Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Can I Have a Little Service Please

Not long ago the push in business was all about service. Serve the customer well and make sure they enjoy the experience of dealing with your company.  That seemed like the best way to get them to come back.  Your customer base would grow and your business would flourish.

Some companies even took it a bit far.  I mean, who really needs a Walmart Greeter to smile and nod at you as you enter the store?

Apparently things have now gone the other way.  I suppose that can be blamed on the economic downturn.  I am surprised and shocked, however, at how far downhill the service of one of my favourite retailers has slipped.

It used to be, even before others jumped on the good service bandwagon, that you could order something and this company would deliver it, free of charge.  Last year that long time policy disappeared.  I still gave them a lot of business though, as I knew them to be a dependable company that stands behind everything they sell.

Just before Christmas I tried to place an order online, but my Zone Alarm was warning me that the screen that was popping up when I tried to check out was a possible phishing page.  There was a form to fill out for account information that I knew they already had, so that did seem suspicious and I decided to phone my  order in instead.  I reported what I had encountered .  The voice on the other end of the phone said, "Oh, our web site goes a little screwy from time to time."  I told her it was working fine as had all my information earlier in the day, so she agreed to tell their programmers.

I placed my order and got the usual confirmation e-mail.  It said the item would arrive December 24th.  It didn't, and while it is very unusual for this company to miss a deliver date,  it was Christmas, after all.  I imagined they were very busy.  It didn't arrive by New Years either, or yesterday, for that matter, when the bill arrived in the mail.  It was time to call and see if they could track down my order.

I phoned the number I had used to place the order.  The girl forwarded me to the inquiries department.  First she gave me a phone number in case I got disconnected.  I guess that happens a lot.  I was put on hold for the second time before being forwarded to a third department.  By this time I starting to think they do this so you will give up and hang up the phone.  A quick look at the clock, while waiting, reminded me that if I did hang up, I'd only have to start all over again eventually.

The third agent I talked to didn't transfer me to anyone.  She gave a a phone number to dial myself.  When I did I was once again forwarded to another department.  All this kind of reminded me of the government and how they tend to play musical chairs if the public starts to locate the correct person in order to obtain the information they are looking for.  I was wondering how many times I would be transferred before I ended up speaking to someone I had already talked to.

The fifth agent turned out to be the one who could help.  He could see my order and the date it was shipped.  He asked where my village was located and checked to see if the item had been dropped off somewhere along the route, or at any of the nearby towns by mistake.  Someone must have gotten a nice Christmas present, worth about $200, as it seems to have vanished into thin air.  He then credited my account and replace the order. It should arrive here tomorrow.  I have been instructed to wait 24 hours after it arrives, and then to phone back to let them know it got here.  At least he gave me a direct phone number, so I can reach him without going through all this again. 

The whole process took more than half an hour.  Surely, in the interest of better service, they could create an internal phone directory so that customers could be passed to the correct department the first time.  That would certainly free up more agents who are currently all listening to you tell them the same problem over and over, before passing you on to someone else.  More available agents might mean customers spend less time on hold.  That might be a good way to hang on to current customers, don't you think?

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