Customer service
Posted on December 13th, 2011

Dr.Tilak Fernando 

Customer service is the provision of service to clients, during and after a purchase, to enhance the level of consumer satisfaction; it indeed acts as a gateway to a product or an establishment; it is a service that is included as a part of an overall approach to systematic improvement.

As a general consensus the quality and level of customer service has plummeted worldwide in recent times, which some point a finger at the lackadaisical attitude, lack of support or the need to fully understand at executive and middle management levels of a corporate or customer service policy.

Computerised systems which have superseded the human touch to a greater extent make life difficult for customers to get through with a problem of having to listen to umpteen number of “ƒ”¹…”message commands’ before one could speak to a person on the other end. By missing a single prompt can make the customer irritated and spend more money and time in trying to get through to a customer services officer which might in majority of cases turn out to be a futile exercise.

Annual service charges

In this regard, “ƒ”¹…”Call Centres’ which have become a vogue these days do not seem to operate 100 percent efficiently, may be due to square pegs being placed in round holes! The most provoking and infuriating response would be to listen to a barrage of questions by a “ƒ”¹…”customer service agent’, pretending to be the authority on the subject, and later come out with a standard statement which makes the enquirer go through the roof with exasperation. A request to transfer the call to a supervisor or a management staff at that point gets over-powered with some nonsensical gibberish such as “ƒ”¹…”they are at a meeting’ or GM or CEO do not take calls direct from the customers. One would then argue for what purpose on earth something called a customer service is designed then, especially to assistant customers?

Only the other day I received an email which I could not resist in highlighting in this column. However sceptical it can be this can explain the gravity of the customer service problems people are faced with today, anywhere in the world.

The story refers to an old lady in the UK who had died in January last; a foreign bank had billed her in February for their annual service charges on her credit card (adding a late fee and interest element there of) on the monthly charge. The zero balance at her death had seemingly risen to around Sterling Ponds 60.

The dialogue between a family member (FM) of the deceased and the Bank’s customer service is hilarious and exposes how naive customer service staff can be at times:

FM : “ƒ”¹…”I am calling to tell you that she died in January.’

Bank: “ƒ”¹…”The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”Maybe, then you should turn it over to collections!’

Bank: “ƒ”¹…”Since it is two months past due, it already has been.’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?’

Bank: Either report her account to the frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”Do you think God will be mad at her?’

Bank:”ƒ”¹…”Excuse me?’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”Did you just get what I was telling you … The part about her being dead?’

Bank: “ƒ”¹…”Sir, you’ll have to speak to my supervisor.’

Supervisor comes on the phone:

FM: “ƒ”¹…”I’m calling to tell you, she died in January.’

Bank:”ƒ”¹…”The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”You mean you want to collect from her estate?’

Bank :(Stammer) “ƒ”¹…”Are you her lawyer?’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”No, I’m her grand nephew.’ (Lawyer’s info given)

Bank: “ƒ”¹…”Could you fax us a certificate of death?’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”Sure.’ (fax number is given )

After they get the fax:

Bank:”ƒ”¹…”Our system just isn’t set up for death. I don’t know what more I can do to help.’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. I don’t think she will care.’

Bank:”ƒ”¹…”Well, the late fees and charges do still apply.’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”Would you like her new billing address?’

Bank: “ƒ”¹…”That might help.’

FM: ‘Finchley Memorial Cemetery, Great North Road, Finchley, London, Plot Number 1049.’

Bank: “ƒ”¹…”Sir, that’s a cemetery!’

FM: “ƒ”¹…”Well, what the *** do you do with dead people on your planet?’

Personal experience

My friend who sent me the email says : “Sceptic that I am, having had experience of BT’s and Halifax’s efforts with my late MIL and wife, I can well believe this happened”. A similar experience was exposed once before in the British press when someone tried to open a current account under a pet’s name!

I may add my personal experience with a Building Society when I approached to open a child’s savings account under my daughter who was 12 at the time. The member of staff insisted (going by the rule book!) her proof of address in the form of a utility bill such as telephone or gas! Given my address and stating that I was the father of the child could not resolve the matter. What could I have done”¦”¦. ? A good question”¦”¦ ! I simply walked out of the Building Society and they lost a potential customer for years.

All these go to demonstrate that the top management and human resources should take more interest in customer relations rather than just slotting staff as customer service “ƒ”¹…”agents’, as unproductive elements simply graded as Customer Service staff, who in many instances do not seem to know the very meaning of the word Customer Service.

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