During this holiday season, stores and companies will have to deal with many exchanges, many returns, and many disgruntled consumers. When a company creates a product, there will always be problems or issues, and that is why customer service exists. I’ve had my fair share of horrible experiences over the years, but I’ve also had some positive ones that are worth noting.
Sadly the bad outweigh the good, and it makes me wonder why providing a positive experience is so difficult for some.
As someone whose jobs have always been in either retail or sales, I fully understand what it takes to keep a customer happy. I’ve done everything from video game retail, clothing retail, a weight loss counselor, a planner at a banquet hall (hello demanding brides), and more. Even though those jobs required different things, there was always one common thread: ensure that the customer has a pleasurable experience so they will want to come back. Unfortunately, we don’t have many of those moments, and are left frustrated, angered, and wanting to tell everybody about it. Keeping a customer happy is even more important now thanks to the Internet. Have a bad experience with a store? You can tweet about it, and chances are the company will be on Twitter and see your message. You can rant about it on Facebook, on sites like Amazon, and there are even places that focus on consumers airing out their frustrations.
A great example of this is when Kevin Smith, Director of Mallrats and other great films, had a most unsavory experience with Southwest Airlines back in February of this year. Kevin took to Twitter to put the airlines on blast when he was kicked off of his flight, in front of other passengers, because he was deemed to be too fat and was a safety risk. Now, Kevin is not a skinny man, but he most certainly is not morbidly obese nor would I consider him to be a safety risk. Because of his horrible experience, and public humiliation, Southwest Airlines received a lot of negative publicity.
There are also companies out there who are notoriously known for their horrible customer service. Ask any Comcast customer and they will tell you that while the cable and Internet may be alright, the customer service leaves something to be desired. I’ve personally gone rounds with them before, and I’m sure that I won’t be the last. Many of the people you get on the other end of the phone have no tech experience, and whenever I’ve had a problem with our Internet, I find myself having to repeat multiple times during the conversation. I’m not an idiot, and before calling, I will try everything I know to get things working properly. If what I try still doesn’t fix the issue, then that call is a last ditch effort on my part, so yes… I reset my router and modem, I restarted whatever device I was using, and I made sure everything was plugged in. What’s funny is, even when you tell them that you did all of that, they still ask you if you have performed that task or they ask you to do it again. Absolutely frustrating.
Another company worth mentioning is AT&T. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard someone completely bash their customer service department. Thankfully, I’ve only had one issue with them, but when I had T-Mobile I had so many problems that I wanted to smash down their building with a bulldozer. It was that bad.
In an article I published yesterday, where I reviewed a Dazzle capture card from Pinnacle, it was obvious just how horrible their live chat agents were at trying to troubleshoot. From being told that they can’t confirm that the device will work, to not even knowing the difference between NTSC and PAL, it was a complete mess. How do those people get those jobs in the first place? Is there some sort of criteria they must meet prior to being given a job? It sure doesn’t feel like it, and all it does is alienate the consumer. From the experience I had with Pinnacle, I will never purchase their products again, and if Comcast wasn’t the only provider in my area that has high-speed internet, I’d gladly switch from them and never look back.
Because of the Pinnacle debacle, I was given the gift of bad service at Best Buy when I went to return the device and get a refund. In addition to the gift card that I used to make the purchase, I had $20.00 in Best Buy Reward coupons. When I finally got up to the register I was informed that the only options I had were to do an even exchange, or get some of the amount back on the gift card while the reward coupons would go back in to my account and wouldn’t be available for a couple of weeks. I was already frustrated so, while still standing in front of the lady, I called Chris, who was walking around the store looking for something else, because I wanted to see what he wanted to do. I was on the phone with him for less than a minute and, without even confirming which option I wanted to go with, the lady went ahead and did the refund. I was understandably furious, because here I was told I had an option yet I was not even given a minute to say what I wanted to do, so we got an accessory for our 360 and got the hell out of that store before I wanted to mow them all down with the aforementioned bulldozer.
There are some companies out there that are hoping to change the perception of customer service, and while they don’t do it through traditional means, it doesn’t make it any less effective. Earlier in the year Microsoft launched their multiple Twitter feeds for Xbox Support (@XboxSupport). I hate, with an intense passion, having to call in for Xbox Live help. Every single experience I’ve had has been ridiculously negative, but the Twitter and email support is completely different, and a breath of fresh air. There is no annoying hold music, there is no potential language barrier between you and the representative, and the people who assist via Twitter actually know what they are talking about. If you even mention in passing on Twitter that you are having an issue with your 360, your internet, or anything else related to the Xbox console, they are all over it in seconds. It is really fantastic, and those guys (and gals) go above and beyond to ensure that gamers everywhere have a positive Xbox experience.
Activision, another gaming company, has multiple representatives on Twitter to help and assist gamers with whatever issues they may have. If you all remember, back when Call of Duty: Black Ops was released, there were a lot of unfortunate issues. The Activision Twitter team was on it and helping people left and right. What’s really fantastic is that they work together with @XboxSupport so that they can provide immediate assistance to those who are having issues with an Activision game on a 360 console. In addition to their Twitter support, they have a separate website that focuses entirely on customer support, a number gamers can call in to, and a Facebook page.
So, clearly providing great and easy customer service/support is possible if large companies like Microsoft and Activision can do it, right? If that’s the case, then why aren’t more business and corporations following in those footsteps and giving consumers a more positive experience? Odds are, they simply don’t care. They got your money, they’ll probably continue to get your money, and that is all they want out of you. Hopefully, we will continue to see a shift where companies show they actually give a damn, but I certainly won’t hold my breath.