Jan 19, 2004
Comments Off on who is doing who a favour?

who is doing who a favour?

 I was reminded today of the importance of customer service and how it is really a matter of culture that permeates attitude.

My business credit card expired this month and I received a new one. I primarily use it for travel and the odd other business expense, but I also use it for my home internet account (if revenue canada is reading be assured that almost all of my time at home online is spent working. no joke).

Literally one day after my assistant gave me my new card my wife told me she had received two calls from Bell Sympatico about an urgent matter. They would not discuss it with her nor allow her to try and help them identify what the problem was. They simply told her that I had to call them immediately.

Now I must digress here to say that I can sometimes be a pain in the ass to suppliers if I do not feel they are acting appropriately, but my wife is someone who will bend over backwards to give them the benefit of the doubt. She will try and imagine that they may be having a bad day, or have difficult jobs or other attempts at empathy. This is useful in her profession (criminal law). She is exceeded in her empathy by no one, except perhaps my assistant (more on that later).

My wife informed me that they were quite curt and assured her that this was an extremely important matter that she could not help them with. She told them that I was quite busy and may not get back to them immediately to which she says they replied “well if he wants Internet access he will have to make the time”.

The next morning, this past Friday, I informed my assistant of my wife's conversation. She reminded me that my card had expired and set off to rectify the situation. Late that day she informed me that she was unable to settle the matter. After much time on hold and despite the fact that she was able to give them great detail about my account and life (my pin number, which is an arcane bit of Bell ID that I do not even know or use, my credit card number, the old expiry date, every bit of name, rank and serial number that they could possibly want to know about me and some they certainly wouldn't want to know), they would NOT take the new expiry date from her. She told them what the problem was and they wouldn't let her solve it. They insisted on speaking to me. In fact, she says they told her “we know it would be in our best interests to take the number from you, but we are not allowed to”! Orwellian.

On Saturday I enjoyed “boys day” with my five-year-old son as my daughter and wife engaged in their own pursuits. We put the seat up first thing in the morning and generally have a great time. After a hard week of work it is indeed one of my greatest pleasures. We were engaged in our usual pursuits until suddenly at 5:20 pm my Internet access went dead (I was looking for a spongebob walkthrough [note to revcan: a rare example of personal packets]). It had been working all day. I then recalled the whole Sympatico thing and set out to rectify it.

I called the number I had/knew. I stayed on hold for 30 minutes or so listening to the inane upsell/cross-sell hold message (just use a radio station for goodness sake. all the upsell does is remind me of how long I have been on hold). Then the line went to a ring. Good, finally a person. It rang and rang and rang and rang. For ten minutes. I gave up and started again. Only this time I was informed that the business office was open Saturday 8am-6pm and closed on Sunday. Thank you, goodbye.

Here is what it felt/feels like to me. They were at a minimum curt and at a maximum rude to my wife. They were at a minimum officious and at a maximum stupid with my assistant. Then someone turned off my packets at precisely the right time to cause me maximum grief (I am writing this on a packet-less Sunday). At every step they have acted like THEY are doing ME the favour rather than the other way around. This was an expiry date on a credit card. I was paying THEM. I wasn't trying to borrow money. Were they worried about the ring of bad guys going around paying other people's bills? And you know what? It is not the expiry date thing that really angers me. It is the attitude shown on not one, but three occasions.

I will now immediately move to another provider. I am sure I will have a glitch or two. I don't care. There are so many lessons here. Including:

– The customer is always doing the supplier the favour. always. I feel this way. I think and hope every employee at Tucows feels this way (and I know this can't be in absolutely every single interaction, but I wish it were). If you think we are acting differently let me know;

– Marketing products is about doing great things or cool things (think about Ferraris or iPods). Marketing services is about not doing bad things;

– Large companies, especially those with monopoloy or oligopoly backgrounds, are extremely challenged culturally to provide great customer service;

– Dsl and IP-over-cable are just points on a line and over time there will be competitive markets for access just like there are now for hosting and the telcos and cablecos WILL NOT WIN;

I was (past tense) a Sympatico customer for years. The service was generally ok. Not great. Some bad things, but mostly good things. This experience was horrible.

That's all it takes sometimes. We should all remember that.

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