Customer Disservice

Posted by CJD on January 31, 2012

Customer service is hard and expensive to get right, it needs money, training, management and good, very good, people. But most of all, it needs managers that think it’s a jolly good idea, not just an expensive nuisance.

It all went wrong in the 90s when businesses started to treat customer service as a cost centre instead of good marketing. Put something in the marketing budget and it’s a revenue opportunity managed by optimists, make it an operational cost centre and it’s chiselled away at by miserable bloody accountants. We all know what happens next; they get put ‘offshore’ where people costs are lower, the agents are called Mike and Susan but have accents so heavy we can’t understand them. They work to scripts and anything varying away from them is subject to being transferred to a UK voice – eventually.

Then we have the ‘press 1 for a very long wait, 2 for eternity and 3 if you’ve really got nothing better to do with your life. Meanwhile, the robot is explaining how important your call is to them.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got more than one password in my life and I don’t do my banking and shopping all in one place. It turns out I have literally hundreds of numbers that I’m supposed to keep secret but also remember instantly when quizzed, first by the robot and then by the unlucky Asian that finally answers my call. The worst is the combination – banks love to force you to enter an 16 digit card number into the robot and then do it all again when the human arrives whilst asking “what was the maiden name of your first pet?’

Anyway, what this rant is actually about is Panasonic.

I bought a TV off them; a very expensive TV and I like it a lot. But I had a question, just a little question that their enormous user manual doesn’t cover. (I’m saving user manual rants for another time). So I rang their customer disservice number Ā and, after going through 10 or 12 levels of voice response systems I got to a final voice that said something like ‘congratulations you made it this far, now I’m just going to hang up, please try again another time’. Is there anything short of a slapped face more insulting?

When I’d calmed down, I went to their support (sic) web page and emailed them my question. Guess what, after waiting two weeks, still no answer.

Apparently this is normal with hardware manufacturers, I’ve bought the TV, I’m not going to buy another so I don’t matter any more. Well Panasonic, I love your TV but I don’t like the way you’ve treated me so now I’m telling everyone I can about my experience. It could have been so different…….

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