Friday, June 19, 2009


Customer Service Hell

Something has gone wrong with customer service in our country...

Upon discovering an unusual frame welding failure on one of my vehicles - probably caused by driving too many miles (and/or maybe driving a little too fast) on our unbelievably inadequate roads - I called the supposedly top notch specialty repair shop in Anchorage last Friday and described my problem to their seemingly knowledgeable service writer in great detail - I even emailed several pictures:
SW1: "Well, it's a bit unusual, but... Sure, we ought to be able to do that, no problem. I'll book you with M..., he's the expert in that area. Bring it in next Wednesday. If you get here by 7:00 he'll be able to start on yours first."
me: "OK, Wednesday June 17th at 7:00 am, right?"
SW1: "Right, just ask for M..."

So, I dragged myself out of bed at 3:30 Wednesday morning and drove 160 miles to Anchorage, stopping only once for some unannounced highway construction in the mountains. Arriving promptly at 7:00 I was the first customer on the lot. I spoke to the service writer on duty:

me: "I'm here to see M... about my vehicle."
SW2: "M... is off until Friday."
me: "What?!! I called last Friday and was given an appointment for 7:00 this morning, to see M...!"
SW2: "M... is off until Friday."
me: "Can I speak to the boss? I drove an awful long way only to find out that M... isn't even here today."
SW2: "M... is the boss, he won't be back until Friday."
me: "Can anyone else help me with this?"
SW2: "Umm, I don't know. That's up to M... to decide, but he won't be back until Friday."
me: "Do you even have me written on your appointment calendar?"
SW2: "I don't see your name here."
me: "I guess I'll have to leave my vehicle on your lot; would you give this note for M... for Friday morning?"
SW2: "Sure, no problem."

8:00 am, today (Friday)
me: "Hi M..., I'm [me], and I left a note for you with your service writer, about my vehicle. Have you had a chance to look at it?"
M...: "I don't see any note around here... what's this about?"
[aargh] Eventually I was able to explain my situation, and I asked if he'd look at it and give me an estimate.
M...: "OK, sure, no problem. I'll take a look at it this morning and call you back... around 11."

2:30 pm
me: "I'm [me], and I'm calling about my vehicle?"
M...: "Who? What vehicle?"
M...: "Oh, yeah... err, I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but I'll get right on it and call you back in an hour."

4:30 pm
me: "Can I speak with M...?"
SW3: "He's gone home, he'll be back Tuesday."
me: "?!?!?!? Did he leave any note for me?"
SW3: "I don't see any note, but let me ask around..."

4:45 pm
SW3: "M... said to tell you we'll get to it Wednesday morning."

If this were my first such experience with uncaring customer service, I'd probably just laugh it off as a comedy of errors. But it's not. This has become the norm. Worse yet, the more unusual the repair, the less they seem to care about customer satisfaction: if I don't like it, try to find someone else even qualified, much less willing to do it instead.

How frustrating. But maybe it's more of a supply and demand problem in Alaska? I've also had car repair work done recenly, and had diametrically opposite experiences - in two different cities.
Think about this - you're not allowed to mention the name of the firm or the people involved lest they embroil you in a nuisance lawsuit. Of course, it's not libel or slander because its true.

But, what's wrong with customer service? The firms have too much power, or you'd be able to speak out more openly.

ps. now I know why I haven't seen you on celloheaven too much lately!
That's awful! I recently moved and have had to deal with a lot of companies at once to sign up new services. Customer service has no meaning anymore.
The Saga Continues

2:30 pm Tuesday
me: "May I speak with M...?"
SW4: "M... is out today."
me: "AARGH"
SW4 "?"
me: "When do you expect him to be back?"
SW4: "Tomorrow... I think?"
GGP, perhaps you are right; that this is more of an issue related to a specialized expertise in a relatively small, remote market.

I really want to believe that there are people in all those customer service departments across the country who do care, or are at least concerned enough about keeping their jobs that they at least try to provide good service.
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