Why I Think Customer Service Is Worse Than Ever

Since October, I've been trying to find a company that can fix something in my home, before it got too cold.

It was easy to find companies that would sell all new equipment and install. However, I am looking for someone who would also provide estimates for repair, as I believe the largest and most expensive components are salvageable; it's the supporting pieces that are in disrepair.

Finding companies that provide repair services have been extremely hard to find. The first I encountered was fairly close by, and had positive online customer reviews. I called the number, expecting to get a voice mail greeting typical of a small, independent contractor.

Instead, the call was answered in a way that evoked "call center." A man's voice announced a different company name right before the particular contractor name -- like "Hello, this is Home Services LLC answering for Bob Smith Home Repair, how may I help you?"

I explained my need, and heard him key-stroking. He said it appears Bob Smith is no longer accepting any work through Home Services LLC. Really -- then why are you still answering the phone for Bob Smith? He said he could email me a list of other providers. I only received a satisfaction survey.

I found another company that provided repair estimates. I called, and the recording assured me how important my call was, and that they would call back ASAP.

More than 24 hours later, I called again. A person answered; let's call him Robert. I said I wanted an assessment on whether the problem could be repaired, or if it would be best just to replace everything. When could he come out?

Robert must not have heard a word I said. After a long, rambling explanation that repairs are sometimes more costly, I said "I understand that. That's why I want you to give me your professional opinion. When can you come out?"

I gave Robert my address, and he said he could be there between 2 and 4 p.m. I was at work, but my night-shift roommate agreed to stay home. Robert promised to call around 2 to give a more accurate time. Right before I hung up, he asked how I found the business. He seemed genuinely surprised. I told him exactly the words I googled, and that his company web site was near the top of the page of returns. I heard him say to someone else "He said he googled it!" like this was magic.

I hadn't heard anything when I left work at 4, and halfway home I heard my cell ringing. I let it go into voice mail, figuring he had just arrived. I got home, expecting to see a work van in my driveway. It was empty. I listened to my voice mail (left at 4:20) and it was Robert, saying that he was delayed, and now he "didn't feel like fighting traffic."

I called him back and expressed my disappointment. He said he could come the next day, if I'd allow him to. We agreed to speak in the morning. I called Robert at 8 a.m. He estimated he would finish his first project no later than 1 p.m., and he promised to call with his ETA.

When I hadn't heard anything by 3:30 p.m., I called Robert and got his voice mail. I asked him to call so we could work something out. He never called back.

I found another that advertised they would provide repair estimates under the "right circumstances." I called, and the woman who answered seemed completely uninterested in my business. Instead, she gave me the contact info of someone "who specializes in that sort of thing." I found the website, and I felt relieved when I read the home page.

The owner, who we'll call Jack, decided to start the business because he himself couldn't find anyone to provide this service. He even calls himself the "doctor", and his mission is to run the best business possible, with the highest standards of ethics and quality.

I filled out the online inquiry form. I called the number, and got Jack's greeting, which also gave an email address. I not only left a detailed voice mail, but I also sent an email. That made three points of contact. I was hopeful.

I called and left another message the following day.

Today marks one week after I left the three initial points of contact. I have yet to hear from the "doctor."

The least they could do is update their website; maybe with something like this:

"In 2005, we were amazed at how hard it was to find this service. So, we decided to start our own business. We made so much money, we're now retired and living in Florida. So long, suckers!"

Customer Service: You're doing it wrong.

Earlier on Huff/Post50: