We customers are not peas

Just when did companies become so big as to act as though they were several different companies?

For many companies, customer service has long been an afterthought.  Yet the recent trend has been for companies to actively pursue customer disservice.

Aviva was one recent example.  I was passed from pillar to post, all the while paying the extortionate rates O2 were no doubt chargine me to call an 0845 (“local rate”) number from my mobile.  But instead of handing my call off, I was asked to call another number, because the operator I was speaking to couldn’t assist with my enquiry.  When I did eventually get the £1,000+ owed to me, there was no sign of an apology.

Lloyds TSB is my most recent example.  I’m still awaiting a call back from someone in business banking to confirm why a cheque from my business account to my personal account (both with Lloyds TSB) bounced, despite ridiculous headroom for the cheque to clear.  Personal telephone banking couldn’t deal with the query, but asked me to call a different number (at a different time, as they work different hours) to chase the business side of the company.

And heaven forbid you ask someone to call you back.  Many call centres don’t allow out-bound calls.  Some time ago, I missed a call from British Gas.  I called them back but the relevant department was closed.  On asking them to call me back, I was told they don’t do outbound calling.  Er, yes you do.  Otherwise, how would I be able to respond to this voicemail?

Companies merge and companies diversify their offerings.  And in doing so, they lose sight entirely of the customer.  Making money and creating efficiency (for themselves) becomes more important than the experience of the customer.  No beef that a customer has to call a few different numbers and spend money on the call (despite his mobile service provider giving him free minutes to cover bog-standard numbers), so long as the call centre staff can follow a script and can process the callers as if they were shelling peas.

Streetcar has got this model right.  As well as their cheap rate number, they also publish their landline number.  Where’s the hassle in that?  And when I call, the person who answers my call is polite, knows what they’re talking about and always addresses the issue I called about, often throwing in an hour’s free driving to account for my inconvenience at having to call in the first place.

We customers are not peas.  We come in all shapes and sizes, and our needs are often different from those of our fellow customers.  Go ahead, streamline your processes and get efficient.  But don’t do so at the detriment of providing a decent service.


One Response to “We customers are not peas”

  1. Art Vandelay on November 21st, 2009 11:43

    This good.

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