Customer Service?

the customer is not always right, but neither is the company

There are two major television service providers where I live: Rogers Cable and Bell. Since becoming a grown up I’ve used Rogers, not because I like Rogers: I do not. I will NEVER forgive it for its continued screw-the-customers campaign, but I just wasn’t about to get TV signals via any-sized satellite dish hanging on the side of where I live.

But when Bell moved to fibre cable earlier this year in Ontario, Rogers Cable faced real competition.

Still, I wasn’t about to get ambitious about it: no need to change that I could see. Handing over an arm and leg to Rogers every month seemed a reasonable exchange to watch what I want, when I want and to record two TV programs at the same time. Due to a super genetic trick available only to people born in my tribe, I can hand over an arm and a leg and replacements will grow back just in time to be handed over.

And then, Bell called. Not only did Bell call, Bell made an offer. And not only an offer, a good one. I gave up 45 minutes of my very important and expensive time one afternoon in October to discuss (with someone possessing what sounded like a wonderful French-African accent) the details of what would be delivered, why it was of benefit to me, why I should switch and why I would be happy with the result.

I distilled it to this: I’d pay at least $50 less per month, get two digital boxes at no cost for the first year, and the ability to record up to four programs simultaneously, two in HD. Not only that, my internet would be  faster. WAAAY better than what I was getting from Rogers.

I thought about it, took the nice accented person’s number and said I’d call back.  Then I called Rogers, prepared to do business; tell them what Bell offered. Explain that I didn’t really want to go to the trouble of changing but the offer was, bottom line, far better than what I was getting, so what would Rogers do to keep me as a customer?

Not much, it turned out: a percentage off here, a percentage off there, a reduction on this which netted out at not too darned much of anything. Being the pragmatic sort about these types of things, I organized a disconnect of Rogers and a connect to Bell.

All done.

Rogers called me three times to try to persuade me to stay, but not offering anything different. Each caller was more earnest than the previous one. And at the end of the conversation it was the same: “we can’t match it.” But I remained my cheerful self to the customer retention people and suggested that they talk with their bosses about what customer retention meant.

Then came the day of the switching. The wonderful person I spent 45 minutes with said it would take between two – four hours to do all the work.

I had three burly guys crawling around my house. It took six hours, during which time I was given a glorious show of a hairy bum crack when the younger, chubbier guy knelt down in front of the TV on the main floor to do whatever it was that he needed to do. It seemed to take forever. I was traumatized and he scared my dogs.

Then I had to reorganize (read: DISORGANIZE) my entire office for them to do what they needed to do. I was NOT pleased.

But in due time it was done and I was given a quick walk-through of my new service provider’s offerings. Let it be said: nothing stayed in my head.

They left me with a stack of papers and pamphlets and a huge cardboard brochure with a middle fold that listed all the channels in four-point type. But no channels I knew: they were all listed differently and by different numbers. CBC was not Channel Six, CP24 was not Channel 24, the Food Channel was not 56. I was lost.

But the picture quality? Amazing. Sound Quality? Amazing. So what if I was lost? Wherever it was that I was in TVland looked and sounded great!

Of course the first month came with free access to all channels. Gives customers a flavour of what’s offered. At the end of that first month, customers get to choose what they want to watch by way of ‘theme packs’ that contain a group of channels.

I wanted specific channels, not theme packs. Oh, guess what? The channels I watch are spread across four theme packs. Can you order a four theme pack?

No. You cannot.

You can get three. Or seven. What kind of counting system is that? You cannot get four theme packs without paying an arm and a leg and quite frankly, that monthly regrowth of arm and leg thing is making me old before my time and I am not going to do it anymore for anyone or anything.

So after much deliberation, I called the channel people at Bell, spent time with some nice sounding guy and chose the mid-range theme pack, Seven. A nice mystical spiritual number I thought. The guy at the other end of the phone was sweet and reassured me I’d be happy with my choices and if I wanted more — that upselling stuff we humans as customers are ever more subject to — just call in.

All in all, getting theme pack Seven was still within the savings that Bell outlined and, with the exception of spending two hours on the phone to manage all the internet and home email disruption that resulted from switching to fibre channel and having to choose channels I wouldn’t watch to get the ones that I do, I was reasonably okay with where things landed except for my nightmares about hairy bum cracks.

Then I got a phone call. One of the automated ones. “Hello. You recently switched to Fibe TV and this is a reminder for you that you have five days to make your selection.  If you’ve already made your selection, please ignore this message.

I ignored it, figuring that it was three days since I talked to the Bell guy and maybe it hadn’t been processed yet.

Then I got another phone call. One of the automated ones. “Hello. You recently switched to Fibe TV, and this is a reminder for you that you have three days to make your selection.  If you’ve already made your selection, please ignore this message.

My Spidey sense started tingling. Something was wrong. As if I had ALL the time in the world, I called Bell. Again. Listened to all of the options. None of them fit. Ever notice that there’s not a number to push for “you need to talk with a human because we’re messin’ with you again?”

So I pushed the number sign: “one moment please while we transfer your call…”

Some guy answered. I kept my voice even. Explained to him that I had received two calls requesting the same information, information that I had already provided, so could we please check…?

“Sure!” he said, a bit too cheerily.

Then he said, “Oh.”

“Oh?” said me.

“Well, we’ve got your selection, but it wasn’t input because our system was down.”

Now, I am not of the Bull tribe and you, guy-at-the-end-of-the-telephone ain’t no matador, but you just raised the red cape and my nostrils are flaring for nothing good at this moment.

I caught myself.

I breathed deeply and calmly stated, “your system was down, my selection was not input so that explains why the phone calls. Are you saying that if I hadn’t checked, my selection would not have been input, that they’d just stay there…?

He didn’t answer. I knew as I was saying the words it was silly to say them. In truth it was a rhetorical question: why should I even expect that there would a business process that says, FOR ORDERS UNABLE TO BE PROCESSED DUE TO SYSTEM ISSUES, FLAG HERE FOR LATER INPUT WHEN SYSTEM IS BACK ONLINE.

Why, oh why would I drive myself mad thinking that business should run according to good process, good project management and common sense and NOT to inconvenience people who MIGHT just be your customers?

Oh growl. And I am one of those people who believes that the customer is rarely right.

What he DID say was, “let’s go over your selection again. I can do it for you right now.”

I am sure my breathing signaled grumpy. I am sure he knew I had furrowed my brow. But he’s not responsible for his company’s inane business process, or a colleague’s forgetfulness that meant wasted time, rework and oh, time wasted on automated calls and doing the same thing two and three times.

So it got done. I was gentle with him, and thanked him.

A day later, I got a voice mail. Bell. Wanting to know if I would respond to a customer satisfaction survey. I got that same call after my FIRST call to Bell.

I didn’t answer the call.

Customer satisfaction survey. <Thumbs nose> Bell Canada, I DARE you to discuss customer satisfaction surveys with me. DARE you. Surveys, focus groups, polls?Unscientific, bias, subjective.

You are going to ask if my questions were answered. Yes they were.

You are going to ask if my needs were met. You couldn’t meet my needs if I paid you.

You are going to ask if the representative was courteous, friendly, professional and knowledgeable. Yes he was.

Let it be said: every customer representative should, as a matter of course, answer questions, strive to meet information/service needs, be accessible, courteous, professional, humane, and knowledgable. At ALL times. Baseline that as the starting point, not end point. And I get that most customers are hell to deal with.

But Bell, you will NOT ask, Was the reason you called because we made a mistake in the first place? Because I would say yes.

You will not ask if I am satisfied with the process. I am not.

You will not ask if the explanation of the problem was satisfactory. It was not.

How about never hearing from your CSRs ever again that “our system was down”.  A technological system is managed, run and fed by people. That red cape egging me on? Not taking ownership, accountability as an organization. And that is what your people are trained to do — blame it on technology, or a contractor, or a supplier or not getting the email: anything but taking ownership, so I am certainly not blaming it on the CSR.

Not doing the job right the first time is just not good customer service.

Then a few days after all that, mail in my mailbox from Rogers. Welcoming new occupants to my address, because clearly, the only reason anyone would leave Rogers is because they’re leaving the province.

Note to Rogers: I had FOUR phone conversations with FOUR friendly helpful, different customer representatives. Each conversation landed in the same place, and that was not with me leaving the province so that you could send a welcome letter to a new occupant.

Note to anyone who plans, looks at, manages everything about customer service: think systems, think smooth  process, think customer. Points of customer contact. Outside in. And FIX IT.


NO bulls or matador were injured in the keying of this post but a red cape has been trampled on, jumped on and has been torn to bits and mailed to Rogers AND Bell.


About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
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6 Responses to Customer Service?

  1. ValerieD says:

    I’ve had the same kind of experiences with Bell… Maybe the management of their customer relations department is on prolonged sick live?

    • FS says:

      Sadly, it’s not unique to Bell: problems and original mistakes magnified. All in all it took seven months to clear up.

  2. Big Mother Bell has promised to no longer price gouge all of it’s customers, but it will continue to make significant price increases without notice.

  3. shel says:

    Hi, this is purely an ‘aside’ to your well-penned story from another Canuck (albeit a Westerner!). We have Bell as our TV provider and I too questioned the ‘packages’ and why I could not a la carte a station like The Food Network or HGTV. It has something to do with the CRTC and that the ‘original’ cable channels (the ground-breakers, if you will) cannot be sold as stand-alone products, only in packages. Now, as to who is making the decision on what to bundle with what, I do not know. In any case, because of the way those particular channels are packaged, we have ….. neither! 🙂

    • FS says:

      Dear S: Thank you for this, and hello Western Canuck! Interesting explanation. I think it bears a wee bit of investigating digging. If that’s true, why is it that the packages are all different, (Bell, Rogers, Shaw) and why is it that we CAN order a la carte, but it’s prohibitively expensive…?

  4. lynn says:

    Ha! I was just going to email you to say I was in town and voila, another fun rant. I get this one, I truly do. But where I live, I get one channel clearly on my 13″ set and two others sorta kinda okay once I get the rabbit ears (yes, I kid you not and after reading your switchover tale, I may never change up) adjusted and don’t knock them off the set. All to say, good to be in Toronto where there’s money for nothin’ and the clicks for free.
    Book me in for a coffee sometime next week, would ya? I promise to wear high-waisted slacks or at least not drop my keys…

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