The following may not come as a total surprise to you, but times are still dismal in most of Customer Service Land. I've counted a staggering number of misaligned, misdirected and disconnected (literally) phone calls and other electronic interactions.
It started with finding a moving company. Simple, right: Google it!
My bad for filling out a request form with a moving company offer aggregator. Boy, did the commission-hungry respond! Within minutes my inbox was flooded with moving companies who were all interested in my business. Soon enough, I was collecting appointments for an in-person quote, because that is what I requested. This is where the good and the bad separated. The good called from a real office with a real person, and were able to make a real appointment on a real date with a real assessor with a real, local phone number. The bad weren’t. Instead, they emailed multiple times per day, called from a faraway call center, and emailed again -- until I blocked them.
But I did find a mover, so next were the utilities.
You’d think that the utility companies in my new state would be interested in getting my business. And they were, provided I call them on weekdays only between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and as long as I was prepared to share every conceivable data point of my life to the stranger on the other end of the line. No, you can’t do it online, because, well… I'm not sure why, to be honest. But you can’t.
Things got even worse with my new cable/phone/Internet service provider of choice (name withheld to protect the innocent). After much deliberation, we chose what can only be described as the best of the worst (based on what complete strangers were saying online about the three competitors, and Internet speed tests for our new address). So we called to buy service. And listen, the lady in a faraway land was very nice, but she was so incredibly tied to her script that the few times I asked a question, she had to back up to two or three previous script sections after she had answered me to get herself back on track.
And then there were the constant offers. I get that it might be helpful to understand what the options are, but they are so bewildering in number and variety that in the end I didn’t buy any. Just basic everything, please, and your fastest Internet; I will figure out what I am missing once it is all hooked up and then expand my contract -- or, more likely, just Google TV it.
After all was said and done, I was promised an immediate email to confirm the installation date and time. When that hadn’t arrived after a good few hours, I tweeted the company’s Twitter help desk. Their tweeted reply came four days later. Yeah, that bodes well for the future!
I will spare you the pains we went through to buy new auto and home insurance.
What I can tell you is this: Marketers talk a lot about seamless, personalized, 24/7 customer service in this consumer-centric era. I think we’ll be on hold for a very long time before that is a reality.