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Customer service's state of the art

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Jan. 19th, 2009 | 07:28 pm
location: home
mood: ticked

Have any of you noticed how terrible customer "service" has gotten lately? I find I am fighting a multifront battle against my dental insurance company (Anthem Blue Cross), Adobe and Sears. Not only are their products often crappy, but their technical support is crappier, and their customer service is the crappiest of all. Here's what's going on:

Dental insurance: the first time I ever went to the dentist in my new job, I had to have some work done. Right off the bat, insurance refused to cover any of it. After almost four months, some of it has been partially covered. Both I and the dental office have had to deal with insurance staff lies, incompetence and disorganization. It's absolutely pathetic. I've spent over three hours dealing with this, and it's still not anywhere near being concluded.

Adobe: I purchased Creative Suite 3 Master Collection some time ago, for more money than my entire iMac cost (and that was with a student discount of more than 50%). There were problems updating the software, so I wiped the computer clean and started over. That worked for a while. To get some better features, I wiped my computer again and installed Mac OS X Leopard. The first thing I installed was Adobe CS3 Master Collection. The updater worked for a while, and now all the sudden it doesn't. Not only that, but the Adobe PDFWriter won't work either. The queue stays paused, and when I start it, it pauses again. After two and a half hours on the line with support, I'm told they can try to fix it for $39. Why would I send good money to chase after bad, and pay even more for a product that costs more than my entire computing system? I made phone calls to the CEO’s office, and so far nobody has bothered to return my calls. It’s really not wise for someone to not return the boss’ phone calls; as a shareholder, I own part of that company. Hello!!!!

Sears: the independent contractor who installed the washer I bought from Sears dropped the O-ring for the cold water line and didn't bother picking it up to use it so there was a slow leak. Long story short, after threatening to sue everyone I’ve had to talk to at customer “service” I finally got a hold of someone in person at the store where I bought everything. They got the run around too! So now I've got the contact information for someone at their insurance company. None too soon either, because I just got a bill from the plumber – almost four hundred dollars! We'll see how it goes with the insurance company: they have to reimburse me for the plumber, the wall repair, replacing the linoleum, my cell phone bill, water bill and electric bill.

Everywhere I turn, I see complaints of terrible customer service and support. It seems like prices are going higher (or staying high) for things and service levels are sinking to all-time lows – even lower than the stock market. I think part of the problem is offshoring so much to call centers that take a cookie-cutter approach. Real life, after all, cannot be reduced to a set of scripts to be followed no matter what. Of course, that’s only part of it – even when call centers were stateside, they still were not the best. Corporate officers must realize that post-purchase support is part of the product – it’s not incidental to the product.

I own stock in each of the companies mentioned above (in the case of the dental insurance, I own stock in its parent company). I personally challenge the CEO, COO, other corporate officers, Chairman of the Board and the board members of each of these companies to improve their customer satisfaction and consumer ratings by at least 15% by the end of the year. If they don’t, I don’t think they deserve any of their salary or bonuses, and in the case of the board members, any dividends they get should go to customer refunds.

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