Tag Archives: bad customer service

United Breaks Guitars

Unfortunately companies like United have created cultures where people take pride in doing their job poorly. And the continued long term customer hostility companies take shows no sign of letting up. My suggestion is to take Southwest or Jet Blue (or Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific).

Unfortunately sometimes you need to travel somewhere that no airline that cares about customer service flies. Then just hope somehow the broken system you must trust to get you someplace somehow doesn’t fail you too badly. Or you can follow the increasingly common trend and publicize the horrible service you were subjected to, in your blog or perhaps your own webcast.

Related: Airline QualityCEO Flight AttendantJapan Airlines CEO on CEO PayRespect for Employees at Southwest AirlinesIncredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover Card

Disruptive Innovation Example: Eliminate Your Phone Bill

Clayton Christensen’s ideas on disruptive innovation are very powerful. I have written about Innovation Thinking with Clayton Christensen previously. Here is an example of such innovation. All you need is a broadband internet connection and you can Kiss your phone bill good-bye:

The Ooma service uses so-called Voice over Internet Protocol (or VOIP) technology to deliver calls to your existing phone using a broadband connection. Consumers need only to buy a $249 Ooma Hub (it was a hefty $399 when the service launched last year); all domestic calls are free. (Ooma charges a few pennies a minute for international calls to landlines and 20 to 30 cents a minute for overseas calls to mobile phones. Calls from Ooma box to Ooma box are free.)

Replacing your phone service is, of course, just the start for Ooma. In some ways, calling is the Trojan horse to get the box in your house and then figure out other services to sell, like enhanced network security or kid-safe Web surfing.

I ordered mine from Amazon for $203 and have been using it for a month, it has been great. Relatively easy to setup (they had a pretty good customer survey and I recommended they use colored cables – they color cables in the drawings in the users guide but give you 3 white cable to use – they are different types of cables so it isn’t tough to figure out but that would make it a bit easier).

I have been using Vonage for awhile and it is ok, but I don’t see any reason to pay each month when Ooma doesn’t charge a monthly fee (even on the lowest option on Vonage the bill is over $22/month). When I tried to cancel Vonage they refuse to allow it through the web site. Then forced me through voice mail maze only to then say we only answer the phone for you between 9-5 EST on workdays (that is about 75% of the time they are unavailable). I called back a week later, when I got a chance and they forced me through 10 minutes of wasted time but at lest I was able to get it canceled – once they refused to allow cancellation over the web site I was worried the customer disservice would be greater than it was.

Related: Six Keys to Building New Markets by Unleashing Disruptive InnovationSave Money on FoodThe Innovators Solution by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor – Using Google to Eliminate IT Costs

Making Life Difficult for Customers

Companies seem to think technology is an excuse to provide bad service. Or maybe they don’t need any excuse at all to do so, based on how often they provide bad service. My latest experience with lame pointy haired boss technology came while looking to watch a football game online. Years ago you could listen to any Wisconsin Badger game over the internet – very simple, no special software (just the simple free Real Audio plugin). In subsequent years (just to play a simple audio stream that had worked in previous years they kept requiring upgrades and their ever more complex required software would fail very often). Then the option of listen to online radio broadcasts disappeared altogether (for schools that chose to prevent this anyway).

Now sites that provide video seem incapable of making it a simple process. They chose not to use standard open software solutions. Instead they require you follow their desires to use this or that and then the whole operation fails quite often. Google, no surprise, is an exception (yes it worked prior to Google, they were just smart enough to buy it and not break it). YouTube just works. Can others copy this, idea? Some can, but many phbs decide that really everyone that uses their web sites should be happy to try and download special software and make configuration changes… to get their site working on their personal computers.

The idea that playing video online is solved problem and just making it more and more complex is not a good idea for users no matter if they want to add some bullet points to their boss on why they should get a larger raise this year because they got the engineers to add on some additional new feature that no-one actually wants. Granted This solved problem is a bit lame now, so I am all for improving it. But this should be a process that goes for simpler solutions, not more complex ones. And certainly any timed to the operating system of the end user is too idiotic to consider.
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How is this for Gobbledygook? Your home banking access code is expired! You must change your access code at this time. Your access code:

* may be between 4 and 20 characters in length
* must not have been changed within the last 0 days
* may not be one of 3 previously used access codes
* must not repeat the same character more than 0 times
* must not contain 0 characters from previous access code
* must contain at least 0 non-alphabetic character(s)
* may contain the following special characters: !”#$%&()+,-/;<=>?[\]^_`{|}*’
* must contain at least 0 alphabetic character(s)

1) What does “must not have been changed within the last 0 days” mean?
2) How about “must not repeat the same character more than 0 times” ?
3) Or “must not contain 0 characters from previous access code” ?

This kind of stuff is what makes people think computer programmers are crazy. I am sure the software allows users to set criteria. Then this screen is suppose to explain the criteria to users. It seems to me, if the selection is 0, then the correct procedure is to not display anything about it to the user.

Really I am not sure how “must not contain 0 characters from previous access code” is even to be applied if an positive integer were used. I guess you could not allow using any characters from the last access code, which seems crazy to me to begin with, but setting a number seems totally bizarre. I could see setting a requirement that says no repeat of the same sequence of x characters. I think that would probably not work well, but at least I understand what it would mean.

Related: Change Your NameBad Software Visual ControlsComplicating Simplicityweb usability resourcesSchneier on Security

Not Exactly Lean Packaging

HP shatters excessive packaging world record

Stephen said: “Imagine our excitement as we opened it, hoping against hope that it might contain a copy of some c-class virtual connect firmware that actually works.”

Sadly not. What the รƒยผberbox did contain was 16 smaller boxes “which in turn [each] contained (wrapped in foam so they wouldn’t get broken) exactly two sheets of A4 paper”

It is hard to imagine what management system creates such solutions. But it is not hard to image Dilbert’s pointy haired boss fitting right in there.

Related: Is Poor Service the Industry Standard (HP)?Muda/wasteCustomers Get Dissed and TellCompanies in Need of Customer Focus

Verizon Provides Lousy Service = Dog Bites Man

It is obvious a few companies don’t have any ability to, provide even just reasonably bad service (for them the goal of decent service is so far away as to not be reasonable). How often do Verizon (based on their lousy track record I won’t get FIOS), Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, United… get blasted for horrible custom service? So often it is not news. Still, the stories of their failures are written about over and over as they make so many people so mad some can’t help posting yet another story about the failures to value customers. Seth Godin is one recent example – Learning from frustration:

In this case, Verizon is acting like a monopoly (they’re not, at least not any more) and they are viewing customer interactions as an expense, not an investment.

So, I start by flipping this on its head. Verizon spends a fortune on advertising and outbound marketing. How much of that budget would they have to allocate/invest in order to turn their customer service into a discussion-worthy best in the world? Or at least enough to keep people from switching in disgust? Not much, it turns out.

Related: Dell, Reddit and Customer FocusMore Bad Customer Service Examples ๐Ÿ™Customer Hostility from Discover CardIs Bad Service the Industry Standard?Ritz Carlton and Home DepotBetter and Different

Why is Customer Service So Bad?

Why is it? I really don’t know. It drives me crazy though – having to put up with horrible service again and again. Is it possible that only a few people actually care about service? I know I care about it, but given the preference of business to continually provide horrible service it should be that you can just provide plan mediocre service and take their business. Yet these companies providing what seems likes worse and worse service somehow stay in business.

Related: Is Bad Service the Industry Standard?Customers Get Dissed and TellPoor Customer Service from Discover Card

Change Your Name

Best Buy Asks Man To Change Name [the broken link was removed]:

Turns out if your last name is less than three letters, the online sign-up isn’t an option for you.

Companies often put up barriers for no reason, then leave customer service agents to try and explain. And then this happens:

When he called Best Buy one customer service agent even suggested he change his name

Now that is great ๐Ÿ™‚

Charles Yu: “I said well, I think that is a little ridiculous – I don’t want to change my last name just to sign up for this.”

When 7 On Your Side contacted Best Buy, the company apologized for the problem saying… “We were aware that our online system for creating Reward Zone accounts does not recognize a name with less than three letters and the decision has already been made to correct it.” The company went on to say they have no definite timeline for the fix…

My advice. Don’t create stupid restrictions (in IT systems or otherwise). What do you care how long people’s names are? There are many people with 2 character names.

Also, have customer service personnel who are trying to improve the system, not trying to get the customer off the phone to meet some arbitrary numerical target. Most often the representatives seem most concerned with getting you off the phone. An effective system to discover what needs to be improved is not something that management has bothered to design into the system. Big mistake.
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No Customer Focus

John Battelle writes the excellent searchblog. A recent post, Rant: The Comcast HD DVR Is Simply, Terribly Awful, provides another example of a company lacking customer focus. See the comments for even more confirmation of the lack of customer focus.

The interface is simply abominable. Unintuitive and careless, it copies the major features of Tivo’s approach but fails at every single detail – and in UI design, everything is in the details. No surprisingly, it utterly misses the core purpose of a DVR: to treat television as a conversation instead of a dictation. Without a doubt, this is an interface built either by Machiavelli’s cohorts, or by graceless bureaucrats, or both. No, wait, it’s worse.

Not to mention, the damn thing is slow – beyond unresponsive. There’s no way you can accurately predict where and when the thing might stop and start when you are fast forwarding or rewinding. The Tivo is like an Audi, but the Comcast drives like a 1972 Gran Torino Station wagon.

But that’s not where the crappiness ends. No, not by a long shot. Turns out, the ####### Comcast HD DVR *does not have a hard drive.* That’s right, when the power goes out, the ####### box loses ALL OF THE SAVED PROGRAMS!!!!

Related: posts on customer focus (including doing it right)Usability FailuresCustomer Focus at the RitzCEO Flight AttendantCompanies in Need of Customer FocusDell, Reddit and Customer Focus

Our Policy is to Stick Our Heads in the Sand

Conversation with Boston Volkswagen [the broken link was removed] by Paul Graham

I recently looked into getting a new car. The Kafkaesque conversation that resulted would have been funny if it were happening to someone else. If only Volkswagen could redesign the sales process to be as good as their cars….

For me it did happen to someone else so it is funny ๐Ÿ™‚ However, I run across similar thinking and “customer service” and then I don’t find it as funny. The failure to adapt to a changing world (the internet is here to stay folks) is amazing. Most companies would benefit from just adapting to the changing world without elaborate innovation plans. Innovation is great, but challenging. Don’t ignore the possible improvements short of innovation.

It seems to me obvious the VW response is that of an organization trying to hold on to an outdated model of behaviour. Toyota needs to do a great deal of work in the dealership area too. At least they realise that they do and are trying: Park Place Lexus won a 2005 Baldrige award.