— 21 August 2003 —

Good Customer Service is the Responsibility of the Customer

This morning I had a question about my mortgage. Looking back the question is really about mortgages, not specifically my mortgage. But as I set out to search for an answer to my question, in my head it was a question about my mortgage.

Step 1: Open phone book to white pages listing of my bank. Yes, I could have gone to the Web. And even though I spend, what, 10 hours a day actively/passively connected to the Web my first thought was: phonebook. Perhaps this was my first mistake, but I didn’t think I would find an answer on the Web site.

Step 2: Find the phone number of the main branch. No real reason other that they may have more people that can help me. But then I see a listing in bold: Existing Mortgage Information. Toll free, too. “Certainly this will get my question answered,” he thought to himself 13 minutes before the quest would actually end. Blatant foreshadowing.

Step 3: Call 800 number. Sit back and groove to the smooth voice stylings of sexy-speaking automated IVR system. Mmmm, voice interface…. “You can speak at any time, I don’t mind being interrupted.” But when I do speak I get, “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you, please say that again.” “Can I have your account number?” I don’t have my account number. Why do you need it? I just want to ask a question about my mortgage. After listening to the 6 options available to me (and after using the touch-tone instead of speaking) I realized I would not be able to speak to a real person.

Step 4: Hang up in disgust. (I think this deserves it’s own step.)

Step 5: Call main branch. Get answer from actual human. “I have a question about my mortgage.” “Oh, okay, I’ll transfer you to customer service.” I get transferred to CS. “Hi this is K., can I get your account number?” “I don’t have my account number. I just have a question about my mortgage.” “Oh, you’ll have to call the Existing Mortgage Information hotline at 1, 800…” “I already called there and none of the options work for me. I just have a question about my mortgage.” “Oh, well I can transfer you to them and get you someone to talk to.” [insert ray of hope here]

Step 6: Get lukewarm transfer to Existing Mortgage Information hotline person. “Hi this is B., can I have your account number?” “I just have a question about my mortgage. Just a generic, general question.” “Well then can I get your Social Security Number?” [insert heavy sigh here] I give her my number. Then I have to say whose name is on the account. Then I have to give my phone number. I guess for verification. “Okay, thank you Matthew. Now how can I help you.”

Step 7: Hopefully get an answer. “I just have a generic, general question about my mortgage. Not my account, just about mortgages in general [first time I have phrased it like this]. Can I ask that question now?” “Of course.” Then I ask my question. She tells me an answer and it is a satisfactory one. “Can I help you with anything else today?” I take a moment, wondering if I should complain about the crappy service and point out that, at no point, did anyone say, “Okay, what’s your question?” But 15 minutes is enough. “No thanks.”

Step 8: Hang up in exhaustion.

I get so tired of companies who deal with the customer in such a way that the customer must learn how the company works before they can get anything accomplished. Why do these (read: most) companies still structure their public presence based on internal machinations. So now I want to start the “Your Baby is Ugly Brigade.” A crack-team of designers who, when confronted with a bad customer experience, call the company on it. We’d charge 25,000$ flat fee to fix the problem. Any problems found along the way would be subject to change control and further negotiations on how to solve the problem. We’d have a site where people could post bad experiences, and we’d spring into action!

We could wear all black, strike cool poses, and “down those mean streets a [customer] would walk who was not himself afraid” because we’d be there. The YBUB.

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