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How To Offer Poor Customer Service

Customers judge the quality of customer service based on their expectations. So, in order to offer poor customer service, fail to meet to your customer's expectations.

Let me share with you the worst customer experince I have had recently:

I purchased something with a credit card Wednesday morning. What I purchased is irrelevant. I've purchased the same product before with that card.

This time around, something about this transaction was flagged by the credit card company. I came home to a message from their fraud prevention service asking for me to return the call as soon as possible. It was an automated message, complete with taped voice and a low quality speech synthesizer mixed in where the information differed between calls. Given the nature of the call, this didn't surprise me.

So I call the number that was left on the answering machine. I navigate through a bunch of options to verify the card in question. Then I am given information about the charge and asked to push a button on the keypad to indicate whether or not the transaction was authorized. Since it was, I pressed the appropriate button and the process ended after another canned speech.

The entire process took a couple minutes and was entirely between me and this computer on the other end.

There was nothing horrible about the steps in the process. If anything, the process was too streamlined. "Press one if this is the phone number on the information for the credit card." "Press one if you are the cardholder." "Press two if this is an authorized transaction."

What bothered me most about the process was that it was completely automated. At no point did I interact with a person. During the process, I expected to interact with a real person. Every other call I have made to a credit card company has featured a real person at some point. (The only exception has been when I called to my balance which I haven't done for at least seven years.) I expected to need to say "Yea, verily, this was an authorized transaction" while talking to an operator and being recorded. If nothing else, this would cover the credit card company in case of legal issues. Instead, I got the computer.

My expectation was that I would deal with a real person at some point. At some point in the process, my identity would have been challenged and I would have needed to present a recorded statement. What I received failed to meet these expectations. As a result, I feel that the customer service experience was poor. Further, because the perceived quality of service was so poor, I am inclined to regard the company poorly. Since my identity was never challenged, what's to stop my roommate from "borrowing" that card, purchasing things, and then dealing with the fraud prevention hotline himself before I even find out about it? I come away from the experience feeling that the fraud prevention hotline is just a fake system they have set up to make their customers feel good.

If I had dealt with a real person at some point, my expectations would have been met. Even if it were a mediocre experience with that person, I would still have had my expectations met and I would have come away regarding it as sufficient customer service. However, with no interaction at all, they failed to meet my expectations and I regard the customer service as being poor.

(In defense of the credit card company's system, if this had been about an actual fraudulent transaction, I'm sure I'd feel differently because my set of expectations would have been different.)


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