When Customer Service Isn’t – Part 2

When I was writing last week’s blog, I had SO much to say on the topic that I felt the need to break it up into two sessions.  Besides, they deal with different aspects of Customer Service.  The last one was about inter-company assistance, and this week’s is about Customer Service that you get (or don’t) from things you do in your personal life (utilities, stores, etc).

By now, I’m sure most of you are aware of the recent 20-minute call with Comcast “customer service” that’s been floating around the internet lately.  Ryan Block wanted to cancel his Comcast service (he’d switched to a different provider), but had to endure at least 15 minutes of badgering by the Comcast rep before his service was finally disconnected.  That has generated a lot of other articles, including this one which shows Mr. Block isn’t the only person who’s had problems with Comcast.  Now, I’ve had my issues with Comcast, but never anything quite as bad as these people

However, I did have similar issues when trying to disconnect my landline when I lived in Chicago.  My company was SBC (which was later snapped up by AT&T) and I had to spend at least 10 minutes with a customer service rep who wasn’t going to let me off the phone until he’d badgered me into purchasing DSL internet.  How we got from me wanting to disconnect my phone (because I had a cell), to instead purchasing internet from them I don’t remember, though I can guarantee you the idea didn’t come from me.

No matter what answer I gave to the rep’s questions, he had a response designed to refute it.  When I said I already had cable internet, he told me that DSL was faster than cable (arguable, and if so, only because of several different factors in cooperation with each other).  When I disagreed and gave reasons why, he spouted some other random “facts” designed to make me change my mind.

Our conversation went back and forth like that (similar to the one Mr. Block had with Comcast) for several minutes as I grew more and more frustrated.  Unlike Mr. Block I eventually lost my cool and told the rep that he needed to disconnect my landline now and to stop pestering me about DSL internet.  When he tried to justify his stance and tell me how it was his job to make sure that he gave me the best service out there, I told him that he was giving lousy service to keep badgering me on this point.  His response to that was that he wasn’t, in fact, badgering me, then continued driving his point home about wanting to make sure I had the best of everything.

I finally, very firmly, said, “I don’t want to discuss this with you anymore.  I called to have you disconnect my landline, which I no longer need because I have a cell phone.  I DIDN’T call so you could try to sell me a different service.  I DIDN’T call to be hounded and badgered by someone trying to convince me of something that I KNOW isn’t true.  You have done some serious damage here, and have lost the possibility of me EVER becoming a customer again.  Now cancel my phone service now, or connect me with a supervisor who CAN disconnect my service.”  He finally did disconnect me, but kept muttering how he was just doing his job to make sure I had the best blah, blah, blah.

Comcast has responded to Mr. Block’s issue and claims the treatment he received is not how they train their agents to treat customers, but based on the dogged determination of some of these customer service reps, I highly doubt that.  I actually wouldn’t be surprised if they get paid a commission for each customer they “save” from cancelling services.  If so, I think that’s horrible.  By starting out with the sweetness and “I’m doing this for your benefit” attitude, up through the “How can you be so stupid as to not want what we’re offering you?” reaction, it’s essentially brainwashing and bullying all delivered under the guise of “Customer Service.”

I commend Mr. Block on his calm determination to not be swayed, and I think the big companies need to look very hard at how they deliver this assistance.  Because scenarios like the ones mentioned above are actually the opposite of what customer service should be.

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