Saturday, 12 October 2013

The joy of dealing with customer services



If you ever have to deal with a large organisation, you will be familiar with customer services.

This is the professionally trained people there to handle your queries.

And they are great.  Don't get me wrong, I think customer service is massively important, and a very difficult job - having to deal with annoyed and possibly unusual-thinking people all day long (check out http://notalwaysright.com/ for examples of these), often not for a huge amount of recompense.

But here's what happened to me the other day.

I had to cancel not one, but two services, from two different companies.  One was our Internet service, and one was the internet sim in my tablet.  Reasons for these are:

  • Internet service - we have internet set up with an alternative provider, so we may as well cancel the old provider so we're not paying two firms for internet.
  • Internet sim - I set up a contract to get 3G internet access for my tablet when I first got it.  However, the reality is that the tablet spends 99% of its time at home, connected to my wi-fi, particularly since I got my smartphone, I have very little reason to take it out anywhere.

So firstly, I rang up to cancel our home internet. I rang Kingston Telecommunications, and the call was perfect.  Over and done with in three minutes, so issue with them at all, and they were very friendly and helpful throughout.

Secondly, I rang three to cancel the internet sim for my tablet.  Now I should say that all the way throughout the call the advisor I spoke to remained (for the most part - we'll come on to that) pleasant.  But this is how it went.

  1. I rang three.  I worked my through several different automated menus, trying to work out which option I should choose (e.g. do I want to cancel "Option 1: my iPad" or "Option 2: my Mobile Broadband?"  It's a tablet but not an iPad? Which one should I choose?
  2. In the end got through to an advisor.
  3. Explained that I wanted to cancel my sim due to lack of use and that my tablet basically lived on my home wifi.
  4. She said that she would reduce my package cost from £16 a month to £8 a month.
  5. Said no thanks.
  6. She then said that she would reduce my package cost £5 a month.
  7. Still not interested, but thank you.
  8. She then questioned me on what electronic devices I have at home.  I felt this was a little probing, but I don't have anything particular to hide - at home I have a desktop PC, my tablet, and my smartphone.
  9. She then asked "But how will you access the internet when you are away from home?!?" in a sort of amazed tone that clearly I would wither away and die if I didn't have immediate Internet access at all times.
  10. I explained that I had my smartphone.
  11. She then said "But isn't it easier to use a tablet, if you're having to write notes or letters or emails?"
  12. I went on to say that my smartphone is actually faster than my tablet, so I'd probably use my smartphone anyway.
  13. She grabbed hold of the opportunity here! "Ah well, then what I could do for you is offer you the new Galaxy Note 8.0, which has these features..." and went on to tell me all the features that the tablet has.
  14. I asked "and how much will that be?"
  15. She said "Just seven pounds a month more than you're currently paying"
  16. Okay, so £23 a month.  This isn't actually a bad deal, it would be £29 a month if I bought this normally from 3, but I am trying here to reduce my monthly outgoings.  I thanked her for the offer, but explained that I still wanted to cancel.

Now, at this point I did something apparently wrong.

I complimented her on her sales technique.  I said that she was very good at her job, and made a very tempting offer, but that I still wanted to cancel.

She seemed to take offense that I had suggested that she was attempting to sell me something, and explained that she was just doing her best to point out the options that I had available to me, because I hadn't fully used my various allowances with the current contract.  It did slightly feel that though she was attempting to make me feel guilty for suggesting that she was attempting to sell me something when all she wanted to do was help me.

Now this winds me up.  If you work for a commercial organisation, be it a phone company, or a supermarket, or insurance firm, whatever, even if you are not on the front line (and I would definitely say customer services staff are on the front line), you must, at the very least, be aware of the fortunes of that company. And if you can help that company make money, in turn, you help yourself.  Because a company that does not have a regular flow of income is not going to be able to pay you to work there.

So let's be honest.  If you're trying to keep a customer, or make a sale, that's okay!  That's part of your job if you work for a commercial organisation.  Don't pretend that you're turning up to work there out of the goodness of your heart.

At this point I asserted my decision to cancel the contract, confirming that I didn't even want to just pay £5 a month to keep it as a backup, and we got the call over with relatively quickly.

For all that this call only took thirteen minutes, it seemed like an age.

I should assert that this was just my personal experience, I am sure that there are many happy three customers, their prices are generally competitive and for no reason should you take the above as a reason not to give them money in return for stuff.  But when you have a customer that wants to cancel their service, whatever it is, sure, try to make them a better deal to keep them there.  But if they really want to go, let them.  Don't make them feel bad for not wanting to give you money any more.

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