February 18, 2009

Is Business Recession an Excuse for Bad Customer Service?

I understand that the recession and layoffs may be cause for concern for employees at any company. So I would think this would mean employees and managers should be concerned with holding onto as many customers as possible. Customers mean sales, sales mean work, work means workers are needed, being needed means keeping your job.

So why are people still not getting this message? I recently posted on a bad customer experience of a friend. Now I want to share one of my own. I placed an order in early November that should have arrived around Christmas. The order did not arrive but my check for its purchase cleared the bank 2 weeks after it was mailed. So in January, I found the website for the company and sent customer service an email inquiring about my order. A week later I got an email reply saying they could not find my order, could I email them the specifics. I had already put the order specifics in my first email, but I repeated them again this time with more details on the payment as well. I did this on the same day as their reply. Another week later, I got an email telling me to call their customer service line since they could not find the order.

I called their phone line, which was not a toll-free number, and it said they were backed up from the holidays so please be patient. I waited on the line until I got a service rep, who again told me they could not find my order and recommended I call back in 2-3 days to give it time to be entered into their system. I asked to speak to the supervisor because they should not have cashed my check without entering the order into their system. I was told the supervisor was not available and that they could have him call me if I left my phone number. I gave the rep my phone number for the third time during a less than 10 minute call. I waited a few hours for a call from the day supervisor. (I realize Time Management etiquette says to return calls and correspondence within 24 hours – however with email and cell phones many now say by the end of business day should be the new rule).

No call came, so I sent a 3rd email to customer service only this time it was addressed to the supervisor. In the email I repeated my order, mentioned my earlier call, attached all preceding emails, and a copy of the canceled check. I asked that my order to be sent immediately or the money returned. I repeated my address and my phone number as well. What do you think happened next? For 2 weeks, absolutely nothing!

I called their non-800 number again at the beginning of February to request my refund if nothing was shipped. I was told that I must fax in copies of my checks because they are not equipped to process emailed copies. Their technology must be way behind if they can print a fax but not an attachment! I sent the fax demanding my money be refunded or I would submit a BBB complaint. In that same fax I requested a call or email when the refund was mailed. I called the next day and asked for the person who I sent the fax to verify they got it. She was conveniently not available but they took a message to have her return my call.

Exactly one week after the fax was received by them I had gotten no call. So once again I called their non-800 number this time to try to find out about my check. I was told that my order (which no one could find before) had been put into the system as a replacement shipping that morning and could not be stopped. I was now supposed to get the package in 7-14 business days. At the time of this post, the package is still not here.

What is the final outcome? I am unlikely to ever order from this company again because of mistakes made in the order processing, accounting, and customer service departments. I am not the only customer this cost that company because when I was on their website I checked their other products. I saw other items I might want and some I was going to tell others about. But NOT NOW - as I do not recommend places that do not take care of their customers.

Does my experience above sound like any customer service you have experienced? Does this sound like something you would not want your customers to experience? What recourse do your customers have to take for solving problems? What can you do to improve the customer service experience?

NOTE: For another perspective on bad customer service, see Customer Think’s post on Attitude and Empathy = Good Customer Service.

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