Not that the answers make it any better.
October 31, 2006 9:47 PM   Subscribe

Pet Peeves in Customer Service Why cellphones are so proprietary, why PA systems sound terrible, why rental companies gouge on gas, and answers to other vexing questions.
posted by aerotive (30 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thanks for posting this...very interesting! I work in customer service (in a roundabout way) and I enjoyed this link!
posted by newfers at 9:55 PM on October 31, 2006

When you call a customer-service line, an automated voice often asks you to punch in your account information. So why does the live operator ask you for that information all over again?

Hah... this one drives me nuts. I hate violating the DRY principle.
posted by knave at 9:55 PM on October 31, 2006

Oh, and their answer doesn't cut it at all. I think I can safely say I've never entered the information and subsequently had the operator just know the information. They always make me repeat everything.
posted by knave at 9:56 PM on October 31, 2006

A-O-what the hell!?
posted by loquacious at 9:59 PM on October 31, 2006

Thi was an interesting concept but the answers seem pat and customer-servicey. Quotes from "industry consultants" justifying things and so forth. This feels paid-for. Not once do they go out on a limb and really slam the companies involved.
posted by vacapinta at 10:05 PM on October 31, 2006

Yep.... very paid for......... I wish that I would have had this to read while I was on the phone with my ISP today......

posted by peewinkle at 10:18 PM on October 31, 2006

Why can't I cancel an account online that I signed up for online? Convenience? Protecting my account? Fuccckkkk you.
posted by null terminated at 10:23 PM on October 31, 2006

It's all good.... even if their customer service sucks, all that happy and smiley clip art makes everything juuuuuust fiiiine.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:42 PM on October 31, 2006

Half of the excuses listed here are BS... starting with the first. I work for a company which makes call center/telephony software and I can tell you the real reason most companies ask you to re-enter your account number is because they haven't properly integrated systems. The most likely answer is that you are being sent to a main company system where they are filtering you for a few key things. First, they want to know if you are buying from them or canceling with them. If you are in any of those categories you are probably going to be sent to a company agent. If not... your call is being sent to another call center where a new phone system (which is probably different) is picking up your call and isn't picking up your account information because they didn't want to pay the extra money to integrate the systems. And why would you... you're probably outsourcing your general customer service every other year to the lowest bidder and who wants to pay for integrating that each year.

Number 4 is BS as well... the phone companies don't want to separate you from both the hardware and the service. It let's them maintain control over you as well as anyone else who might want to horn in on their market. Some of the biggest victims are your local mobile phone shops. They are bullied by the big telecoms to work only with them and give them terrible margins, contracts and prices as they don't want them to get too big a piece of the pie.

Five is the easiest... banks are greedy. Every extra hour they get to hold on to your money is another hour they can make interest money off the float. It's really as simple as that.
posted by jasenlee at 12:01 AM on November 1, 2006

Number 4 is BS as well... the phone companies don't want to separate you from both the hardware and the service. It let's them maintain control over you as well as anyone else who might want to horn in on their market.

Exactly, this is what they claimed:

The idea that locked phones provide "great service" is total B.S. It's all about lockin, and it's rediculous. My next phone will be unlocked for sure, although I'll only be able to move between two networks. T-Moble basically has a de facto monopoly on unlocked phones in the US...
posted by delmoi at 12:08 AM on November 1, 2006

Many lies in the article. For example, Europe and the rest of the world has unlocked phones -- so why can't they do this in America?

The reason banks hold on to money for days is as someone said the float. When I first came to New York it took up to ONE MONTH to get money from a check over $2500 from New Jersey, but the money would disappear from your account the next day.

The "expensive WiFi in expensive hotels" idea is simple -- people are traveling on expense account. To claim that the cost of wiring a hotel for WiFi is expensive is utterly ludicrous, it'd cost perhaps $500 a floor plus $2000 for the main hub at worst -- perhaps another $5K for the consultant if they were dumb enough but a large chain should simply get the expertise in-house.

But then, who likes the WSJ??
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:56 AM on November 1, 2006

There does seem to be a lot of "gosh, it's all for very understandable and customer-friendly reasons and has nothing to do with inefficiency, aggressive lock-in techniques, or overall market complacency" in this article.

Of course, this is being published through AOL, and we all know how customer-friendly they are rumored to be.
posted by moonbiter at 2:51 AM on November 1, 2006

Take corporate apologetics and combine it with Male Answer Syndrome and you can write a nice little piece on why there are good reasons for bad customer service.
posted by klarck at 4:13 AM on November 1, 2006

Pet peeve: why do people create web pages that don't return me to MeFi when I hit my browser's "back" button?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:42 AM on November 1, 2006

klarck nails it. MAS ... what a great concept!
posted by intermod at 5:20 AM on November 1, 2006

I liked this article on Male Answer Syndrome. I recognized me and a couple of other guys in the article. Being a know-it-all kind of guy, I can't post this without cautioning that one example is falsely identified as MAS but is PYL.
posted by wobh at 6:53 AM on November 1, 2006

Universal answer to these questions:

Because they can.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:18 AM on November 1, 2006

Cool article. Someone should make Pet Peeves in Customer Service into a regularly occurring article.

Here's one that's troubled me - why have companies, in recent years, replaced the menu-based "Press 1 for option #1, press 2 for option #2, etc." phone answering systems with those feculent voice response systems, the ones where you are supposed to "talk" to their stupid voice recognition software? 9 times out of 10, these systems are buggy as hell. Besides, what was wrong with the old menu-based systems?
posted by Afroblanco at 7:21 AM on November 1, 2006

Lat night I had to call Time Warner about my Roadrunner service:
  • "If you are an existing customer, preff one." (I swear the recorded woman's voice says "preff", not press.)
  • "To access your account, enter your ten-digit phone number, starting with the area code."
  • "For blah blah blah, preff 1. For customer service, preff 2."
  • "To access your account, enter your ten-digit phone number, starting with the area code."
  • "All our operators are currently busy assisting other customers. To recieve a call back, enter your ten-digit phone number."
Suck it, Time Warner, you tyrannical monopoly-fat thug of a "service company".
posted by Tubes at 7:29 AM on November 1, 2006

I would just like to say that coming into this thread and seeing the use of the word "feculent" has made my day. Thanks Afroblanco.
posted by spicynuts at 7:50 AM on November 1, 2006

I think I can safely say I've never entered the information and subsequently had the operator just know the information. They always make me repeat everything.

I've only had it happen a couple times. Usually it's local companies, my bank (but they do ask for my DOB, last for of my social, and mother's maiden name for security), Apple or United Airlines. UA reps always greet me by saying, "Hello Mr. Teske, how may I help you today?" and have my upcoming flights already up on screen.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:38 AM on November 1, 2006

Moreover, the traditional minibar carries high overhead. An employee must check what has been removed every day and refill accordingly. And many people take items and then try to avoid paying -- by, say, replacing a snack with a similar item from a store -- which boosts the cost for everyone else.

Huh? Someone replacing the overpriced drinks and snacks in the minibar has the same effect as someone who never opens the thing up. Or are they implying a duty to buy out the minibar every time you stay at a hotel so as to reduce costs for everyone else?
posted by jaysus chris at 10:43 AM on November 1, 2006

Most of that article reads like a nice list of "Crap that really needs to go away."

At least it admits that banks are pretty much screwing the customers. All of them.

When i worked for AT&T Wireless, our system would correctly pull up customer information, provided that they entered their phone number correctly. We'd verify a couple random bits of information from the screen pop and then get on with the call.

It's the turkeys that would call up trying to pay their Verizon bill that we'd have to spend extra time with. I remember one caller that decided to scream and yell at me about how much he hated the computer systems, the IVR, and all phone companies. I had to inform him that the reason the AT&T Wireless billing system wouldn't accept his payment is because he had wireless service through Verizon Wireless. Not AT&T Wireless. Once I pointed out this rather important bit of information, he promptly hung up on me.
posted by drstein at 12:06 PM on November 1, 2006

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."
posted by djeo at 12:21 PM on November 1, 2006

"Pet Peeves in Customer Service" .....on an AOL web site!!! I love it.
posted by BillsR100 at 4:36 PM on November 1, 2006

re: Afroblanco, I still press 1, 2, 3, etc with the voice recognition phone systems, even if they don't give the option. For example, say the menu states "are you calling about a claim, eligibility, preauthorization, or other?" Instead of speaking the response like they want, press 1 for claims, 2 for eligibility, and so on. If it's a yes/no question, yes=1, no=2. If they ask you to say your account or ID number, you can just type it in as well. It's a lame fix, but I do anything to avoid yelling and overenunciating into my phone like it's my half-deaf grandpa on the other line.

Any phone holding menu queue thingy is awful, though. The voice recognition ones are just a new kind of suck.
posted by neda at 5:06 PM on November 1, 2006

I just have to say, for the record, I worked in a customer service call center where, if you put in your information (*CORRECTLY*) in the phone system, it would pop up and I could help with only a cursory "with whom am I speaking?"

Then they got security-paranoid and decided we had to verify anything even though the system worked GREAT.

But here's another thing - push button tones aren't usually admissable in court. Voice records are. So if someone is trying to defraud you in some way, and the company has a voice record of that person saying, "Yes, my name is (your name) and my birthdate is (your birthdate)," then that company is off the legal hook. They authenticated the caller as much as is possible over the phone.

However, if they DON'T have that recording, then the litigious-minded could (and do) sue THE COMPANY for allowing the con job rather than the conner. Since one has a lot deeper wallets than the other.
posted by InnocentBystander at 6:19 AM on November 2, 2006

The "top tier hotels don't have free WiFi because they're older" doesn't hold water (I know, you're all shocked and surprised) because it doesn't explain the parallel situation with cable: mid-price hotels will often have full cable, the same ~60 channels that anyone actually living in the area gets, while top tier hotels are much more likely to have "hotel cable" where you're lucky if you get 15 channels. And don't even get me started on the fact that in hotels with real cable, you get the local feed of the Weather Channel, while on hotel cable you get some generic national version, which is not at all useful for getting the weather forecast for the city you're actually in.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:02 PM on November 2, 2006

neda: Thanks for that tip! I had never thought to just push the buttons when confronted with the dreaded voice recognition services, but I'll definitely try it next time. Those things always find my English accent incomprehensible. It's bad enough that I have to be put in the 'omnygodit'samacuserputhimonholdandmaybehe'llgoaway' queue, without first having to find a way of shouting 'Maaahhcintaaahhhsh' to even get in that queue.
Of course, when I do get to speak to a person, they're just as stumped by my accent, and I'm foiled by their refusal to take that wad of gum/tabaccy/betel nut out of their mouth whilst speaking.
posted by nowonmai at 4:02 PM on November 2, 2006

meh...reading this article wasn't as soothing as i thought it would be. I like it better when i can just assume that I have to deal with all those problems because people are stupid dumb assholes and goddammit what type of crazy bastard cooked up this system anyways and if I was in charge things would be different, by gum!

It's no fun knowing they wouldn't.
posted by es_de_bah at 1:39 PM on November 4, 2006

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