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Tales from the customer service crypt

Submitted by on Thursday, 26 March 2009 No Comment
Sometimes, the easiest answer is "no."

It takes little time to say it and requires no effort to implement. I'll admit that too many times it's my go-to response with the guys, when I'm too tired or overloaded or entrenched in the way we always do things to think of anything different.

Today, I got a "no" from a big company that cost them an order from a loyal customer. It might have cost them my business forever, because next time I'm ready to buy I'll remember their response when things got tricky: "No. We can't do that."

Facing a road trip next month to a land without easy computer access, I broke down this week and decided to finally replace my lap top.

I know what you're thinking: Any excuse will do. And you're partly right, though I'll note that I'm still resisting the BlackBerry. For now at least.

I'd planned on buying the cheapest possible netbook, but primal geeky urges took over and I decided I needed to upgrade to include a DVD drive. In case the guys want to watch movies en route, I rationalized.

I placed the order Monday, spending more than I'd planned but it still was the cheapest and most robust computer I'd ever purchased. The delivery date was set for four days before our departure. Perfect: I'd have time to load and organize before we left.

Monday night, though, I found out I'd keyed in the wrong credit card. The company emailed me and asked what I wanted to do. Continue the order with another card, I responded.

Tuesday, they asked me the same question. I gave the same response.

Wednesday, they decided there was a number I needed to call, except by the time they provided the number help was no longer available that day.

This morning, I called and fixed the credit-card problem, only to have a new one crop up. Because of the four days spent playing customer service hokey-pokey, the order now was scheduled to arrive the day after we're to leave.

I asked if I could change the shipping option to get it here faster. I'll have to transfer you. Two transfers and  a cutoff later, I got my answer: No one in the entire company was authorized to make that kind of change. The only option would be to cancel the order and create a new one, but that would delay shipment even longer.

I canceled all right, but I ordered from another company. One that can get the computer here eight days before we leave, by the way.

I understand that access to order information probably is a tricky issue for big companies, but the fact is, at least three people I talked to today had that information, including possibly credit card numbers.

I understand that it's probably good policy to limit the number of people who can change orders lest the company suffer a spate of annoyed customers who received something different from what they'd intended to buy.

But to be told that no one in the entire company could make a change that would have let them keep my business? I haven't heard a response that ridiculous since Verizon charged me a termination fee to increase my monthly bill.

There's a lesson there, in both parenting and business.

"No" is the easy answer. But it's not always the best one in the short- or long-term.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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