For all the hoopla about how companies love their customers, it's just trash talk. I'm convinced that 95 out of 100 organizations don't care about their customers. They tolerate customers only as a means to profit and that message comes through loud and clear every day.
Five examples from this past week illustrate my point about this "We don't care about customers" message:
Hidden Phone Numbers: I spent 15 minutes on Large Company A's website searching for a phone number to call about why a transaction has not posted on their website after it was confirmed as received.
Auto-Responder Emails That Fail to Address the Issue: After applying to be an affiliate with Large Company B, I sent an email asking a specific question about coding. They returned the original auto-responder with the same general information. I emailed again with the same specific question. Their auto-responder came again--same general information, followed by a solicitation survey, asking "Did we answer your question?" To which I responded, "No." Another auto-responder asked me to fill in their message box what they could do to correct the problem. Need I say more?
Chat-With-Me Feature: My internet security software popped up for renewal, so I went online to purchase and download a renewal activation code. There was a glitch as I tried to download, so I contacted the "Help" desk through the Chat feature. Shortly after the rep answered, George asked me to hold, saying he needed to connect me with the next level of support. Every few minutes, a message popped onto the chat screen: "Please continue to hold. Someone will be with you momentarily." He held me hostage, until I finally hung up half an hour later. More often than not, the chat feature serves as the appearance of a communication channel -- like having a car in your garage with all the tires flat.
Gatekeepers: I phoned my doctor's office to get a prescription refilled. The office manager says, "Have your pharmacy call." I told her that the pharmacy had faxed for an okay to refill, had verified receipt, but had not received a call-back from their office.
"Then the problem must be that we have to see you at least once a year to refill."
"Okay, when can I get an appointment? I have 35 days of medicine left."
"The doctor can't see you for 4 months."
"So can he 'okay' the prescription temporarily until he can see me. He has done that in the past many times. I've taken this medicine for 20 years."
"I've been here 5 years. We never make exceptions."
"That's not accurate. He has made exceptions several times. In fact, last year and the year before when I was traveling and then when he himself was out a long time after his wife died."
"It has been more than a year since you've been in. It's policy that you have to come in first. The first appointment is four months from now? Do you want it?" She continued like a broken record. It took 4 call-backs to talk her into letting me speak with the doctor's nurse to get the medication refilled.
Untrained and Unhelpful Staff: When customers do make contact with a live person, they seem to be set on auto-pilot: untrained in listening, unknowledgeable about their product or service, unable to write a clear email, and unwilling to extend themselves to be helpful if it might take an extra moment to check a record or provide extra information. Yet if the glitch and reason for your contact is on the THEIR end, their brush-off response is merely "Thank you for your patience" or "We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you" as they move on to the next unwary customer.
My Prediction: The 5 percent of companies that learn to handle their customer communication correctly will gradually rise to the top in their industry. The other 95 percent will continue to struggle. Customers can now spread the word faster, better, and louder than ever before about who those companies are.