When customer service sucks

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MA. LOURDES TIQUIA

MOST companies offering services and products would often have customer service protocols and customer relations management (CRM) guidebook and software. Customer service is the “provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase”. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees “who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest”. Adjusting to the personality of the guest is the controlling factor, most especially when the guest is quite irritated at the way some call center agents do not show patience or are not trained to handle protocols efficiently.

CRM “is a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth. CRM systems are designed to compile information on customers across different channels—or points of contact between the customer and the company—which could include the company’s website, telephone, live chat, direct mail, marketing materials and social media. CRM systems can also give customer-facing staff detailed information on customers’ personal information, purchase history, buying preferences and concerns.”

Customer service is a time-honored tradition while CRM is an innovation. They work hand in hand, supposedly. They are seamless, supposedly. And they are supposed to give a customer a good experience of the conversation or engagement. But as you and I very well know, a pleasant experience is rare these days. Often, we are left exasperated because the agent was not of help. Or our BP suddenly shoots up. Or, we slam the phone thinking, whatever happened to kind and courteous customer relations officer?

When you call the customer relations hotline, it takes a while before you connect with a human being. When you are successful, the human will tell you that your conversation will be taped (as if those who perform miserably are reprimanded) and then a series of security questions are asked. The human tells you that you have passed or failed each of the security questions before they respond to your query. Take the case of Citibank. A friend was flagged for a loan because he had an unsettled credit card payment from four years before. Funny, but he had cancelled the credit card long ago and no statement or collection notice was sent to him for four years. Imagine his shock when the collection officer again asked for his office/residence address, landline and cellphone! The same were the security questions so all the details were in the system. So, he asked the officer, why couldn’t she send the statement or collection letter so he could pay it. The lady on the other line said, she couldn’t do it that day because it was already past the deadline. It was just 2:30 p.m. When he became livid, the human put the phone on hold for music, then would shift from music to just quietly listening without talking. That is Citibank for you.


Let us take the case of PLDT; from landline to Internet service, they put you on hold for God knows how long, only to say that they will put a request for the repair of the landline or Internet. But they can be quite fast in cutting your line if you are delayed in paying. They bombard you with reminders via text. Good if the service is decent, you would think twice about delaying payment. A neighbor had her landline device replaced and the brandnew unit does not ring. Replacement takes months. Worse, they have these marketing calls insisting that you avail of new packages. Again, they’d say that the call is being taped. If that is the case and you have rejected them several times, why do they continue to call? Are they that dense? So, a colleague insisted that they cut the landline; these days you do not really need a landline. But the same is true with Globe and Smart. Try calling them and you hit the line, “Thank you for calling. All our operators are busy at the moment. Please hold.” Try timing them and you will see how bad customer service is.

Some utilities are quick to disconnect service and take time reconnecting them because you need to pay for it. A lot of sad stories there when it comes to Meralco and MWSS.

When service is bad and customer service is awful, where should customers go to report them? Are regulators looking at customer service at all? Should there be a Customer Service Scorecard so corporations can be held accountable for their lousy service? Or it is just plain greed that rules, to hell with customer service? Do we have a credible consumer group that can address these issues? Not a pseudo consumer group that shakes each industry or trade association, siding with some and deriding others. What does it take to get decent service in this country?

Conventional wisdom says dealing with government in terms of service is worse. But nowadays it seems the private corporations are overtaking government in rendering far from decent customer service. Because corporations are big, they don’t care. Because they are leaders of key industries, not much attention is given to customer service. They may have forgotten it, but customer service is part and parcel of reputation management.

Good customer service “means helping customers efficiently, in a friendly manner. It is essential to be able to handle issues for customers and do your best to ensure they are satisfied. Providing good service is one of the most important things that can set your business apart from the others of its kind.” Fail here, you fail your public.

If only these corporations would embrace a powerful yet simple rule, “Always give people more than they expect to get.” Don’t wait for #RevGov to do it for you!

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