The 2014 Embarrassing Customer Service Awards

It was wide open. But at the last moment a complete outsider raced up the inside rail and took it. The coveted (or not) BillingViews Award for embarrassing customer service is announced.

How may I frustrate youA strong contender was the phone company who was unable to take an order correctly. Or send the right SIMs. Or activate the right SIMs. And who’s IVR system had been broken for two months, the better to frustrate you.

Another runner was the phone company that left its ‘your call is very important to us’ customers on hold for so long that they decided to charge 50 pence to allow customers to jump the queue. Presumably this funded investment in the, er, customer service process.

Some others that came to the top of the frustration pile were ones that hid important information in the order process on their websites. Examples include not telling the customer that the car he hired had a one way surcharge, but waited until the moment when he was about ‘pay’ to tell him. If the customer puts ‘one way’ hire at the beginning of the process, why leave it to the end to point out the surcharge?

Another – a classic – is the website that advertised flights to Nice for £29.99, except you could not actually buy a ticket for less than £149.99. This was on account of the ‘would you like a seat? ‘No thanks, I’ll stand,’ ‘Sorry that is not allowed’ debacle.

We laughed, in sympathy, at the customer in the US who had the temerity of calling to ask the cable company to disconnect him, only to be harangued by a salesman, trying to stop him churning.

We had a serious moment, when we thought it might be a good idea for companies to ask the right questions if they want useful feedback. This was based on the incredibly noisy apartment that we were forced to move to at very short notice. In their feedback questions, they asked how the complaint was handled and whether the apartment was close to tourist attractions. Not whether we enjoyed the experience.

We actually laugh at the number of companies who have been experiencing ‘usually high call volumes’ for over a year now. Our own ‘on-hold with really bad music’ record is 52 minutes.

But no, these pale into insignificance compared to the winner from ‘Down Under.’ We found it on Facebook, so cannot publish a link (shame, Ed…). Suffice it to say that thousands of people ‘liked’ the story and many dozens commented on it, citing similar stories.

And so, the winner of the 2014 Rubbish Customer Service Award is the New Zealand company who took 45 seconds to answer the sales line and one and a quarter hours to answer the bill queries line. And then decided to ask what the problem was on an open social media channel. Although awesome, the number of comments of similar wait times and a complete inability to answer calls or emails was overwhelming. You, who recently implemented a real time system to understand what your customers are doing ‘in real time’ are the winner. By the way, your customers are still on hold.

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Alex Leslie
About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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