Saturday, September 26, 2009

Whatever Happened to Customer Service?

In the process of moving, the last thing you need to put up with is more stress. Yet that's just what got piled on by a couple companies this week in our first full week in the new house. You see, we closed on Friday and had appointments set up for Saturday morning for the phone/internet company, the satellite TV company, and the home improvement delivery guys (for our fridge). That way we could get those all set up and be able to access the internet when we had down moments and also to tape my college football team's game, the premiere of House, etc. Well despite my best efforts, things went poorly.

Let's start with the phone/internet guy. To say he was not personable may be the understatement of the century. Plus he was weird enough to not want in your house for very long. I was out of the house when he finished up and my wife did not force him to check everything. So come Monday, I'm checking things over and I notice he's jacked one of my phone cords and the internet does not work. So I call customer service and it takes them 20 MINUTES to verify I am the account holder. I had set this account up two weeks earlier for new cell phones as well, so they should have been more than updated. After that fiasco, we go through the hoops to find out something is wrong with the line. So we need a technician, and the first available appointment is a week away on the next Monday. Wha-Wha-What???

Meanwhile in television land, my DVR box, which had been working absolutely fine at the old house, stopped recording shows and would go into major meltdown mode if you recorded anything. So the college football game and more importantly the premiere of my favorite shows...gone. Now one might say I could Hulu these, but I don't have internet at the time either. I called customer service and the lady has to take me through the steps of recording and such to make sure I'm not a moron. When I cannot produce error codes, she complains that she cannot fix the problem unless she knows the error codes. Well I convince her to send out a technician anyways.

Back when these services were being set up, I had left the house to go over to the company that made my garage door. You see, the builder did not put a pull plate on the door because we did not buy a garage door opener from them. So I needed to go get some specialized piece of metal, and they are only open on weekends from 9-12 Saturday mornings. Sigh. So I call them for directions (remember, no internet) and the guy is all huffy on the phone saying "we close in 30 minutes." As I'm about 25 minutes away, I don't see the problem. So he gives me directions, saying that once I get off the highway I'll see a Bobcat dealer on the left hand side and that's Mulhauser Road. Then turn left and we'll be right down the street. Well I get up there with about 4 minutes to spare and follow his directions, and I cannot for the life of me find the place. I give up at 12:10 and decide to figure it out next weekend. Well it turns out that the guy gave me directions TO THEIR OLD STORE! They moved about a block and a half away and sure enough, he ave me poor or incorrect directions.

So in all of this, I wondered, whatever happened to decent customer service? I know it's asking too much for good customer service departments now that most of them have been outsourced to foreign countries to save money and to deal with awful customers efficiently. But I pay my bills every month and always have, and I get crushed by bad customer service. The worst was the internet/phone company, who I think was trying to lose a brand new customer.

What about Blizzard? I've heard mixed reports on their customer service team, and I've only come into contact with them a couple of times. Before I got Levitate on Ekaterinae, I found myself stuck in the digital world a couple of times where I could not get out for whatever reason. Now it is frustrating to have to leave you character, but I just filed a ticket and within an hour, bam, delivered in front of Ironforge safe and sound. Back before epic loot was tradeable for a 2 hour window following the boss kill, I also saw a lot of tickets for mis-looting. It seemed like the game masters took care of these smallest issues within a couple hours, which is pretty nice.

The other impressive thing about Blizzard is how open they are with information. Now when they want to keep a secret, they do a pretty nice job. And they need to, considering the high value of intellectual property they create. Nevertheless, they are so open in places like Blizzcon where they discuss the 180,000 active bugs in the World of Warcraft or they let the actual developers sit there with fans and answer concerns or show how they are thinking through game balancing problems. The other companies I frequent (Sony and Nintendo) for video gaming are never that open about their developments. It's really walking a fine line of too much information probably, but Blizzard seems to have a refreshing take on customer service not seen in these days.

As endnotes, I'll point out that all three companies I talked about partially redeemed themselves, especially the satellite company. The phone/internet company got called again and they set up a much earlier appointment, where someone came out and explained all that the previous guy had messed up, which was a lot. But they got the internet working 2 days after my problem was reported instead of a full week. The satellite company replaced my box even though it had just gone out of warranty, and did not charge me for it at all. Doesn't save my shows from last week, but now I can Hulu them and keep up to date. The garage door company had someone much more competent to give directions on my second attempt, so even though I had to burn a half hour's worth of working time during the week, I got my pull plate. Nevertheless, customer service should not be like pulling teeth.

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