The customer service hall of shame

RO Communications

By Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson

Wednesday, July 11, 2012    

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Many of us have been employed to companies who, for all the horrible customer service they dole out to their clientele, should have their logos wrapped in tin-foil and lining the walls of a dubious 'hall of shame'. So atrocious are their attempts (or lack thereof) to satisfy their customers that you sometimes wonder how these companies manage to remain in business, particularly during these perilous times. Their sins of omission are numerous and flagrant. We only do not mention their names in order to protect some of their employees who are themselves innocent and reluctant actors in this most bizarre and badly choreographed performance of customer service delivery ever conceived by management.

Perhaps because the times are so hard and paying bills and dealing with money are our number one priority these days, that it is no surprise that organisations who provide banking services are the big losers in this weird loser-takes-all competition. Of course, telecommunications providers who hand out the worst possible service to their customers rank way up there on the scale of bad to worst. I mean, you have not truly lived until you have held a telephone in your hand (for an hour) and listened to the disembodied voice of a customer service agent telling you to wait for "the next available representative". The uninspiring background music is also a bonus for your 'listening pleasure". Your 'luck' improves when said promised representative comes on-line and informs you that you will have to come into their offices to sort out your particular problem as it is chronic and can only be solved through face-to-face 'resuscitation'. Now, I ask you.

The saddest part of this tale of woe is that when we were being courted by these companies, they would move heaven and earth to make sure that we were properly signed up with them. How like a modern day romance is this early 'love dance' when no text or telephone message goes unanswered. Now when the love is stale we should be so lucky to get a call back. In these early days we are in touch and all lovey-dovey with the sales person. Said person is today on our hot-list of 'people we wish to have a early, slow and painful demise'.

Jamaican companies get a failing grade and a shabby, 'pop-down' wooden trophy in the Hall of Shame because of the following reasons which I and my long-suffering friends have all experienced. This list is by no means exhausted. Feel free to add your own pet peeve. I can assure you the offending companies neither seem to mind nor care.

These include: No or slow (we are talking days to return a phone call) follow-up from customer service (CS) agent when problem is identified, interminably long wait on the telephone for an agent to come to assist you. This can include the period from gestation to birth of a human being — at least that's what it feels like to me; CS representative asking you questions doggedly from a script. If you do not answer exactly as they require, 'dwag nyam you suppa'. They become confused and disoriented and might require deep therapy; No resolution to your problem over the phone. You actually have to attend their offices; and rude and obnoxious 'service' from an agent.

We, the customer, really do not care if you are having a bad day at work. It is your job to make us happy and satisfy our customer service needs at that point in time. Do your job now. Bitch and moan about us later in the lunch room with your friends.

To get a fix as to how our customer service stacks up elsewhere I went online. MSN Money through a company called JZ Analytics conducted an on-line national survey in which 1,500 randomly chosen respondents rated customer service at 150 companies from 15 industries. The poll was conducted from June 15-18 with an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 per centage points. The ten companies with the highest percentage of "poor" rankings made it into the Hall of Shame and the ten with the highest percentage of excellent rankings waltzed into the Hall of Fame.

"One trend that held from past years: Banking, credit card and cable companies continue to fill most slots in the Hall of Shame. Sorted by industry average, these three drew the highest percentages of "poor" ratings for customer service in our poll. Delivery, online and specialty retail drew the highest percentages of "excellent" ratings."What strikes me is that the same industries — banks, credit cards, cable — seem to show up in the hall of shame every year. Particularly financials. Is there something about these industries that causes that, perhaps (inconvenience or complexity) that it's harder to walk away?" said John Zogby, JZ Analytics senior analyst."

Delivering A-1 customer service is almost one hundred per cent about how you communicate with the customer. There is a huge room for improvement. There are many companies here who have dozens of trophies lining the walls of the halls of shame and they are themselves without an iota of pride. Perhaps it is time we ditched them as we would a poor lover.

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson, (MBA, ABC) is a Business Communications Consultant with RO Communications Jamaica, specializing in business communications and financial publications. She can be contacted at: Visit her website at and post your comments.





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