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What’s Happened to Customer Service in America?

Posted by on August 13, 2014

The  Service Economy Where No One Gets Service

Decades ago, economists predicted that the day would come in the US when manufacturing would fall by the wayside and we’d become a “service based economy.” What they didn’t anticipate was that much of that ‘service’ would be left to the hands of automated computer responses or inane dialogues with customer service reps in Bangalore or Cebu.


If that economy or industry is here now, we’re in deep shit.

The other day, I was in a grocery store, swiped my card at the register, and the POS software did not deduct the full amount, leaving a miniscule balance due. Swiped the card again, and got the message “you cannot charge an amount of $0.00.” Huh. Informed the manager, who nodded. Filled out the customer service form online and got a form reply back. Hey, I’m just trying to be a good guy.

The return email said my dissatisfaction would be “brought to the attention of the local manager.” Why? Send it to the IT department, for god’s sake. You’re either getting screwed on transactions or screwing customers.

Comcast? OMG. They used to employ hundreds of Americans in local customer service. It was superb. They let them all go and moved phone support off-shore. You know, you say three words and the person in India or Philippines flips through a book looking for keywords to ‘help you. You know what’s even scarier? Comcast installers call the SAME PEOPLE. I had a problem that required repeated service calls without satisfaction; each tech said they would bring it to the attention of their supervisor and I would hear back from them. Nope.

Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast has sure been on a tear, gobbling up NBC/Universal last year is now after Time Warner Cable. I don’t know what kind of CEO Roberts is, or his qualifications to be CEO other than being the son of the founder. Over the past couple years, his compensation has been north of $20 million annually. I’m not one of those people who object to CEO’s salaries, tho.

But I have to wonder how much moving the support back to the US, with qualified personnel would cost. And why don’t CEOs “secret shop” their own companies? I always did when I was running companies. To be an effective leader, you have to understand the problems occurring at the lowest levels of the company as well in the boardroom.

I suggest if Roberts ever called his own support lines, he’d give up on them much faster than I ever have.

Randall Stephenson, CEO of ATT, same message. Paid $21 mil in 2012. Terrific. Off-shore customer service via “live online chat.” Or phone. So instead of a service call taking a few minutes, each one is an agonizing half hour ordeal as every thing you say must be parroted back to you by the rep, instead of just cutting to the chase.

My last experience I grew weary fast trying to explain basic accounting to the service rep, when they incorrectly corrected a payment on my account, which amounted to an overpayment, which they reversed, then billed me for the balance, which I didn’t owe in the first place, and charged me a late fee.

Come on, America companies. Your service is awful. On the phone, in person, online. It all sucks across the board, with very few exceptions.

Amazon’s automated emails provide better customer service than most company’s live operators.

One more thing, speaking about technology. I am blown away when I click on a link on a website of a major, major corporation and get a message like “Page not found.”

A few weeks ago, Wal Mart’s commerce section, shopping cart, etc., was completely off-line for a couple days.

IT heads , like CEOs, are also remiss in looking at the small problems in a company. They should have someone in-house looking at their own site every day.

Tell a cashier at a store they’ve overcharged you and they look at you like you’re speaking a foreign language. If the number on the register screen isn’t correct, they have no idea why or why not.

And don’t even get me started on Radio Shack, the company that only hires retail personnel whose sole job is to be unhelpful and demeaning to every person who walks in the store. Kind of makes you think you’re in a Kevin Smith movie.

On our way to become a service economy, we became a “lack of service” economy.

That’s how I see it.




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