This is your idea of customer service?

A few months ago, I had a case of insomnia one night and, since I was up, I spent a couple of hours tracking down where and how to set up ebills for a number of different companies I have services through. I didn’t do it to save paper or trees, though that’s certainly a nice side benefit. Mostly, I would just rather have them more immediately available and electronically archived instead of me having to store them away. I also don’t have to wait for my bill to show up in the mail. When the invoice is ready, I get an email and I can see it right away.

One of the bills I set up to access online was for Bell Mobility. I don’t use Bell for anything other than my cell phone and I almost went to another carrier last fall when I was ready to get my iPhone. But I figured I’d stick with the devil I know. Besides, of the inflated rate plans the carriers all have, Bell’s was actually the least expensive for what I wanted. Ergo, it was worth it to stick with them.

As I mentioned, I was setting up ebills when I was suffering from insomnia. In other words, it was a less than ideal time to be setting up new accounts with usernames and passwords. In fact, because each site had its own unique password standard – length, allowable characters, caps, etc. – I had to restore my passwords on a couple of the sites within the first month after I set everything up.

Most sites will email you a password reset link. Not Bell. No, their site told me I had to call to get help to access my online account. Given that I only wanted to get access because I hadn’t received the email with my bill amount that I’m supposed to get every month, I was a little annoyed. I didn’t call and I made a guess about the amount I owed and just made a payment. The next month I got my ebill no problem. No need to log on, but I tried again just to see if I could. I still couldn't remember that password.

Fast forward to this past Friday – the day my Bell bill was due to be paid and I hadn’t received an email. (I did eventually find it in my junk folder this time, but since I’d received it before that wasn’t my first assumption of where to look.) I tried logging in to my account and failed again. I got to the part where I was filling in the answer to my security question when I decided to just call Bell. From there, this story goes downhill pretty fast.

The first customer service agent got on the line and I explain the situation to him. His response, as closely as I can remember the quote was, "We don’t have access to your password. If we did, it wouldn’t be a password." Words pretty much failed me for a few seconds because I couldn’t believe that he so badly misunderstood what I was asking him.

I never said anything about him giving me my password – I said I just needed someone to help me get back into my account because I forgot my password and I was locked out. Simply put, I needed my password to be reset. Rather than continuing talking to someone who clearly did not know what they were talking about, I asked if there was someone else I could speak to who would know more about what I needed. He said, "" Seriously, words failed me again. This is a highly unusual event twice in a less-than-two-minutes conversation.

Me: "Is this not Bell I’m on the phone with?"

Him: "This is Bell Mobility."

Me: "So, can you transfer me to someone who can help?"

Him: "Yes, I’ll see if I can find someone."

My confidence in his ability to do anything at all for me had already seriously plummeted. When the next person who picked up said they were with Bell Mobility as well, I knew I was never going to get anywhere with these people. I explained the situation to the new guy while I went back to their site to try to work on getting logged in on my own. The new guy actually seemed to understand what I meant the first time I asked and he put me on hold to ask some questions of his supervisor. Hope was returning to me, but I still kept trying to get logged on myself.

New guy was gone for about two or three minutes and just as he came back on the line I got into my account. It’s a good thing, because his advice to me was going to be to click on the "Contact Us" link on the site and send an email. I said, "So, you want me to send an email through the Web site that more than likely won’t be responded to until 24-48 hours?"

New guy: "Yes, that’s correct."

Me: "Okay, well, the reason I didn’t do that is because I was hoping for a little more immediate assistance than 24-48 hours. But don’t worry about it. I figured it out and I have access so I don’t need to send an email. Thanks anyway."

This call was such a perfect example of the kind of customer service that is so prevalent in companies – particularly those that are large like the Bells of the world. CSRs make it seem as if the onus is on the customer to know the right place to call. If you ask them a question that isn’t part of their script, the CSR practically trips over their tongue trying to end the call in some way.

Is the customer always right? Heck no! Should a CSR do their best (within reason) to help them? Absolutely!

I’ve worked in customer service roles for years. Almost every job has a customer service component to it in the sense that even if you are doing tasks that serve your co-workers, they are your customers. Would most people put their co-workers off the way they do consumers who are purchasing a product or service from an organization? Not likely.

When I get a call from one of my employer’s customers, even when it’s for another division, I gather what information I need to get them to the right person and try to make myself the next-to-last person they have to speak to – I know how frustrating it is to be passed around like a hot potato. Sure, it takes me extra time that I don’t have to spare, but if it improves the customer experience, then that’s the ultimate goal.

I get the other side of customer service where you get the phone calls from people who start yelling at you before you’ve had a chance to say hello. It’s easy to get jaded by those people who call in with a sense of entitlement as they shout at you that "they know their rights". I’ve been there, too. All I want from customer service is actual service. I’m tired of CSRs who pass the buck – whether it’s to me (the customer) or the next CSR in the call queue. If you don’t know the answer, put me on hold and start asking questions. If I’m calling into the wrong department, find out who I need to talk to and transfer me. If you can’t transfer me, get the number and give it to me.

It’s not that hard to give good service and the next time I experience exceptional service, I’m going to write about it to give that person/organization the props they deserve.

And, my free advice for the day - if you're going to sign up for multiple accounts while suffering from insomnia, be sure to save your access data in a password manager. Then you don’t have to call customer service to find out that if they knew your password it wouldn't be a password.

(I still can’t believe he actually said that!)