An Infuriating and Frustrating Customer Service Trend

An Infuriating and Frustrating Customer Service Trend

I’ve noticed a somewhat disturbing trend lately. The only way to get a company’s customer service department to actually help me is to get mad on Twitter.

In the years before my life aligned in a way that allowed me to write stories full time, I worked as an IT specialist doing inter-company support for a helpdesk. For awhile, I thought I might pursue a career in IT support, sever administration or even programming. But then I learned about the crappy hours and that people in those careers are almost always on call.

But I learned a lot about customer care while I worked in that position. I even took a class about running a successful helpdesk. The teacher of that class was slightly delusional. There are some instances where you simply can’t give your users what they want because it would actually turn out to be a huge IT disaster. But he emphasized the same principals the company’s training did.

Step one in the customer care process is empathy.

If someone is calling technical support or customer service then it’s safe to assume that something has gone wrong. Something didn’t appear when it was supposed to or act the way it was expected to. If the customer wasn’t at least mildly upset or annoyed when they picked up the phone to start this call, they probably got upset sometime during the process of navigating the automated phone menu or waiting on hold.

Which is why it’s so backwards to me that the only way to get good customer service from most companies these days is by contacting them on Twitter.

Here’s a recent example

Back in November, I ordered myself a new computer. My trusty laptop, Silkfoot, served me for something like 9 years and only needed replacement parts once. But technology advances fast, and Silkfoot was struggling to keep up with all my demands. I have a bad habit of using my electronics until they die beyond the ability to be resuscitated. Now that my business is almost completely digital, allowing this to happen seemed like a bad idea. So I staked out something that would hopefully suit my needs moving forward. Then I hung out for awhile to see if it would go on sale come Black Friday.

It did! And so Azmih was ordered.

I have been a dedicated laptop user for many years but, this time around, I decided to switch back to a desktop PC. I could probably write a whole blog post about the reasons I made this choice. The biggest ones were: the ability to slowly upgrade components in the future, and the fact that I’m trying not to bring my computer with me when I travel. (Vacations are for relaxation, not work… or so people tell me.)

But this also means I needed a few extra parts to complete my new computer ensemble. I have long used a two monitor workspace layout. But one of those monitors was my laptop. So I needed a new one. I decided to simply order the same exact monitor I purchased a year ago when I upgraded my secondary monitor. That way I could trust the product would be something I liked and there would be less discrepancy between the way they display colors. Not to mention my BenQ monitor has excellent eye care – something I desperately need when you consider how much time I spend on my computer.

Bad customer service is as bad as no customer service

My new computer arrived early, which left me scrambling to acquire the rest of the components I needed to switch over. It felt silly to leave the new computer sitting for any length of time (especially since there were problems with getting it working properly). But I needed to get that second monitor before I was comfortable working with it.

But the new monitor was delayed. The day it was supposed to be delivered, it never showed up. And the next day, my tracking information no longer included an estimated delivery date. It looked to me as though the package had been sent to the first sorting depot but never left. As far as I could tell, it was just sitting in the first stage of shipping, and I had no idea when it would move again.

I tried contacting the company shipping the monitor. I was concerned that the package had gotten lost and that was why it had no estimated delivery date. And I didn’t want to have to deal with a phone call, so I tried their online chat. But I couldn’t get it working, so I tried calling. But that led to a dead end. So I tried the chat again.

By this point, I wasn’t in the greatest mood. I just wanted to know the status of my package.

I finally managed to get in touch with a person via chat to ask about the status of my package. Without even looking into the issue, they told me there was a blanket three day delay on all ground deliveries.

This is annoying on its own because this person didn’t actually care about my specific situation, they just wanted to get rid of me with a quick answer. And that violates the first rule: empathize.

Current status: furious

I checked my tracking page to make sure I hadn’t missed something, but there was no mention of a 3 day delay. So I asked how I was supposed to be aware of this. At which point the person I was talking to replied very rudely.

By this point, I was finished dealing with this situation. I had work to get done. I had wasted nearly an hour trying to get information, and still had none. The told me my package might not have been scanned when it left the depot, but that only convinced me that it was lost.

I opened my Twitter.

In the midst of trying to get a hold of someone, I had already politely tweeted the support team for this company to see if they would answer since no one else seemed available. Now I composed a second tweet expressing my exasperation and anger.

Guess which one they replied to.

If I scroll back through my Twitter DMs, there are at least a half a dozen remnants of similar conversations, times I have expressed frustration and received unexpected responses. It seems clear to me that companies have realized a little bit of bad PR on a social media site can go a long way. So they seem to have the people manning their support accounts on patrol for upset messages. It never takes long for me to receive a request for DM when I complain about a company’s service on my Twitter feed – and I don’t really have that many followers.

And I’ll be honest, 9 times out of 10, I get better customer service from these Twitter chats than I do from the online chat, phone or email contacts. Yet, if I try to contact them when I’m not upset, they don’t answer.

Customer Service Confusion

I can’t help feeling that this is backward. Certainly it doesn’t follow the fundamentals I was taught. When people need help, Twitter is unlikely to be their first point of contact. You pick up the phone and call the company you’re trying to work with. Or you try to get a hold of someone using online chat, if it’s available and, like me, you’re not really a fan of talking to people directly. This makes those avenues a company’s first line of defense against a poor customer experience.

And as I learned when I started studying marketing, a bad customer experience is poison for a company. They need to do their level best to make their customers happy so they return.

So why would a company put their best, most helpful customer service people on their absolute last line of defense? And instruct them to answer only to people who are ready to tear their hair out over a bad experience? Why do they put their worst, most frustrating people on the front lines? Why do they allow the customer to get more upset before they start working on the reversal?

Because from what I’ve learned, this is the best way to get bad reviews.

At the end of the day, the Twitter team was able to explain to me that the delay was local. My tracking page never updated. But my monitor showed up exactly when the Twitter team said it would, even though it was completely unexpected.

But I’ll never understand why the first person I talked to couldn’t simply tell me that so I could move on with my life.

3 Replies to “An Infuriating and Frustrating Customer Service Trend”

  1. And I’ve even been contacted on Twitter when I wasn’t ranting – the CS departments are just that good at monitoring social media. Yes there are def some people who are not cut out for a customer service career.

    1. Especially since I always contact the company first. I don’t really want to rant on Twitter, but it feels like the only way to get anywhere!

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