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Customer Service is dead

After a series of blunders by different corporations our family works with, my wife Sharon said in mass frustration, “Customer service is dead.” Those that know me know that I’m a glass half full type of person, as is my wife. However, the myriad of insane things that happened in rapid succession sparked a bit of negativity in the Schmieder household. A few brief examples, and this is not and exhaustive list…..

  • Our health insurance company recently messed up a prescription so bad that it took nearly 12 hours of time on the phone with their customer “service” department to try and sort it out. The error was on their end but they just didn’t seem like they wanted to fix it. This week we received a card from them telling us how much they “care about us” as a customer. Funny thing is, there was no signatory on the card to contact. Even funnier, our issue still isn’t resolved. So how much do they really care and respect the time of their subscribers?

  • Last week the dentist office called and said they had no insurance on record for an upcoming visit. We have been going to this dentist for several years and our insurance has not changed. When I pointed this out, the receptionist on the line told me that I needed to call the insurance company to tell them that this dentistry was to be noted as our office of record. So now the customer is supposed to take time from their day to fix a problem that the business itself created? Pass.

  • The cable company in the destination where we have a rental property has a monopoly in the area and they certainly know it. Recently they randomly put us on automatic bill pay without our consent. When we called to correct the issue, they confirmed it was fixed and we hung up. Two days later, they auto charged us again. Disingenuous if not illegal. Bad cable company, bad!

  • On a recent vacation, we found a debit card in our rental car. Assuming it was lost, we called the credit card company to let them know we had recovered the card and to see what they wanted us to do with it. After 40 minutes in an endless phone tree loop, and with no ability to “contact us” on their web page without an account number (we don’t use that bank), we couldn’t reach anyone. When we finally found a human being on the phone to talk to, they said we had to call some other number. At that point we cut the card in half and threw it away. Nearly an hour trying to do the right thing with no help was our limit.

Okay, that is a lot of negativity. Here is the bright side……

Every negative customer/client/relationship issue that pops up is a chance to make things right. In our experience, solution oriented people go further in life and in business. So if the players in the four scenarios above had a customer service and solution based mindset, what could they have done better?

  • The health insurance company person that sent the letter could have CALLED us directly to rectify the situation.

  • The dentist office could have apologized for the miscommunication and committed to call the insurance company to fix the issue.

  • The cable company could have fixed the issue, apologized, guaranteed it wouldn’t happen again, and offered up a free month of cable and internet service to make it right.

  • Once we reached an actual person at the credit card company, they should have taken down our information and said they would take care of it and email us with further instructions. All with a thank you for being a good Samaritan with the lost card by calling it in.

Every conflict is a chance for a new, and more positive, engagement with the other party. If we look to serve rather than read our script or stick to whatever policy we have been given, we can often win over someone that could be an ally in the future. (Editor’s note: I have a personal sports tourism experience story related to this that if you reach out individually I’d be glad to share).

Customer service is only dead if we let that notion take root.

Be solution oriented. Solve problems. Win people over. Create raving fans.

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