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Why is your customer service poor?

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Author: Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

I sit through multiple discussions on customer experience as a part of my profession. Except perhaps one or two instances, I invariably get asked this rhetorical question, “Why is customer service poor?”

I call this rhetorical because no one expects you to answer, and no one answers during the discussion.

In my mind, the reason why the customer service is poor is by design.

What do I mean by this?

Let me give you an example.

I have been a customer of one of the large telcos for many years now. I have been using their broadband service for more than 15 years now, and my entire family is on their mobile network.

I realized that I have not been using their broadband service for more than six months now. In fact, I don’t even switch on their modem. So, I decided to surrender the connection.

So, the natural first step was to access their mobile app. I went through the entire app in detail, and I couldn’t find the surrender feature anywhere.

So, I even googled to see how I could find the surrender option on their app. Even Google couldn’t help me there.

Knowing that there isn’t an option to surrender using their app, I set out to speak to one of their customer care executives.

I called their customer care number, and despite me spending about 40 minutes on the call listening to their IVR menu options, I could not reach a customer service agent.

I again googled how to reach the customer service agent by maneuvering their IVR options. Armed with the information, I wriggled out of their IVR system only to be greeted with the message, “all our agents are currently busy, and we will attend to you shortly.”

I held on for more than 10 minutes, then I decided to give up.

Now, I had only one choice.

So, I set out to their experience center. I was greeted by the security person there, and I was told to sit (thankfully, not stand) in a queue. The focus of people in the experience center was to upsell and collect bills and not handle surrender requests.

They were giving out new sim cards, and they were accepting payments from people who came after I did, but they never called me to any of the counters.

So, I took it up with the security person, and he was so low in the hierarchy that he couldn’t influence anything that was happening there.

Now, I decided to move ahead and occupied one of the empty chairs in front of an agent. The agent asked me the purpose of my visit. I told him that I had to surrender my broadband connection.

Immediately, he mentioned that he was busy doing something and it would take a considerable amount of time to handle my query. So, he suggested that I step aside. I decided to stay put and told him to take as much time to address what he was doing and that I would wait.

Now, he did not have a choice. So, he decided to take down my request, and he gave me a request number. After that, he mentioned that someone from the disconnection team would call me within seven days to process the surrender request.

Did the ordeal end here?

I promptly received the call the following day from their disconnection team. They offered to give me a discount on my billing if I continued my service with them.

I declined.

So I was told that the modem would be picked up from my place within seven days.

I was delighted.

However, the next day, I received another call from their disconnection team stating that they could hold my line for three months for a nominal fee. I can activate it whenever I want.

I declined this offer also.

They again mentioned that someone would call me and pick up the modem from my place within seven days.

I am still waiting for someone to call me to pick up the modem.

What would you call this experience?

This experience is poor customer service by design.

The organization does not want to entertain anything that they don’t like. They tend to forget that I continue to use many of their other services, and this experience would make me think twice about subscribing to anything else from them.

They lure you with great offers and experiences, but they don’t treat you well when you want to leave them.

The best analogy for this would be the movie-watching experience. When you enter the movie hall, everything is so classy, and they make you feel welcome, but have you noticed the exit from the movie hall?

It looks dark, and you would have to climb down multiple stairs more than the number of floors that you came up on the escalator. The experience I received was pretty similar.

The key attributes of poor customer service by design that I experienced are:

  1. The mobile app has every conceivable feature except the surrender option
  2. Their customer service is understaffed, and they don’t have agents to answer your queries.
  3. Their experience center has a clear SLA not to entertain words like surrender and disconnection

Overall, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth for longer than you think.

The good thing for me is that I get to rant about it and talk about it so that none of my other customers make similar mistakes.

I have been in the customer experience industry for several years now, and I have never designed anything close to this experience that I encountered.

This is a classic case of figuring out how to avoid poor customer service by design.


About the Author: Uthaman Bakthikrishnan


Uthaman believes in the power of creation - it gives him a high to grow something from scratch and make it sustainable. Uthaman is the Executive Vice President and helps set the strategic direction and roadmap for ClearTouch, a pioneering provider of a cloud-based call center platform for enterprises, contact centers, BPOs, and financial services companies in India.