Customer service – an urban myth?

Recently I took a friend to a Virgin Mobile dealer so she could hook up her iphone.  One reason she wanted Virgin is that Virgin is the company I’m with and I can get phone reception using my iphone in her basement while her husband, who has his Blackberry with someone else, can’t.

The salesman was very helpful, going through the various plans and explaining what things meant.  The plan she eventually chose was better than the plan I was on, so I asked if I could switch.  I asked about any charges for the upgrade and was told any charge would appear on my bill.  When the bill came in, it was four times the usual amount.

Examining the bill, I noticed a charge of $150 with some cryptic description, which I eventually deciphered as the charge for the upgrade.  Feeling this charge was out of line, after all I’d upgraded to a more expensive plan  therefore they’d be getting more money from me, I called customer service.  When I finally got a real person on the line, I explained what I wanted and questioned the amount.  This lady asked if I could hold while she checked my account.  After a few minutes of some weird music, she came back and the first words out of her mouth were “well, your balance is quite huge…”.  I told her I knew and wanted an explanation for the hundred and a half they charged me.  I was told I’d have to take that up with the store.  My friend and I had gone to a store near her home, which is not in the same city I live in.  So to dispute it, I’d have to pay $60 round trip cab and train fare at a minimum.  Somehow, when someone calls in to question something on their bill, telling that customer their balance is “quite huge” doesn’t exactly seem like customer service.

If any of my readers live in an area where Rogers is the cable/internet/landline provider, here’s something to keep in mind.  I have all of the above from Rogers, for which services I was able to get some discounts through various promotions when I signed up, which was good as my sole income is a (small) government pension.  My cable was for a one year term and near the end of that year, I called Rogers customer service, asking if there were any discounts or promotions I could take advantage of for the cable portion of the bill.  I was told there wasn’t but I’d still get my three dollar discount for something or other.  Not being satisfied with this, I thanked her for her time, and hung up.  A few minutes later, I called Rogers back and this time asked to speak with someone in sales.  I explained why  was calling, mentioned the pension and said if there was nothing I could take advantage of, I’d have to consider cutting services.  That was all it took.  By the time the gentleman was finished, I had new discounts on all three services, and the total was less than I’d been paying previously.  By calling sales, rather than being content with the three dollar discount mentioned by customer service, I’ve saved about $60 a month on my Rogers bill.

Years ago I was a cab driver and dispatcher for a small fleet in Pickering.  Based on the ethics of the owner, a couple of others and myself referred to him as “the eighth dwarf – Sleazy”.  He had no qualms about lying to customers on the phone, as was shown one night when I was dispatching and he happened to still be there.

If you call for a taxi, it is common to be told approximately how long it will be before a cab arrives.  This particular night it was especially busy and we were running late in servicing calls.  He heard me tell one customer it would be about twenty minutes.  His response was to tell me – loudly, he never used a normal voice with me – I should have told them ten minutes.  He couldn’t seem to understand my logic as I explained we were busy and by saying twenty minutes I was being truthful with the customer.  He was also lost when I said that had I told them twenty minutes and we have a car there in ten, they’ll think we’re great, but if I told them ten and it took twenty, that customer would call our competitor next time.  To this man, “customer service” meant “what can the customer do for me?”

It is unfortunate that so many places seem to hire people for customer service who haven’t the faintest idea of the concept of “customer service”.  These people are no doubt also those who would complain loudest if customer service at some place with which they deal couldn’t solve their problem.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Updates and a new grumble

1 – On January 11, I wrote “I didn’t ask for it” which talked about the fact a company called U-file had sent me the CD containing the 2012 Canadian tax return.  As I had used U-file the past couple of years they apparently assumed I’d want to use it again for this year’s return.  My marital status had changed on the 2011 return, and when I clicked on the new status, I was greeted with a screen that asked all kinds of intrusive questions that, as I later learned, Canada Revenue Agency didn’t need the answers to.  That CD has since found its way into my trash can and I purchased a different programme which worked quite well and was nowhere near as nosy.

2 – February 12 brought a rant called “Customer service, what’s that?” about the response I received from Virgin Mobile when I mentioned I was being actively wooed by another cell phone company.  After posting that blog, I decided to contact customer service at Virgin by email.  Being somewhat lazy on occasion, rather than write a whole new piece, I sent them the blog – minus some of the snark of course.  About three days later I received a telephone call from a nice gentleman at Virgin who first apologized for the apparent lack of interest shown by the people who had spoken with me.  I explained that I had much customer service experience and suggested that the negative replies I had received did not reflect well on Virgin, then offered a couple of possible responses.  He told me they were valid ideas and he’d bring them up with the supervisor.  He then explained that Rogers Communications, the firm who had contacted me, (more on Rogers in #3 below) had an advantage over Virgin since Rogers could offer package deals on cell service, internet, cable and landlines, whereas Virgin only offered the cell service. The result was that he smoothed my ruffled fur (I’m Cat – I have fur, not feathers ☺) and I renewed my phone contract two days later.  No, I didn’t go for the BlackBerry Z10.  It might be good, but how many times over the past year or so have we heard of the Eastern Seaboard losing email and messaging capabilities because BlackBerry’s server went down.  Instead I went for the Apple 4s.  One advantage to that was that since Apple brought out the 5, the phone I chose was no cost.

3 – The new grumble.  Since April 2011, Rogers Communications have supplied my internet, cable and landline.  I was able to get some “incentives” on all three services when I signed up – two of them for a one year period and 24 months on the cable.  I’m on a pension, so these discounts play a great part in being able to afford the services I enjoy.  Last Saturday I called Rogers’s customer service to see if it would be possible to extend these incentives, or failing that, if there was something else I could take advantage of to keep my bills at a reasonable level.  I was told flat out that I’d have to wait at least 60 days then see if they had anything.  The girl did point out that I would still be getting an 8% discount on my cable bundle.  Big deal.  I’m looking at my bill increasing by about $30 a month and she’s telling me I still get a $2.76 discount on cable.

Tuesday I called Rogers again, but this time I spoke with a gentleman in sales.  I should have called sales the first time.  He couldn’t extend the current incentives, but between us (him offering and me accepting) we came up with new plans that increase my cost by $4 a month, but give me more features on the telephone service.  So I would have to score the interaction between Rogers and me as “Sales 1; Customer Service 0″.

Why does it seem that companies put people in customer service for whom the entire idea of customer service is a foreign concept?  Is it possible these people are chosen because they show an aptitude for being unhelpful?  In the case of Rogers especially, while they may be the largest company offering these services in Eastern Canada (east of the Manitoba/Ontario border), they are not the only one.  I am constantly pulling adverts from my mailbox for Bell, who offer the same services as does Rogers and at competitive prices.  You might think then than Rogers would be interested in retaining me as a customer rather than have customer service trying to drive me away.

Oh well, I’m guaranteed reasonable prices for all my services for at least the next year, so I’ll stop complaining.  And I’ve got a new cell phone and still have the same plan, so I’m happy.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Customer Service – what’s that?

About five days ago I received a telephone call from Virgin Mobile, my cellphone service provider.  I don’t usually answer calls from unknown numbers, but this was the third call from that number in two days. I’ll admit answering the phone “this is the third time you’ve called me in two days.  What do you want?” was perhaps a little rude, but so be it.

The person on the other end of the phone had such a poor command of English – and didn’t speak clearly – that I had to ask three times why they were calling me before I could decipher the words “your account”. Now, all my account payments are up to date, so I asked the obvious question: “what account?”, thinking this might be some form of telephone scam (about which I would have written, naturally).  In response, I was told he was from Virgin Mobile Customer Service asking whether I was happy with the service I was receiving from Virgin. (Up until I got this call, I was.)

I told him my contract was due to expire in a couple of months and that I was considering switching my cellphone over to Rogers, from whom I get my internet, cable and home phone.  Upon learning that Virgin might lose a customer of three years, this man responded “sorry to hear that”.  On that note, the conversation ended.

Now surely, if you’re in customer service, and a three year customer tells you they are thinking seriously of changing their provider you’re going to have a more positive response than “sorry to hear that”.  Perhaps you might offer a better plan than they currently enjoy, or try to sweeten the pot in some other way.  Nope, just “sorry to hear that”. Wouldn’t you at least try to sound as if you cared?

But wait – there’s more!  (Sounds like a late night infomercial, doesn’t it?)  Today I telephoned Virgin Customer Service to see whether there would be any advantage to changing my plan now rather than wait until the expiry date.  Seemed like a logical question to me.  The man didn’t seem to understand my question, instead telling me  my choice of phones should I choose to upgrade.  That wasn’t what I asked.  I asked “Is there any advantage to me waiting until my current contract expires?”  I already know what phone I want – and no, it isn’t the BlackBerry Z10.  I once again mentioned that Rogers was interested in getting my cell business along with the house line, cable and internet.  This time I was greeted by silence.  I told him I’d talk with Rogers and other providers before I decided and that was the end of the call.

Am I wrong to think that Customer Service might be the department concerned with keeping a loyal customer happy and a customer?  After all, they called me to see if I was happy with the service.  Or should I instead have talked with someone in Sales?  In any event, in the next couple of days I’ll visit the Pickering Town Centre and talk with representatives from the various cellular service providers.  Virgin may yet lose a customer purely through their own indifference.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and straight answers) too.

Cat.

**Addenda: 1 – I checked and I’ve actually been with Virgin since 2007.

2 – I have sent a copy of this (minus most of the snark) to Virgin **

 

Quality’s gone downhill

In every taxi fleet there are two kinds of drivers: there are cab drivers and there are those who just drive a taxi.  Every taxi dispatcher to whom I’ve expressed that knows instinctively what I mean, but if you’re not a taxi dispatcher, I’ll explain it.

Cab drivers are those people you want behind the wheel of any cab you call or hail.  They’re the ones who open the door, turn down the AM/FM, refrain from using their cell phones while you’re in the vehicle and are usually courteous.  They also know the most direct route from where you are to where you want to be.  Now, I think every taxi bylaw in existence has a clause that states the driver is to take the most direct route unless the passenger says otherwise, but I could be wrong.  These are the drivers who will help you with your groceries or luggage as well.  You know – the kind you don’t mind tipping.

Those who “just drive a taxi” are the reverse of that coin.  These are the ones who won’t do anything to help you.  They’ll do the bare minimum that might qualify as customer service. You want the door open – open it yourself.   If you ask, they will begrudgingly open the trunk so you can stow your stuff.  As far as anything else – sorry, that’s not in their job description.  And although they will just sit behind the wheel while you struggle with your burdens, they will grumble about getting a lousy tip.  Sorry guys, tips have to be earned, they don’t come automatically.

What prompts this posting is not one, but two cab rides I took about 24 hours ago.  As I’ve  probably mentioned before, I exist on a small government pension, which is always in my account three banking days before month end.  Frequently I will go out early to a 24 hour supermarket to pick up few things, which is what I did this morning.  I always call the same company for a couple of reasons.  The first being a sometimes misguided loyalty since that was the company I drove with when I started in the taxi industry.  The second is they are the largest fleet in town and usually provide fast service.

As I said, I drove a cab for seven years and yes, I was a cab driver, not a taxi driver. So obviously I not only know my way around I and, I’ll admit perhaps unfairly, judge the service I receive by the kind of service I provided my customers.  I must have been doing something right for although it’s been seven years since I drove, every so often one of my now former customers will say “I wish you still drove”.

The first cab ride, from my home to the supermarket, was a taxi driver.  When he arrived, he stopped about two car lengths from me and expected me to walk to him.  I’m standing at the edge of a curb by the drive in my apartment complex, so there was no reason he couldn’t pull up.  From his later actions, I know why he did it.  Had I in fact walked to the cab, he would have turned the meter on, then gone around the turning circle.  At current rates, that would have added thirty cents to the fare.  I live on a side street, one block from the main thoroughfare.  When there is traffic, such as during the day, it is usually faster and much safer to turn right from my drive and go to the stoplights if you want to go east.  But at four in the morning, in my town, about the only thing on the road are police cars and other cabs.  Most drivers will turn left from the drive and go the other way to a second side street that leads to a stop sign controlled intersection with the thoroughfare.  It’s usually much faster.  This guy of course took the traffic signal route.  These signals are controlled by a sensor under the roadway.  He stopped short, then slowly inched forward.  Another forty cents.  There were emergency vehicles coming the opposite way.  This is a four lane road and the only vehicles are the taxi I’m in and the fire truck.  He pulled over to the curb and stopped.  Not just stopped, but waited until the fire truck had reached the intersection a half-block behind us.  When we arrived at the intersection where the plaza with the supermarket is located, he made to turn onto the north/south route.  Because the plaza was built around existing buildings, the entrance is about 100 yards up the street from the intersection and the internal roadway runs on a diagonal back toward the east/west thoroughfare to a point about 50 yards from the thoroughfare.  Again, a way of running up the meter.  He didn’t seem happy when I told him to proceed straight to the next set of signals and turn there.  By the time he finished his foolishness, what should have been a fare of less than eight dollars cost $9.70.  I usually give the driver ten bucks and that’s just what he got.

And of course, once I finished my shopping and called a cab, I got another taxi driver.  He could see I’ve got my hands full of shopping bags but made no effort to open the side door of the van.  When I got my foodstuffs and myself into the cab, I noticed he had the meter on even before I had the door closed.  I made note of the cab number and later that morning called the owner, whom I know, and told him of this.  He apologized.  On the trip home I was serenaded with loud heavy metal music and for some reason, even though it was 60 degrees out, he had the heater on full blast!  If he’s cold now, what’s he going to do when winter comes?  And of course, all the windows were closed and since it was a van, I couldn’t open the window beside me.  My requests to turn down both radio and heat were ignored.  This driver was priceless.  Between the supermarket and my home there are exactly three traffic lights, one of which is again controlled by a sensor on the cross street.  He managed to hit every single light red.  Once he pulled into the drive at my complex, if I hadn’t told him to stop right there at the entrance, he would have gone around the turning circle which would have meant, considering his stunts with the lights, the fare would have been over ten dollars.  Again, this is a run that usually is less than $8.  And of course, he ignored the fact I had all these groceries to get out of the van.

The reason so many people remember me from the cab is that I would open doors.  I would help with groceries and, although I’ve forgotten it now, knew what speed would see me sail through non-stop because all the lights would be green.  I turned the radio down if someone was in the cab.  Unless is was twenty below, I rarely had the heater on high, the exception being that I was just starting my shift and the cab was freezing.  And I never used my cell phone for personal calls when I had a passenger.  I was always polite and knew where I was going.

Yes, there are still some good drivers out there.  I’ve got the phone numbers for four of them on my cell phone, but I knew they wouldn’t be working at four in the morning, so didn’t call them.  But based on yesterday morning’s experiences, I really have to say that the overall quality of customer service with that cab company has really gone downhill since I drove.

So, if you get a cab and the driver is polite and helpful, tip him well.  If you get a man who “just drives a taxi”, ask for all your change back.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and good taxi service) too.

Cat.