Oxymoron: Customer service from a global company

Grrr! Increasingly, I believe big companies just can’t deliver good customer service. A couple of recent examples:

1. Trying to buy something online. I used Visa because that’s all this company will take. I get kicked into the “Verified by Visa” screen. Which then locks me out. Which then forces a call to the number on the screen. Which is the wrong number because I need to be transferred to the real number. Where I have to go through a security Q&A rigmarole AND get my partner involved. The problem? The “Verified by Visa” screens asks for MY credit card number, MY credit card security number, MY name but MY PARTNER’s birthdate. Who’s expecting that? When I put in my birthdate, I get locked out.

And there’s no telling the poor customer service schlub how goofy this is. She’s just working with the procedures she’s been given. And so we’re both frustrated and, at that moment, both powerless to make any changes.

Over the years my Visa card has become my least favorite for online transactions because of the clumsy Verified by Visa process. I hate using it and so I don’t. Should Visa care that one of its customers hates using its product?

2. Flying through Newark, NJ on United Airlines. Some storm activity disrupted flights on the eastern seaboard, so flights were delayed and cancelled left and right. Fair enough – who can control the weather, right?

But you can certainly control your customers’ experience when the weather throws you a curve. Here’s what we got from United:

– virtually no ongoing information on flights, except to tell us when they were boarding or canceled

– misleading information on rescheduled flights. For four hours, my flight’s departure time was always about 20 minutes away. The new flight time would be posted on the board, it would pass (with no announcement), then it would disappear from the board for an indeterminate time, then it would reappear, rescheduled for 20 minutes later. Repeat ad nauseam.

– really long, really slow “customer service” line-ups

– poor announcements that were barely audible

– and, finally, customer service staff who, at 1:00 a.m., announced to the people still left in line that THEY WERE LEAVING FOR THE DAY.

Don’t you think United would have this figured out by now? They tell us that they have 6,000 flights a day. That’s a lot of opportunity to practice this stuff.

What’s the lesson? That, as companies grow larger, the policy makers become increasingly distant from their customers until *SNAP* the connection between customer and service gets lost. Surely the beginning of the end for the company, right?

What’s the opportunity? Customer service is one really important way for smaller companies to compete with larger companies. Figure out how you’d like to be treated as a customer in all situations and then make sure that your company delivers that experience. Do it. Do it now.

In the meantime, can I borrow your credit card? I’ve got a flight to book. Online… 🙂