Saturday 27 January 2018

Online Shopping and the Rise of Impersonal Customer Service

It's time to admit it - customer service has become a bit of a joke.

On average, smaller companies are much better at dealing with customer queries, issues and complaints than larger businesses and corporations - after all, there is far less at stake when you're a multinational organisation. However, this shouldn't be the case.

Due to one thing or another, recently, I seem to have needed to contact a fair few companies about a variety of different things. From banks, solicitors, conveyancers and estate agents to popular retailers and memberships, January has basically been a month of ringing people up.

At this point, I should mention that I'm not exactly the biggest fan of talking to people on the phone. My words get muddled up and despite my best intentions, I'm not always as good at getting my point across as I should be. However, this is most definitely not helped by the standard of customer service I've encountered recently.

From robotic automated messages to 'please press 3 for accounts' types of options, it's been very rare that I've actually been able to speak to a real human being, much less one who has actually been able to help me. Now, I've never worked in customer service or experienced a call centre first-hand, but surely these people must have received at least a basic level of training before being let loose on the unsuspecting public? I've had people on the other end of the phone who have been unable to understand my simple questions, something which really doesn't convince me to use that particular company again in the future.

And don't even get me started on waiting times and being put on hold. I've lost count of how many hours of my life I must have wasted just sitting there listening to tinny classical music piping through the speaker of my phone. I've been on hold for so long that I can even hum along to certain companies' on-hold music now. But at the end of the day, all I want is to talk to a real person about my issue and then get on with my day. Don't they want this too?

Of course, another big issue is actually finding the right phone number to call in the first place. Big companies have started trying out the really helpful trick of hiding their phone numbers on their websites, presumably in an attempt to ease the pressure on their support staff and reduce the number of complaints they receive. After all, how can people complain if there's no way of contacting the business?

This has got me so frustrated that I've started resorting to other tactics when I need to complain or contact a company. Twitter usually yields pretty good results, and I've also started scouring the web when I need to track down a particularly elusive phone number.

But despite all this, I just have to wonder if it's really worth the effort. Nowadays, I tend to only contact companies when I have a big issue which I can't resolve on my own. Perhaps that could be part of the reason? In spite of their best intentions, my question is this - why can't we just go back to having a clearly-displayed phone number and a friendly human on the other end of the phone who is actually willing to help out?

What do you think? Have you ever had any issues with customer service? Let me know in the comments below!

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