June 8, 2009


Moving means phone calls. And a lot of them. I have a list an arm's-length long of all the people I have to call or call back, and for every name I cross out I have two more to add to the list.

The calling is bad enough. What gets me most, though, is the run around.

Take this, for example: We got a new mortgage/life insurance policy. So I call the company to cancel the old one, only to be told that--since I used a broker--HE has to call to cancel. So I call the broker, who's out of the office for 2 days. I leave a message. A week later I call again, and leave the same message. I'm still waiting.

I'm thinking customer support may be dead. Or at least renamed Customer Unsupportive.

Now, I'm not a phone person. I have to psych myself up to get calling. So when I sit down and pick up the dang phone, I'm fully expecting it to be a quick, painless experience. Not so, not so.

Here's how it's gone so far:

* Furniture store calls 4 times in the last 2 months to confirm wrong delivery date. Then delivers broken furniture. I call and speak to 3 departments, one of which offers me a discount if I go all the way to the store. I get a call 2 days telling me about the discount again. A plus: They're sending me a cheque!

* Geek Squad: Outsourced my request for help securing my router. Tech help calls and, after 2 hours on the phone (and on my knees on the floor), succeeds in getting my working (albeit unsecure) router to go totally kaput. Tech suggests I buy a new router cause the old one is defective. I get passed along to Customer Service and ask for my money back, based on the fact that they left me worse off than before. Someone promises to call back the next day. Four days later, the tech leaves a message saying he may have figured it out.

* Need to pay municipal taxes for remainder of the year. Offices are open 9 to 5 (and closed for lunch).

Kudos go out to the prenatal class lady, who promptly returned my call with tons of information and a helpful attitude. Mind, she's a private company trying to keep her business running, so I guess she has a vested interest in keeping her customers satisfied.

What has any of this to do with advertising? We deliver the message. We make the promises to our client's clients. We write the big words that are supposed to make people feel calm, collected and taken care of.

But people, people--it's all a ruse. It's a bit of bait on a hook. Cause once they get you in the door (or on the phone), they figure they've got you.

It's like making an ad for a better mouse trap. Except you're the mouse.


  1. I was telling someone younger how when i bought my first car in 1988 the dealers demanded $1000 cash or cheque and basically sign a sales contract to even discuss what the monthly payments would be financing through GM. The interest rate was like 14.5% and they called me next day to say I was approved and btw they upped it to 14.75% because I was only a first time customer of theirs?

    I couldn't imagine where that kind of service would lead today, but maybe thats part of why they are where they are.

  2. I think there's a vicious cycle element to it, too. Receiving bad customer service undoubtedly puts that evil seed into other people's heads that it's OK to be less-than-perfect or less-than-pleasant.

    Nonetheless, it makes it such a pleasant surprise when you run across examples of good customer service out there. I was having problems with my GoDaddy stats yesterday, sent an email to Support, and everything was fixed when I woke up this morning.

  3. jeaves: Whoo! 14.75%! We are carless and happy, even with today's more reasonable rates.

    Jake: Ah, I know what you mean. I find myself on the defensive before I even pick up the phone now--ready for a fight. Once in a while I'm totally surprised by a pleasant voice and quick service.

    On a side note, the ADT rep finally came by yesterday--for 2 HOURS! The man sure had a whole lot to say about beeps and buzzers. A rare example of way too much customer service.