So, National Customer Service Week is upon us, in the UK at least. This worthy initiative, aimed at improving the lot of the long-suffering customer, was featured in our September blog about putting the customer in control. And here’s another blog bringing to light the state of customer service in our industry, with real-world examples.
To continue our fair-minded approach, we are not going to name or shame any brands – especially as all the input was very one-sided. But here are a couple of examples:
Story of woe number one highlights the fragility of customer experience, in a multi-party digital ecosystem. A Mobile Subscriber was given a Music Streaming Service when he bought a phone contract. When the contract ended, so did the music service, but the operator continued to charge our subscriber a monthly amount, even though he could no longer access the service. When our mystified customer complained, the operator advised him to contact the music provider.
Thus began the circular email trail bouncing the customer between the operator, the music service and – a carrier-billing provider., Excerpts of which we reproduce below. The music provider stated that the subscription was active, and payment was being taken by a third party payment services provider, a brand name of which our complainant had never heard.
When our friend tried to terminate service (that he hadn’t asked for in the first place), once and get his money back, he received this response from the music provider:
“As much as we would like to refund you for the charges on your account, we can see that your subscription is being managed by (third party payment services provider), this being the case, any requests for refunds would be taken care of by them. We recommend that you get in touch with them to get the refund.”
Our confused consumer replied: “But payment is being taken by my mobile service provider, they are putting the charge on my monthly bill and when I ask them to stop, they ask me to contact you.”
This circular process is all too familiar and, in this case, still ongoing. We will endeavour to keep you updated.
The second example is a mother who has her daughter’s mobile phone usage billed to her own account. (Note, from one who knows, this all too often ends in tears). Anyway, the daughter’s bill was usually around €50 each month – until one month it shot up to €180. Mother tried to speak to the operator to query the bill, but was told, despite the fact that she paid the bill, the operator could only speak to her daughter about the bill detail. Eventually, it was ascertained that two huge chunks of data had been consumed on two consecutive days. The daughter knew nothing of this, the operator said they couldn’t provide any details, and then, in a rather surreal telephone exchange, the operator representative lectured our parent friend about the value of trust and how she should not question the bill because the operator was a large multinational brand that should be trusted. Her response, we feel, should not be printed here.
Oh dear – it’s really not good enough, telecoms providers! The problems always seem to stem from automated systems or processes that are not sophisticated enough to sort out customer issues, let alone the complexity added by the addition of new players in the value chain. On top of that, the long-suffering ‘customer service’ staff lack either the training, the seniority, or the tools – and sometime all three – to deviate from the official script and actually help customers when problems arise.
Of course operators, and their customer support staff, should know details of data consumption when asked. Of course customers should be able to get a detailed breakdown of their charges. And it defies belief that a customer should have money taken from his account by a company that he has neither heard of, nor ever contracted with.
Operators need to undertake a review of the systems that control their customers’ accounts, and bring them into the 21st century so consumers can manage their own services, control and understand their data consumption, know exactly where their money is being spent, and who is taking the payments.
As Bill Gates once said: ‘Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning’. This week seems a good one to listen and learn.