Friday, September 01, 2006

Customer Service Story

Oh my goodness, Madame X almost just blew her stack.
As mentioned at the end of the last post, I had to call Verizon about a little billing discrepancy. So after all the automated blah blah, here's approximately how the call went:

MX: Yes, hi, I ordered your Call Direct service back in July and was told I would be charged $9, but I just got my first bill and it says it's $15 a month, can you help me with that?
CS rep: Wait a minute, what? I'm not understanding you. What's the problem?
MX: [repeat explanation]
CS: Okay, just a minute... yes, the $15 is correct.
MX: Well I did take very careful notes and the rep I spoke to definitely offered me a $9 price.
CS: Well she obviously made a mistake. Our rates are regulated and there is nothing I can do about that. I'm sorry but the cost is $15.
MX: I understand that, but I think a company has to take some responsibility for standing by the prices their reps offer. It's standard business practice to honor a price, even if it's in error. And if your calls are monitored, wouldn't there be some record of this to verify what she offered me?
CS: [sounding annoyed] I'm sorry, she just made a mistake, that's all. I don't know why she would offer you the wrong price and I can't be responsible for another rep who just made a mistake. I can look up the original order and tell that rep she made a mistake, but I can't do anything else about it now.
MX: I don't think that is acceptable, can you connect me to a supervisor who can help me with this? I think it would be fair for me to get some kind of credit on my bill.
CS: [sounding even more annoyed] That isn't going to help, even a supervisor can't change the price. They can just speak to that rep and tell her she made a mistake.
MX: I understand that you can't just change your pricing, but I really think Verizon has to stand by the actions of their reps, even when they make mistakes. Can you please connect me to a supervi--[click...DIAL TONE]

At this point, all I can think of is some old rap song, I think it was by YoYo, where there was a little spoken intro part in which she says "That b*tch hung up in my face!" Maybe, just maybe there were some kind of technical difficulties over there at Verizon, THE PHONE COMPANY, that caused our call to be disconnected, but I think that rep just got fed up and didn't want to deal with me. And just to be clear-- I was very calm and courteous throughout the whole call. I was not even close to being abusive, so there was no excuse for her attitude.
I sat there with steam coming out my ears for about 10 minutes, wondering if she'd call back, googling to see if I could figure out who Verizon's VP of Customer Service was, wondering if I should write or just call again. I decided to call back and ask for a supervisor. Though the first human I spoke to said something about how it usually requires a "24-hour call-back" to speak to a supervisor, he put me on hold and a few seconds later, I had my supervisor and told him the whole story. He said "well, maybe she was trying to look for a supervisor" and tried a little bit of the "$15 is the correct price" routine but I very quickly discovered that he was promoted to supervisor for a reason.
With no further ado, he said "I can give you a $6 credit on your bill." My response: "Thank you. If that other rep had not been so rude and dismissive about that even being a possibility, I would not be on the phone with you now. That is a fair solution. I've had a chance to see my bill, and now that I know the correct price I can choose to accept it or cancel the service. I just did not think I should have to be responsible for an error on Verizon's part." And then he said, "you know, you have a great attitude, I'll make it a $12 credit."
So that's that. I don't expect to need the service for more than 2 months anyway, so it works out fine. But I am still feeling a bit stung by that hang-up. I know telephone customer service reps probably get a lot of crap from people for too little pay, so I always try to be really polite and patient if I have to complain about something, and most of the time that is how I am treated in return. I have had some experiences where people were so nice and helpful and empathetic (in a true, not-fake, not "I-have-to-say-I-feel-for-you-because-of-that-Best-Practices-seminar" kind of way), that I ended up feeling good about the call even if they couldn't entirely solve my problem. But being given the brush-off by a customer service rep just sucks. Maybe she was just having a bad day, but if that's the case, get her off the phones. That kind of treatment can really color a customer's feeling about a company-- for a minute there I wanted to just cancel my service and never deal with Verizon again. Moral of the story: be nice to your customers, and be nice to customer service reps. That way everybody wins.

9 comments:

Seattle Simplicity said...

Woah, I can see why you nearly blew your stack. Congrats on staying level-headed and getting a better outcome that you expected originally. I've been hung up on by a customer service rep before when we were dealing with an issue that was difficult for her. Ever since that time, I always have a pen ready when I can a 1-800 line to jot down the name or rep number of the person who answers the phone. They typically identify themselves at the beginning of the call. So far I haven't needed that info since the hang-up incident, but I'm glad I log it just in case!

Jane Dough said...

Oh! I hate when that happens. I can empathize with a call center rep having a bad day - but PLEASE - you have a hold button - use it, take a few breathes, then come back on the line and at least pretend to transfer me to the supervisor - then hang-up on me...

I thought that trick was taught to them in Intro to Call Center 101!

But seriously, it does stink to be the customer having a problem and having to deal with the customer service system. Bad Verizon experiences is one big reason why I finally ditched the landline and went with Vonage via Comcast Broadband. Now I just have to deal with the Comcast customer service folks...

It will all be better once you get into that new home of yours!

Flexo said...

The CSR never learned the "trick" I learned from my old boss. If you hang up the phone while you are speaking (instead of while the customer is speaking), they won't suspect you hung up on them.

Of course, our "customers" were generally angry band parents. I had much more compassion than the boss had and never felt the need to hang up on anyone no matter how upset they were... But I have been tempted to use this technique when talking to "friends" on the phone...

optioned unarmed said...

A good customer service rep's mission should be to leave you feeling happier after you've had a problem with their company than you were before the problem came up.

enoughwealth@yahoo.com said...

I, too, would be really p*ssed off by getting hung up on, but I can see the CSRs point of view too...

I can imagine that the customer service rep had been "empowered" to deal with such cases only as far as reiterating the company policy (as far as CSRs are concerned) that pricing is fixed ad nauseum. They often have been coached to "resolve" issues themselves, and get monitored on how often they have to pass the buck on up to their manager. So, having told you several times that she wasn't able to alter the price, her only choices were a) disconnect you (and probably not suffer any adverse effects, as they would have a hard time finding out which CSR you had talked to if you didn't get a name), or b) pass your call on to her manager, and have that automatically logged in her call stats. This could cost her a tiny weekly bonus.

As far as I can see her only mistake was chickening out and just hanging up, rather than saying "Sorry I can't help you" and THEN hanging up before you could start repeating yourself (again). Maybe that was what she was trying to do, and you just started speaking before she could disconnect your call ;)

ps. They are monitored on average call times, so she was also under pressure to terminate calls asap if they're going round in circles. Especially if she had no chance of cross-selling or up-selling you something!

pps. My favourite CSR trick is when they disconnect you as soon as you get through after being on hold for ten minutes - this appears in the call stats as an abandoned call (it doesn't record if you or they hang up), and helps them clear the queue and reduce their average call time.

ppps. You can't really compare the supervisor response to the CSR, as he has discretion to spend money to keep you happy, whereas the CSR doesn't have that option.

pppps. I liked his "compliment the difficult customer and offer a few extra bucks to get them onside again" trick. It must be taught in Supervisor 101 class. ;)

chica said...

I liked his "compliment the difficult customer and offer a few extra bucks to get them onside again" trick. It must be taught in Supervisor 101 class. ;)

Calmly stating your problem and expecting quality service and delivery of goods and/or services promised are considered behaviors of a "difficult customer"?

Well, I'll be...

Glad that you were given the credit for the error. Thanks for the YoYo reference!

Anonymous said...

that's happened to me more than a few times over the years. the hanging up when they don't seem to like the call, the disconnection at point of pick up or 'transfer'or'hold', as well as being hung up on when i have only just begun to speak....

quite enraging. i try to cool off (or not!) and then call yet again.

i am sure you will, and i always do -- make sure you actually get the promised credit!
it's happened to me where they don't even finally give you what they finally promise. and then you get to call again!

~i.b.

SMB said...

Grrr...I had steam coming out of my ears on your behalf.

Anonymous said...

I just read this, and it made me laugh. Not because you had a bad experience, but because I am actually a Verizon Customer service rep! That person should never have treated you that way, and I hope they got reprimanded. In actuality, that service you asked for we probably only sell about 1 time per year (per rep), so I understand someone becoming confused about the price. And we do get a lot of crap, but we get paid really well-that is the only way any of us stay in that job.