Friday, June 22, 2007

Customer support sucks ass.

I have to make an admission. My fuse is becoming positively short with representatives of customer support. I don't like that about myself right now. It didn't used to be that way. They could annoy the hell out of me, and I could still make jokes. It is just getting harder and harder to find the funny side of dealing most companies.

This is my laundry list of complaints today.

1. Why have an f-ing website if you can't manage your account from it? Or when you do manage your account the information gets lost - so I just have to wind up talking to a support rep anyway?

So - today I get a call from Sirius Satellite radio. My one year free subscription is up. Okay fine. The call is automated and if you wanted to renew you just had to press a button and you will be connected to an operator. Except they put me into the general queue and I'm on hold for 11 minutes. I didn't even call them - they called me!

I knew for a fact last year we linked our credit card to our Sirius account because we were having problems with XM at the time. I didn't want to have to deal with customer support when the free trial was up. I just wanted them to seamlessly start billing my credit card. How hard is that? The customer support rep however, insisted they did not have our credit card information.

To add insult to injury I just logged into the Serius website and they do have my credit card on file.

2. I want to talk to a support rep who makes me think they have worked at the company for more than 20 minutes. I've done plenty of phone work in my career. Some of that was in tech support. When I first started working - they made you learn the f-ing rehearsed script before they even stuck you on the phone.

When I ask a question - I'd like it if you first acknowledged you've heard a question. Not pause, and re-read the same sentence from your script. If I happen to be standing in front of you I'd like more than a blank stare. Maybe a nod or a flicker of acknowledgment in your eyes. Is that too much to ask?

3. Why do I have to spend more time on hold than I would at a normal job? Why do I have to be on hold for 30 minutes to order an item? For that matter - why do I have to be on hold for at least 30 minutes no matter what company I call? Unless that company calls me. Then I'm merely on hold for 11 minutes.

4. Why do I have to talk to a company a minimum of 3 times to get a resolution to a problem? See # 5.

5. Why do I even have a problem? I paid for your service or product. Why do you keep switching it on me causing me to have to call and figure out why the service I paid for doesn't f-ing work anymore? I just want to get what I paid for, and I don't want to talk to you ever again until I make a change with that service. You aren't making my service better. In fact usually you are making it worse. Or I would have already switched.

6. If you can't handle the customers you have - lay every single one of your sales people off. Stop taking new customers. Most of them don't even know how to sell your product anyway.

7. Why is it the only choice consumers have is between "sucks ass" and "sucks donkey balls"? It's ridiculous!

8. Why do I have to walk your technical support reps through how to solve my problem? Why?

This clearly isn't only about Sirius. Its about the constant dealings with untrained support staff I've had to do this week. Then companies like Comcast Cable for example who make you so crazy - you are willing to pay anyone on earth besides them. My previous rants here and here. I'm not the only one being driven to insanity by Comcast. Look here and here and here.

Then you have to pull your hair out to find another company who makes you believe for one second their support staff is in any way more competent than the one you are leaving.

Am I really asking for that much?


Hey, I got insta-lanched! Welcome Instapundit readers.


  1. I find it's difficult to choose between sucking as and sucking donkey balls. I suppose it depends on my mood at the time.

  2. There's always my favorite:
    "Sucking monkey ass."

  3. It's a scary moment when you come to the realization that you really are in the top 10%, isn't it?

  4. I got the same wait with Sirius early this week when they called to renew my subscription. Then I go online to check something and find that the C"S"R had billed my card for $150 not $80. Called back, waited 20 minutes on hold. "We'll give you a credit, but it will take 4 days to show up." If I didn't already have the sirius receiver, I'd have cancelled.

  5. Tech support service is just as bad. I've been trying to get Napster to make my damned WMAs work on my new computer, and they're just totally incompetent. And of course, refunding my money is out of the question.

    At this point, I'm reduced to hoping some Napster executive spent my money on something that gives him cancer.

  6. To answer your question, you are NOT asking too much, but why do you do business with a firm that treats you that way? Are you (we) merely sheep? Just say "go to hell" and cancel. Admittedly, that isn't possible when you're dealing with the utility company, but c'mon, satellite radio? Ever heard of a CD player? When Sirius merges with XM, you'll need to have taken your medication.

    So stand up, don't take it any more, and tell everyone you know what your experience was (like this post). Otherwise, by paying them, you're telling them it's OK, they can continue to screw you.

  7. Three words. Dell Customer Non-support. *shudder* I will never, ever buy another one of their machines for the simple reason that every time I have dealt with them, it has been a 2 week ordeal....

  8. I had a problem when I retired that I was supposed to get 3 months of health insurance and then go to COBRA. I went to the doctor and found I did not have insurance. I ended up having to call the insurance company to get this fixed.

    First call: I was told that I was 65th in line and would be taken in order. I got down to 40th and the phone disconnected.

    Second call: Rinse and repeat of the first including the disconnect.

    At this point I called my old employer and was told that I had to talk to the insurance company and that was the only phone number they had.

    Third call: Same as the first 2 including the disconnect. I waited a couple of days and called again and again and again and again.

    Why do they tell me how far down the line I am and then disconnect me while I am waiting. I ended up never getting connected, losing my insurance, and doing without for a year until I got my own.

    Same problem with my DSL service which is why I am now on cable service. Ended up that the DSL help desk was in India and they had a contract with a company that had a contract with the phone company. To get my problem solved I could not call locally. I had to call the help desk who would then call the company in my town who would then call the phone company. Then the company in my town would call the help desk in India who would then call me to tell me that they had opened a trouble ticket and would be getting it fixed in 2 days. After 4 weeks of this being repeated I told them that I would fix the issue and they could cancel me right away. I then called the cable company who had me connected in 2 days and I have had no problems since. If I do there is one number who controls the lines and everything is under their control. They are also located about 15 blocks from my home and they might know that I would set fire to their office if they screw up. Not really, but I know I can go there in person and complain to a real live person to get it fixed. Big improvement. Huge improvement. HUGE!!!

  9. I have very mixed feelings about Dell. I've found their computers at least as reliable as anyone else's. But on the rare occasions I've had to call for support, it has indeed been a crude metaphor kind of experience.

    I've actually gotten pretty good customer support from Microsoft. I figure it's because the customer support reps get tons and tons of practice. If you follow me.

  10. With Verizon it's donkey balls.

    No matter what I do, they will not send me my monthly statements by email, even though I've signed up for that 'service'.

    When I emailed them to complain, they wouldn't discuss it with me unless I gave them my magic 4 digit code. I have no idea what it is, since it is not the same as the password I use to log in.

    I pointed out that WITHOUT using the 4 digit super secret code, I was still able to pay my bill on line (which I sometimes remember to do on my own before I get a past due notice in the SNAIL MAIL).

    In other words, I dont need the super secret code to SEND VERIZON MONEY EVERY MONTH, but I do need it if I want VERIZON TO HELP ME.

  11. This is why I still pay my bills by check. If they do so badly at this stuff, who's to say they do any better handling my money? And now I'm going to give them direct access to my bank account? No, I don't think so.

    I can just imagine my $61.40 cable bill becoming $6140, and the bank will happily drain my account and lock it up due to overdraft.

  12. "Just say "go to hell" and cancel. Admittedly, that isn't possible when you're dealing with the utility company, but c'mon, satellite radio? Ever heard of a CD player?"

    Oddly enough - I pay for satellite radio so I can hear people say "go to hell" or fuck - without being censored.

    I think that is why a lot of people will pay for something everyone used to get for free.

    Cursing has become a larger part of language, and I'm sick of being censored. I shouldn't have to feel bad for just wanting to hear conversations as they're made rather than conversations that are babied down.

  13. "Cursing has become a larger part of language, and I'm sick of being censored. I shouldn't have to feel bad for just wanting to hear conversations as they're made rather than conversations that are babied down."

    Fuck you, you fucking fuck.

  14. Like everything else, you get what you pay for.

    And when you're buying consumer products, you're not paying for customer service. You're paying for a cheap, universal product or service.

    I work for a custom engineering firm. Some of our products involve little more effort than taking someone else's product and putting it in a different case with slightly different controls. But that process can increase the cost to our customers by an order of magnitude.

    Why? Because when they call with a problem, they don't get an Indian call center. They talk directly with the engineers who designed the thing and who have extensive expertise in the precise field they need. What they're paying for isn't the product - it's the service.

    If you're willing to put up the money for stellar customer service, you'll get stellar customer service. But you're not. You want fantastic customer without paying for it - and it should be apparent how unrealistic that dream is.

  15. The only thing that makes these bearable is using Skype to make support calls: at least you can get some work done on the PC and not hold some instrument to your ear the whole time. I've spent more than a week trying to get Direct TV to put the
    call in number that works on my bedroom system onto my kitchen system (where the number defined by DirectTV doesn't work) It certainly is obvious that their concern for customers degrades once they get your money.

  16. I always laugh at "experts" who tell you not to pay off your home early, that they have "run the numbers" and have concluded that you are better off putting the extra money you pay on the mortgage somewhere else.

    All you have to do is to read this column and the accompanying comments to realize that hassles with the mortgage company should be factored in when these so-called experts "run the numbers."

    Who needs such hassles? I know no one here happened to mention mortgage companies, but I also know that such hassles occur.

    Do yourself a favor and pay off your house as fast as possible.


  17. Great comments, Snarkolepsy (and I say this as a snarky person with real epilepsy).

    I've done and run tech. support and customer service and a company with both, and you've got it right: doing it correctly isn't so difficult, and the company that does so wins undying gratitude from its customers. I'll never understand why company leaders, who are all themselves consumers of the lousy customer service everywhere, miss this important fact.

  18. Yeah, I don't think you're asking to much at all. Too bad that doesn't mean much in India.

    Working for a company known for providing the best customer service makes dealing with companies who don't provide similar care very frustrating. I am under the impression that these lesser customer service outfits are only there because they have to have "someone for the whiners to talk to." Some companies don't consider the face, or voice, their customer service is putting forward for them, and what a great opportunity they have in letting customers take care of themselves on a well designed, working website.

  19. Welcome to 4.5% unemployment. The last time I regularly encountered customer service this bad was in the late '90s. It'll improve dramatically if unemployment goes up by a couple of percent.

  20. For Anonymous 'donkey balls',

    I am a former Verizon employee. I assume you are having a problem with Verizon Wireless. (seems everyone does).

    Here's what you do. Call the next rep. Immediately ask for a 2 level supervisory jump for escalation. That will generally get you the site manager. Tell them your situation and that you want a pin code reset. Have your SS#, your SSID # for your cell phone and your physical address handy for verification. They should be able to initiate a reset online and give you the new code.

    If all that fails then go down to the Verizon Wireless store and have one of their staff do it.

  21. "Customer Service" has been outsourced and shipped overseas to a fricking fare thee well. Yes, DSL level one tech support is in India. Level two is right here :) So the trick is to get the India person to escalate it to level two and you are in business. Also . . if the India person =tells= you that they are in India and they are observed doing it they are fired on the spot!

    And get ready for this. It is only going to get =worse=. Yesterday I called the cable company and noticed immediately that they have a new automated system going! Yay! (not!). It now INSISTS upon helping you. When you try to "break through it" by dialing "0" it says "I don't understand that response . . have a nice day!" and hangs up on you!

    This could go on forever but all I am basically saying is if you have a company who has really good customer service you should hang on to them. Because most of them could care fricking less! And all the while fooling themselves into believing they are providing "stellar customer service" ha!

  22. halo-jonesfan said This is why I still pay my bills by check. If they do so badly at this stuff, who's to say they do any better handling my money? And now I'm going to give them direct access to my bank account? No, I don't think so.

    I can just imagine my $61.40 cable bill becoming $6140, and the bank will happily drain my account and lock it up due to overdraft.

    Your fears are well founded. I have a telephone bill of about $60 a month. I let myself get talked into "automatic payments" from my bank account. The very first time the phone company made a debit, it was for around $400.

    I called to complain, and they had no explanation why the amount was off (although they did agree that it was). But here is the kicker: They insisted that they had no way to refund the money back to my bank account. This blows my mind. I ended up calling three or four times, always with the same result. The net result: I never got the money back; just account credit. So I didn't have to pay another phone bill for 6-7 months, but still, I was out my money for that duration. What if it had been $4000 instead of $400?

    I'll balance that with a recent, rare experience of good customer service (although admittedly, no humans were involved): I recently paid my cable bill via phone. The payment center answering machine picks up. I'm assuming using caller ID, instead of having an unending voicemail menu, the machine says "Is this Joe Smith?". After saying yes, the machine says "You have paid by credit card before, would you like to use that card?" I say yes, and after saying "yes" one more time to the balance.... I'm done. Beginning to end of the phone call: 15 secs or less. Color me impressed!

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  24. "If you're willing to put up the money for stellar customer service, you'll get stellar customer service. But you're not. You want fantastic customer without paying for it - and it should be apparent how unrealistic that dream is."

    I'd happily pay extra to get good customer service. So far, I'm paying extra and finding out in some cases - they dont even offer the service I pay for.

    And in most cases.. I don't even want to talk to customer service. I just want to use their web-site.
    If the websites were set up better I wouldn't have to talk to sales.

    For example. Why offer an additional discount when you talk to a sales person, when it takes 30 minutes to get to one? You'd think they would want to take pressure off those people and give the discount to people using their website.

  25. For what it's worth, the second-worst treatment I've received as an employee, to date, was in tech support customer service (worst was a record clerk job with an evil boss, next after tech support was taking phone calls about people's tax refund loans.) The management was deficient, the corporate decision-makers jerked us around, and the customers were so pissed off and/or incompetent that, well, it wasn't really surprising that the average CSR lasted just short of 55 days (I got to something like 72 before I had enough, though $3.90/gallon gas and a 25 mile one-way commute definitely helped.)

    On the other hand, I have really fun stories to tell, such as the one time I could hear a guy yelling at his wife and kids in Russian while his wife was trying to figure out how to install her DSL modem (luckily my understanding of ordinary conversational Russian is quite limited.) Oh, and the guy who was apparently on some sort of disability payment, and thus could afford to call us 10-20 times a week with made-up technical issues -- and because turnover was over 600% a year, he usually got a new person when he called...

    What's really amusing is the sheer number of people I've met in the community who've worked there. It's like our local rite of passage or something.

  26. "For what it's worth, the second-worst treatment I've received as an employee, to date, was in tech support customer service"

    I completely understand! I too used to work support in the long long ago times.

    While I bitch about customer support all the time, I want people to know I do feel management is more the problem.

    There are super hard working customer support techs. Those people are just super sharp and realize phone support is just a suck-ass job. So they leave and get better jobs.

    My Aunt works at a huge credit card company, and the stories she tells are deplorable. It isn't enough she has people yelling at her about their money, but the treatment by management is even worse if you can imagine that.

    My frustration really comes from knowing these companies have really intricate software programs that track everything a phone rep does. They know if a particular customer is taking a ton of time. Or if the rep is poorly trained.

    Instead of taking the pressure off their phone reps by fixing more basic issues where a customer could really help themselves... they only see the support lines are packed. This ='s "We need to hire even more sparsely trained support people". This creates a massive feedback loop where everyone is frustrated. Customers and reps.

    When I worked support, we had front-line and back-line support. Based on call history you would either talk to a rep or an engineer. Not saying that really technically savvy customers don't occasionally have a super lame question, but that system really cut down on those. And the engineers by far burned out less quickly. Sadly the company I worked for mostly sold to the goverment and spooks...

  27. You should know, if you don't already, that customer service is low on priorities for most CEO's and upper management. I worked in support for a major software company for 3 years. People left all the time to go to better jobs within the company; no one came into the support division from another division. There was no support nd little money from management. CEO's care more about sales and other ways to bring money directly into the company. Support does not directly bring money into the company (although it does indirectly).

  28. My biggest pet peeve:

    Why is it that when you call a customer support line, after entering your information -- e.g. an account number -- on the phone key pad when you first call these places (something they force you to do, of course, in order to proceed through the phone tree) they aren't able to transfer that data to the rep's computer when you finally get a human being?

    Instead, invariably you have to give all the information all over again verbally.

    What do they DO with the information you key in? It boggles the mind.