Wednesday, 24 May 2017

What happened to "the customer is always right"

In my time on this planet I have dealt with a few different companies and a couple governments looking for customer support. Among that group who would you guess has the worst customer support? You'd think the government, wouldn't you? But you'd be wrong!

Several years ago my company signed on with a mid-sized partner to provide us with phone services. At the time we thought it would be better to be a big fish in a small pond because we would be the most important customer in their roster and would reap the benefits. Looking back through the egg on our faces I'm sure we wish we could hop in the old DeLorean and go slap ourselves upside the head.

It turns out that, not only were we the big fish in their little pond, we were like Otto in A Fish Out of Water - we just kept growing and growing until we were too big for them to handle. Now most companies, you'd think, would take one of two paths; 1) Admit that they had bitten off more than they could chew and bow out gracefully or 2) Step up to the plate and use some of the profits we paid them to improve - better infrastructure, more knowledgeable staff, etc. Turns out that this company was not like the others.They chose option 3) Take the money and run the contract into the ground no matter what.

As things started going south with calls dropping, bad quality, people not being able to hear each other, etc. our support desk found itself escalating more and more issues to our partner's support desk. At least that is what they called it. In the 3 years of the contract they had gone through 4 or 5 support desk managers ranging from the fairly knowledgeable and helpful to the downright ignorant and rude. At one point they practically auto-replied to us with "not it" whenever we pushed a ticket their way.

For example, one day, the 5th day of outages which they ignored the first day, blamed on us the second, finally located the problem on their end on the third, blamed us again on the fourth and then, with their admission of guilt still hanging out there, stopped troubleshooting altogether. The issue had happened before several times and always had the same solution. Instead of taking the road well-traveled, however, they wanted us to, once again, prove that water is wet and step through a series of extra troubleshooting steps. This after 4 days of no phone service and horrible customer support.

Now, I'm no businessman, but I fail to see the logic of treating your biggest customer like a stray dog that just crapped on your manicured lawn. According to their press we made them profitable where they weren't before. They even listed us as 5 different clients on their otherwise paltry customer list. Which means that when we dropped their services they lost over half their customer list.

We have since moved to another provider who has not once blamed us for their own failures and has, on several occasions, informed us of outages before we learned of them from our end-users. Our old partner still has the claims on their website that so amused me back then. I find particular humour in the sentence which reads "we provide exemplary customer support" and even more in the promise of 24-hour coverage. I never once was able to reach anyone outside of normal business hours on their "24-hour support line." It reminds me of Steven Wright's joke about going to the 7-11 to find the owner locking up. "What are you doing? Your sign says you're opened 24 hours" "Yes, but not in a row."

Maybe things have changed and they are finally living up to their claims, but I somehow doubt it.

UPDATE: I found this posting in my drafts folder recently and decided to see what the old company was doing. They went bankrupt in 2015, meaning they lasted longer than I expected, but came to the same end.

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