-Mobile, Nextel, Verizon, etc) And we wonder why US telecom services are sooooo expensive – [wildly flailing his hand in the air] “pick me, pick me” I say – - – I will have your company back on top and profitable in about a week: STOP BEING SO STUPID TO/WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS! RESPECT your customers! (I know, this is a far out concept).

Here are few of my suggestions:

1) Communicate with your customers (after all, isn’t that the business that you’re in to begin with… DUH??? and you even have a head start over all of the other idiotic arrogant corporate behemoths out there)

2) Throw out ALL of the crappy IVR/phone tree junk and ANSWER YOUR GD PHONES! – - – STOP THE RECORDING TELLING ME HOW IMPORTANT MY CALL IS over and over and over and over and over again as I sit on hold for endless periods waiting for someone (not the person I want/need to talk to) to answer the phone. I know this is saving YOU money, but it’s COSTING ME $$ by wasting MY VALUABLE TIME!! Beginning a phone conversation with a customer whose blood pressure is below 200/199 gives you an instant “leg up” on the competition!!

3) Use REAL PEOPLE to answer the phone (OMG, did I say that????!!!!????) and make it a corporate objective to accomplish this task before, say the 850th ring (it’s only a soft goal, not a requirement for heaven’s sake)

4) Train those people – start with or work to raise their IQ out of the single digit range (or, preferably, consider hiring people that are capable of finding their way to work on their own) pulling these employees of your frontline workforce from the entitled breadlines is probably not a good idea

5) Trust your people to do the right thing with your customers! (vs. “I’ll have to talk to my supervisor about that (things like refunding a $2 incorrect charge on your account, for example)… please hold” [2 hours later] – - – honey, we’re going to have to postpone our vacation until next year… again!

6) Carefully select people that speak ENGLISH (you can do this in China for example where we now have more English-speaking people than in the US!) see, I really am a solutions guy!! >>note this is not a politically correct thing to put into writing but I don’t give a sh*t about that + we need more money flowing over there to continue to buy our downgraded US debt that our elected fleecesquad continues to dump on the world market<) Have a stressless day!

Bob Poole August 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Steve – thanks for the kind words! Telecoms sure seem to rile up most people although I hear there are some that are getting really good at service. I’m still laughing with you at some of those comments. “Only a soft goal” for one.

One of the thing that drives me crazy about both AT&T and Verizon is the number of little charges ranging from $1.00 to $9.99 that mysteriously appear on your bill that you don’t catch for a long time if ever. And, when you do, they can only refund them back six months. The last time the guy told me he couldn’t refund me $50 because it was too late, I calmly asked to “Please transfer me to the account cancellation department.” He found a way around the “six-month rule.”

Thanks again, Steve!

Jess August 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I recently visited the coffee shop / bakery right below my work.

They have a $5 debit minimum. My purchase was $4.67.

I asked her if it would be ok this one time. She responded ” If it was your first time here, we’d let it go, but you’ve been here many times, you should know better”

Shocked, I mumbled something and left.
Jess recently posted..thattallguy: I enjoy reading about Behavioral Economics ,I don’t enjoy reading the same examples over and over again. #wheresthefresh?My Profile

Adam Wormann August 17, 2011 at 12:06 am

I actually just had a terrible experience with Cablevision, where they kept postponing internet service (keep in mind my wife freelances for a major computer company, and I for 2 web design companies). Apparently the VP of media relations got involved, it was amazing. (I honestly never self promote, and nobody really cares about my blog, but I did post about it here: http://www.adamwormann.com/and-cablevision-comes-through/ )

I’ve found a couple of companies (Best Buy and UPS as well) are starting to get it now on the social media end of this stuff. I’m amazed at how many companies still don’t.

Felipe Orendain August 17, 2011 at 12:19 am

@bob I couldn’t agree with you more. Companies are really missing the point of how social media can affect their businesses and that they guard themselves with cutting on expenses (customer service), a one great expense to consider before deciding to reduced the budget.
@steve just had a similar scenario with Sprint where I spent hours with no resolution just to tell me that they will be transfering to a “TECHNICAL EXPERT” where in fact I had press the technical problem buttom. After 4 hours on the phone and via chat, they found the solution. Companies NEED to LEARN TO LISTEN, specially since WE the consumers have the control of the communication. Thank you guys for the stories and couldn’t agree more with both of you.

Bob Poole August 17, 2011 at 12:48 am

Shame on you, Jess. You should know better.
How did that make you feel? That coffee shop is not long for that building.

Bob Poole August 17, 2011 at 12:51 am

Hi Adam – It will be a wonderful day when we can stop talking and writing about ISP and other companies that have pipes coming into our homes. I worry that day might be our final one though as only something apocalyptic could change many of them.

On the other hand, some companies are getting it. Thanks for mentioning UPS and Best Buy. Tomorrow I want to talk about those companies that are working hard to change. (In many of them it is more like a revolution than a change.)

Bob Poole August 17, 2011 at 12:55 am

Hi Felipe – I write about costs and investment tomorrow besides a follow-up to today’s stories. (Sneak peak – it is 9:00PM and I’m still waiting to hear from my Avid Technology friends so I don’t think it is going to happen today.)

Finding someone that will listen to you in any type of business is invaluable. I’m talking about physicians, plumbers, grocers, or you local farmer. The list is endless. Most people are still thinking about what story they think they NEED to tell while you’re talking to them instead of taking the time to listen to you so they’d know what to say.

Welcome to the Water Cooler, Felipe.

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