This blog may be monitored for quality purposes…

Consider yourself informed….

Like the tag-line of this blog says, “more often than not it’s the little things that make a big difference in customer satisfaction and brand loyalty”.  And it can be very subtle. Sometimes all it takes is a few words.

I received a phone solicitation yesterday from the local paper I subscribe too. It started like this:

“Hi this is Linda calling from the Times to tell you about new products.  I need to inform you that this call is being recorded”.

Wow, that’s one heck of an opening for a sales pitch!  In just 25 words, really with just the last 11, Linda negatively impacted my previous favorable perception of this company.  Let’s see if I can break it down.

  • Hi this is Linda calling from the Times:  Good start; she identified herself and where she was calling from.
  • to tell you about new products:  And now I knew why she was calling. But bthe Customer Experience would have been much more positive if she had added, “Do you have a few minutes to hear about them”?  By doing this she acknowledges that I may not have time or I may not be interested in hearing about new products.  By doing this Linda would let me know that she respects my time and that I’m a valued customer.

The next 11 words immediately sent things South….

  • I need to inform you:   Linda needed to inform me because that’s what’s scripted and because the company is legally obliged to tell me about the next part.
  • that this call is being recorded:  Boom!  The words came out and my head starts exploding.


Linda immediately launches into her pitch but I don’t hear a word due to the continuing explosions going off in my head.  I finally come out of shell shock and interrupt Linda.  I inform Linda how offensive it is to me to receive an unsolicited call and then be immediately informed that the call is being recorded.  I rant for a few more minutes and end by telling her that since the call is being recorded to make sure whoever listens to the recordings listens to this one so they will hear first hand how offended I am.

To Linda’s credit she asks me to hold on while she gets her boss on the phone.  Within seconds Brian comes on, acknowledges my “concern”, and apologizes. This took courage because by now Brian is aware of all the bombs going off.  Maybe he had a flak-jacket on, I don’t know.

When I asked why these calls are recorded Brian gave two reasons:

  • Reason #1: “For training purposes”.
    • OK I get it. Lots of companies do this because they have large call centers with inadequate training programs and infrastructure.  By having the recordings of their reps screwing up and going off script it makes it easier to fire them.  Sorry for the cynicism but I’ve run call centers and my managers were always in ear shot of their phone reps.  They didn’t need a recording to know when some additional training and coaching was required.
  • Reason #2: “It’s a sales call so if we miss some information we can get it off the recording”.
    • In other words what Brian was saying was, “because our undertrained staff who uses antiquated business systems can’t be trusted to capture all the pertinent information”.

I went on to explain the obvious to Brian.

“Brian, the fact that you record calls for the reasons you’ve stated brings absolutely no value to me as a customer.  Your company has an internal focus; you care about what’s best for the business.  Instead you need to have an external focus; what’s best for me the Customer.  Further, if you think this through Brian – and since this call is still being recorded you can use this for management training – what’s best for the customer is what’s best for the business.”  


Don’t Leave Home Without It?

On second thought maybe it “Pays To Discover”

After a recent experience with American Express I feel as though the bad guys are winning the war! I’m beat down and find myself thinking more and more often that “it’s just not worth my time” to follow my advice and demand great service and vote with my feet when I don’t get it. I’m battered and bruised from websites that don’t work as advertised, call centers filled with un-empowered representatives, and large company policies designed to put as much space between customers and decision makers as possible.

I’m battered and bruised from websites that don’t work as advertised, call centers filled with un-empowered representatives, and large company policies designed to put as much space between customers and decision makers as possible.

When I called the AMEX Membership Rewards team to ask about a discrepancy in my points balance I experienced “no” in a so many ways it made sales associates at the “No-Store” (Macy’s) seem like amateurs.

Here are the highlights of my experience with AMEX which makes me want to make sure that I do in fact “leave home without it”:

  • When I told the Members Rewards agent that I had spoken with Customer Service a few weeks earlier and they had confirmed my issue but had not fully resolved it the agent, Amanda, on the phone told me that Customer Service didn’t know how to handle this issue and that I should never have called them. My take away: I did it wrong.
  • Amanda confirmed the conversation I had with CS was noted in the system but it didn’t matter since they were wrong and my points balance was what it was. Amanda said there was nothing she could do. My take away: there was nothing Amanda wanted to do.
  • Amanda instructed me to send a fax to corporate HQ. It would be responded to within six to eight weeks. My take away: The executive in charge of this function is either oblivious or evil.
  • At my request Amanda put her manager on the line but before she did she assured me that there was nothing she could do either. My take away: collusion!
  • Crystal came on the line and the first words out of her mouth were: “I must inform you that this call is being recorded for quality purposes. Can you please state your first and last name”. My take away: WOW!
  • Crystal was an expert at “no”! I made several suggestions and requests about how to resolve my issue without me faxing HQ and Crystal responded with a brisk “no” each time. My take away: Crystal’s variable compensation is based on the number of times she denied customers.

It was this fast and furious barrage of no’s that eventually led me to do that thing where frustrated customers ask to speak with the “person in charge”. It was no longer about the points but now about this terrible experience I had. Crystal gave me the name of the Sr. VP and General Manager for Membership Rewards. When I asked Crystal for her phone number Crystal told me that “Ms. Lynne Biggar does not take calls.” The person in charge of member rewards does not take calls from members. Amazing! Crystal gave me the number to Fax my complaint to and reminded me that it would be six to eight weeks before I heard anything. Before hanging up I asked Crystal (sincerely) if she would have preferred to solve my issue herself. She said, “we would like to solve all customer issues but sometimes we just have to say no.” She really said this….wow.

I decided that Crystal was just being dutifully protective of AMEX executives. I called HQ the next morning and asked for Ms. Biggar. The operator told me that all calls are screened and she needed my name and the reason for my call. That seemed reasonable. I stated my name and the reason I was calling. The operator told me that I would have to fax that information in and that it would take six to eight weeks to get a response. I have to admit I admired the consistency. AMEX must have really good “no” training.

Here is a quote from American Express’ website: “As a company whose primary mission is to take care of customers, American Express has created a culture with service at its core. We dedicate extensive resources and effort to satisfying and surprising customers with thoughtful, creative and personalized solutions.”

I know….Wow.

It’s just plain wrong…

Anyone who has lost their wallet or purse knows what a traumatic experience it is.  Traumatic and time-consuming with credit and bank cards to cancel, drivers licenses to replace, and, depending on whether it was a wallet or purse, a myriad of personal items to replace.

My son recently lost his wallet.  The damage was relatively minimal;  the contents were cash, a driver’s license, and a bank card.  He realized he had lost the wallet as he was leaving work.  As soon as he arrived home he called his bank.  24 hour banking is a great service to have available.  It was around midnight when my son made the call and someone was available with no wait to help him. Nice. The agent took care of cancelling the lost card and issued an order for a new card.  Easy – just as it should be.  Plus, it was reassuring as a customer to know that the bank center was available when my son needed them.  It certainly didn’t take the sting off of losing $300 and knowing he would have to stand in line at the DMV for who knows how long.  But overall it was a relatively good customer experience.

The bank delivered good service under unfortunate circumstances.  This wasn’t a “WOW” experience but they can’t all be and in this case my son didn’t need WOW; he needed efficiency and he got it. Mission accomplished, right?

Wrong… and shame on the bank because this is where things got ugly.  No, there were no service charges for the transaction.  There were no charges of any sort.  There was no scolding about being more careful in the future, or “what in the world were you doing with $300 in your wallet young man?”  In retrospect as offensive as any of those things would have been what the bank did next was just plain wrong!

The agent asked my son if she could transfer him to someone else who would like to discuss his “options”.  Confused, my son asked why he needed to speak with someone else. The agent explained that this was a “service” the bank was happy to provide at no charge and to please hold on.  A different agent came on the line and proceeded to try to sell my son identity theft insurance and a variety of products that would “help him” if he ever lost his wallet again.  Initially son thought that maybe these “services” (expensive unnecessary products) were legitimately needed now in addition to cancelling his bank card.  He asked a few questions to clarify his understanding of what was being described and he quickly figured out it was simply a hard sell (and I mean HARD sell) by the agent preying on a customer’s misfortune.  My son hung up on the agent and was even madder now than when he discovered his wallet was gone; a good experience gone bad that may have cost the bank a customer or two.

The next day my son wryly asked:  “Dad, when did the banks that the American people bailed out become ambulance chasers?”  Yep, it was just plain wrong.