I try not to use this blog as a bully pulpit to vent personal frustrations, but over the past couple days I've experienced about the epitome of poor customer service – to the point that it has become a lesson.
It was very similar to the experience I had at a local Starbucks over four years ago (holy cow… I've been writing that long??).
cash register wasn't working, therefore she couldn't serve me.
You're kidding me, I thought. I pointed out that her register was
literally surrounded by a dozen or more Albertson's cash registers, but
apparently the partnership between Albertson's and Starbucks doesn't
allow each company to help the other out in a bind. So I offered
cash. Almost exact change, but round up just to be safe, and keep the
change. Nope. How about an extra buck or two just so I wouldn't have
to go search for a coffee elsewhere. Sorry. She refused to take my
money… while the fresh coffee brewed right behind her.
I wanted to give Starbucks cash business, even with some additional
profit. I wanted to take some of their excess, perishable inventory
off their hands for significantly more than it was worth. But they
didn't want it.
I still think about that experience every time I go to that Starbucks.
Now I will think about a similar experience whenever I use my phone. You see, I'm sort of roped into using AT&T for my cell phone since the tech geek early adopter in my insisted I get an iPhone. Don't get me wrong- I wouldn't trade the iPhone for any other phone. But having to deal with AT&T really pushes me to my limit.
All I wanted to do was add a second phone to my account, a basic cell phone for my wife. I went to my online account at AT&T and there was a nice clear link for "add a line." How simple! I selected a phone that would be free with a typical contract, picked a nice cheap rate plan, hit checkout, and BOOM! Something bombed and I got a "transaction cannot be completed" message. Did it two or three more times. Then I called the customer support number displayed in the message.
Customer service at that number is only available during business hours, and it was after 9pm. You have got to be kidding me. So I dug around and found another toll-free customer service number and got a human. They walked through the same process I had just gone through online, and when it came time to checkout I was told the phone was only free if I used the online system. Grrrr…. so I explained that the online system bombed, the customer service person got a supervisor, who refused to override the price to match what AT&T was offering online.
I asked for another supervisor. After another 15 minute wait that one did override the price, acted upset that I had been working on this problem online and on the phone for two hours at this point. And then BOOM! To add a phone I'd need a credit check. You have got to be kidding. I've had automatic bill pay for three years so every payment was on time, with the iPhone being one of their more expensive plans. She could tell that I'd paid every bill on time. But she couldn't authorize the credit for me to get a FREE phone.
And, you guessed it, the credit check people were only available during business hours. Bam, hit the wall. She did offer to call me back in the morning to handle it. I said ok and went to bed.
No call the next day, so I called, and there was no record of any of the activity from the prior night. I gave up, decided to cool it for a couple days, drink some wine, and chill out. That's where I am now. I just can't handle another mind-bending phone call for another day or so. I've got better things to do.
AT&T, I want to give you money. I want to enter into a two year contract that guarantees you money from a current customer that always pays his bill on time.
Instead you're making a high value customer question the value received. And you're making him vent on a blog with several thousand readers. Pete Abilla over a schmula calculated that impact while telling his own story of Home Depot hell.
Never, ever make it difficult for a customer to do business with you.
UPDATE: I have been contacted by a regular reader who happens to work in the "Six Sigma Process" area at AT&T. He has activated their internal escalation system, which resulted in several calls to me to help resolve the problem. It took a while, but it now looks like it was resolved… the supposedly simple process of adding a new phone line… and giving AT&T some money!