Great Customer Service Goes Unrewarded

Let’s face it: customer service lines are designed so you give up long before you get an answer. A confusing labyrinth of telephone menus, leading eventually to a computerized voice demanding information that you likely don’t have and they, coincidentally enough, can’t help you without. When you do get someone, they tend to be either incompetent or reading from a three-ring binder. The industry’s secret is they actually can’t handle your issues and complaints: the conspiracy is to make it so frustrating that you won’t even try.

Given the state of affairs of CS lines, it’s wonderful to occasionally come across a really helpful representative who intelligently helps you to resolve problems. But that’s not encouraged by the industry either: that excellent representative raises the bar for future calls, a bar companies — like fat kids — don’t want to have to hurdle over. These great reps get purposely lost in the shuffle.

To illustrate our point, here’s an email we got from reader Jesse F. Jesse had a truly frustrating time trying to set up his boss’ wireless broadband card through Cingular and, after a couple frustrating encounters with the usual dolts at Cingular’s CS department, finally managed to find a rep who really knew his stuff. So Jesse wanted to write Cingular and commend the rep. But guess what? Cingular wouldn’t easily let him. The email’s after the jump.

So my boss went to a conference in February and was wowed by some dude who had a card in his laptop that could get data over cell phone waves. I did the research, and it’s actually a pretty damn sweet technology: speeds that challenge mid-range DSL, availability that far exceeds Wi-Fi, and only $60/month unlimited. Verizon, Cingular, and other wireless companies have it, but barely promote it on their websites, and their sales associates know next to nothing about it. Given the millions they must be spending to upgrade their infrastructures, it’s astonishing that these companies are spending more advertising on ringtones than this service. Shit, they haven’t even come up with a snappy name for it – say “wireless broadband” and most people think you’re talking Wi-Fi.

So anyway, I bought the snazzy Cingular GPRS card for my boss (ironically, the card’s label shows a stock photo of a professional dude using an iBook, but the card itself isn’t Mac-compatible). The Cingular Communications Manager installed all nice-like…and then it wouldn’t connect. On-screen help said it would take up to four minutes the first time; after waiting ten minutes, four times in arrow, I give up and call in. “Oh,” the CSR says, “you need to activate the account.” Funny, there was no documentation saying so whatsoever – whoops! I couldn’t tell whether the CSR’s mild surprise meant that I’m somehow stupid for not having predicted this, or that so few people sign up for this service that the problem hasn’t reached any sort of volume. Anyway, neither the CSR nor an extremely annoying voice-activated system could do the activation, so she gave me the number of the Web Order department, which finally got it working.

Now I was up and surfing zippily along. However, while I could get my boss’ Outlook to send e-mail, it wouldn’t receive – whether I was accessing the Internet via the wireless card or not. Uninstalled the Manager, and bingo, e-mail worked, but of course the card didn’t. After my customer service runaround, I wasn’t much looking forward to tech support, but a wonderful man by the name of Paul picked up right away. It took forty-five minutes, a number of tweaks, and at least four restarts, but we finally had it up and running – without the Communications Manager. Turns out you can just set up the card like a dialup modem (albeit one that dials a bizarre string like **9**#1* or something), and forgo the entire invasive system.

Well, the card works like a dream. It’s even faster than our LAN at some points, and works just anywhere around the city (and supposedly in most metro areas). I’m so happy that it works, and that Paul helped me to get it working, that I wanted to send Cingular an e-mail expressing my thanks. So I go to the customer service page, only to find out that to send an e-mail, I have to log into my account, which I of course can’t set up because I don’t have my boss’ SSN handy.

So close, Cingular. So, so close.

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  1. Rick Dobbs says:

    I think one of the problems with finding good customer service is not just about raising the bar. I think so very few people go out of their way to show they appreciated the good customer service like Jesse tried to do.

    If more people send in a note when they’ve received great service, then these same reps will continue to be great reps, rather than become the jaded hard-asses they all become eventually. Positive reinforcement works at any age.