Monday, August 31, 2009

Modern American customer service

I hate to rant about anything, but I had an experience with which I'm sure many will identify.

We have a single local newspaper in my home area, and for the past few months have been receiving this publication via subscription on a Friday-through-Monday basis. We had gone without a subscription for some months due to my travel schedule and a general lack of interest, but resumed on the basis above. The only day where we really look forward to the paper's delivery is Sunday, understandably, as there's more content, plus we rely on the weekly retail fliers to determine what products might be on sale and we appreciate the coupons that are generally contained therein.

Yesterday during a leisurely breakfast my wife and I were perusing the paper and I could not help but notice that the comics were from LAST SUNDAY. I remembered because I am a Dilbert fan and remembered the previous Sunday's strip. I then noticed that the Parade magazine insert was also from the previous Sunday. Now I was curious, so I began to check all of the retail fliers and, sure enough, all of them were dates for the week of August 23-29.

I went to the phone and called the newspaper, as there's a number to call if you didn't get your paper, it was damaged or wet, etc. After navigating the maze of options in their automated system I reached a live person. She was apologetic but stated flatly that redelivery would not be possible, as I had waited too long to report my problem. I asked for the name of the circulation manager, and was told that this information was "not available at this time." After a few more questions she finally stated that she was "offshore" and unable to assist. I prodded and she noted that she and her entire service unit is in the Phillipines.

Now, be advised that my own company uses an organization in India for certain function, but none of them have direct interaction with customers. Nevertheless, I asked for my subscription to be cancelled and this polite woman assured me that it would be. She apologized for the tenth time and wished me a good day.

This morning, a Monday edition of the paper awaited me on my doorstep. I attempted to call the paper to again cancel the subscription but found no option to allow this. Nor did I find one on the paper's website, so I sent a customer service inquiry labeled "other" about an hour ago with a plea for someone to call me to discuss.

I'm still waiting.

Isn't it embarrassing that we have come to this level of indifference toward those who spend their money on our products and services? Similar experience recently with a national pizza chain....big mixup on when my carryout order would be ready, waited over 30 minutes, only to find that the pizza was there all along. I demanded my money back (they always have you pay BEFORE you wait) AND the pizza and got it, but posted something on the company's website requesting the opportunity to discuss with the franchise owner. That was three weeks ago, and I've heard nothing.

Given these experiences, I always take note of businesses that seem glad you're a customer, and act accordingly. I don't mind paying for good service, but I detest paying for bad service, especially when there's no discussion of the bad experience that accompanies the payment.

So my list keeps growing. You probably have one of these lists, too, whether it's an actual or a virtual list: a list of places with which I don't do business. I'd like very much to stop adding to it, but....

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