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Author Topic: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?  (Read 19473 times)

LesPalenik

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Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« on: March 10, 2015, 04:46:20 AM »

That's quite a story, Kevin. Well written, and very illuminating.
It's hard to believe on how many points AT&T failed. And even harder to believe that Kevin was the only customer encountering such problems.
Unfortunately, the impersonality, incompetency, and total disconnect from the real world have become too common when dealing with many large companies. How refreshing to hear about the first class service by Apple.

At the end of his rantatorial, Kevin listed a number of lessons to be learned. All valid. I'd like to add two more:
Sell short AT&T stock and spend some money on Apple shares. Could turn out quite lucrative.


 
 

Ken Bennett

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2015, 07:27:19 AM »

Kevin, your experience mirrors our recent adventures at the Apple Store, except with Verizon. In our case, everything happened within the bustling confines of the Apple Store. The associate was friendly, competent, helpful, etc., and the purchase of a pair of iPhones took 3.5 hours -- entirely because of the comical ineptitude of Verizon customer service.

Verizon: There is no such account. OK, there is an account, but you can't add a line to that account. OK, you can add a line, but it's not an upgrade. OK, it's an upgrade, but you can't port the number. OK, we ported the number, except the customer hasn't paid for the phone yet, and completing the transaction will add yet another new line. Oh, now we can't complete the upgrade because the account has a "fraud alert" for "too much activity," and rep who posted the fraud alert has left for the day and we can't remove it.

The Apple store associate persevered through all of this without a single audible curse word. He finally made it work, and Apple gave us free phone cases to make up for our time -- which, again, wasn't Apple's fault.

The next day we found multiple bogus charges on our Verizon account for every time the phone was added, deleted, upgraded, etc., in Verizon's attempts to get it working properly. Well played, Verizon.
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Paul Gessler

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2015, 07:52:29 AM »

You can add me to the list of countless others with similar experiences, with Verizon. I was adding a line to my account when the 5S was released. My brother received the phone and we were trying to follow the steps to activate it—nothing worked. Spent a few hours on the phone with Verizon support only to have them give every excuse under the sun why this "wasn't a supported configuration" and how we somehow added the line and purchased the phone in the wrong order, or something. Then went to a local Verizon store and got the same story. They even tried to tell us that we should not have received the carrier subsidy when purchasing the phone, and tried to charge us for the difference.

Finally we made an appointment at the Apple Store "Genius Bar". It took a 1.5 hr long three-way call between the Apple Store Genius, the Verizon Store, and Verizon Operations to get the job done, but it worked. The Apple rep was willing to contact the people at Verizon who could do something about our problem, when even Verizon's own Tier 1 support wasn't willing to do so. Apple understands the customer's wishes, and that's a big part of what makes them so successful.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 07:54:24 AM by Paul Gessler »
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Kevin Raber

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2015, 09:49:46 AM »

About 14 years ago I took a customer service course.  I learned two things.  The customers is always right.  And, the service rep who got the complaint or customer stays with that customer.  I saw this recently in a Hilton Hotel when my key didn't work.  I asked the maid.  She let me into my room and went to the front desk and got me new keys.  She owned the problem until it was solved.  It seems so easy but some companies make it so hard.

Kevin Raber

amolitor

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2015, 01:43:37 PM »

If I read the article right, Kevin is still with ATT and won't be leaving any time soon. Sounds like their strategy is working just fine.
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Ken Bennett

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2015, 02:05:58 PM »

If I read the article right, Kevin is still with ATT and won't be leaving any time soon. Sounds like their strategy is working just fine.

Yeah, and when he does leave, he'll get that terrific Verizon service.

Or maybe T-Mobile, which we had for thirteen awful months. No phone service in my office (on the top floor of a university building). None in most of my house. But hey, they were cheaper, except they weren't given the price of the phones. Also, too, we went the last five months without a correct bill. (That said, the customer service folks on the phone were always, without exception, polite and helpful. They were just unable to fix whatever problem we had, especially billing.)

Since there is no real competition, there is no incentive to provide good service. The same thing happens with internet and TV service.
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Telecaster

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2015, 02:15:40 PM »

I find a lot depends on who you get on the other end of a phone call or the other side of a service desk. IMO the overall quality of customer service has declined during my adulthood—a victim of corporate short-termism combined with increased monopolization, no doubt—but you still encounter individuals who give a damn and thus (try their best to) do right by you. For example, I have little good to say about Delta's customer service on the whole (or Northwest's either prior to their "merger") but the friendly rep last month who straightened out an overbooking snafu, sparing me a long delay and loads of hassle in the process, was stellar. Still, the disregard so many businesses seem to have for their customers ranges from disappointing to infuriating.

-Dave-
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amolitor

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2015, 02:30:04 PM »

In many cases, phone support people are compensated for getting you off the phone.

While it's tempting to say that Comcast or whomever doesn't know business, it's probably wrong. They have almost infinite capacity to test and measure these things, and in some cases they certainly DO test and measure these things.
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PeterAit

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2015, 03:45:00 PM »

Any chance of a photography website limiting itself to photography?
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amolitor

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2015, 03:55:50 PM »

None.
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Rajan Parrikar

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2015, 07:17:00 PM »

Roberts Camera that Kevin cites is a class act. All the stores (online as well as brick & mortar) in the country had no stock of a lens I wanted to purchase ahead of an upcoming trip. Only Roberts Camera took down my details and a few hours later emailed me to say a copy had just arrived. Terrific people.

Telecaster

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2015, 09:40:09 PM »

In many cases, phone support people are compensated for getting you off the phone.

While it's tempting to say that Comcast or whomever doesn't know business, it's probably wrong. They have almost infinite capacity to test and measure these things, and in some cases they certainly DO test and measure these things.

It wouldn't surprise me if there's a cost/benefit calculation in play at some companies. What's the minimum amount of customer service we can get away with, below which our bottom line today/this week/this month may be negatively impacted? The coarsening impact of profit über alles.

-Dave-
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telyt

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2015, 08:14:51 AM »

In many cases, phone support people are compensated for getting you off the phone.

It's more like they're penalized for spending too much time with the customer.
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Hans Kruse

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2015, 08:18:00 AM »

It wouldn't surprise me if there's a cost/benefit calculation in play at some companies. What's the minimum amount of customer service we can get away with, below which our bottom line today/this week/this month may be negatively impacted? The coarsening impact of profit über alles.

-Dave-

Probably but clearly very short sighted. They don't even know which upside they are missing out on. The sad truth is that is much easier to be arrogant, sloppy and lazy than the opposite....

Kevin's story is quite amazing and I have not had such an experience even, but very often had bad service. I was only once in an Apple store (we don't have one in Copenhagen) in Sicily as I had forgotten the charger for my MacBook and in Catania there was one. Wow, it was amazing to walk in there and the experience was like nothing I had ever tried. And just to buy a charger :)
« Last Edit: March 11, 2015, 08:21:50 AM by Hans Kruse »
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Ken Bennett

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2015, 08:36:50 AM »

It wouldn't surprise me if there's a cost/benefit calculation in play at some companies. What's the minimum amount of customer service we can get away with, below which our bottom line today/this week/this month may be negatively impacted? The coarsening impact of profit über alles.


I'm sure many companies do this.

The funny thing is, Apple is making very high margins in two traditionally low margin businesses -- PCs and phones. IIRC Apple brings in over 90% of all cell phone profits worldwide. They do this by treating it like a high margin business - great customer service, very careful design and implementation, etc. I've called Applecare several times in the last few years with nagging issues, and the reps stayed on the phone with me, sometimes for more than an hour, until the problems were fixed. For Apple, the customer is the driving focus, and they make large profits because of it.

Other companies figure out how to squeak out minimal profits, often by doing things that actually hurt their customers (Lenovo installed actual malware on their computers for a while). They pursue market share instead of profits, cut costs to the bone (there go the customer service reps), gobble up other failing companies, and lobby the government for protection from competition.

Oh, and by the way Kevin, if your wife is a "dropper" you might want to purchase the Applecare+ warranty for her phone. $99 gets you the usual extended service, but it also gets you two $79 phone replacements if it happens again.
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Kevin Raber

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #15 on: March 11, 2015, 09:56:17 AM »

Yes my wife is a dropper and we did get the Apple Care.  Apple Care has saved me a few times with my laptop and pro machines.  Certainly worth the cost.  If you bring your machine in and it has Apple Care there is just no hassle what so ever.  They take it away say it will be five days to fix and 3 days later it is ready.  Customer Care is as much a part of sales.  It assures loyalty.  If there was a viable alternative to AT&T I'd be gone in a minute.  I need good reliable coverage all over the planet and AT&T has been able to do that pretty well. The problem is when you have to start to deal with people and systems.

These are lessons though that we can learn for our own business and how we deal with the people in our lives.

Kevin Raber

Hans Kruse

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #16 on: March 11, 2015, 11:56:06 AM »

A little story from my side:

In a former life time I was working for a high end fault tolerant computer business and the company was Tandem Computers (now part of HP). The made amazing hardware and software that could tolerate almost any failure in the systems and continue running. These systems were used in 90% of the worlds stock exchanges and very critical systems in other businesses as well in Banking and Telco. Everyone in this company from the CEO to the service engineer was trained to customer service. Not just to fix a given problem that the customer had reported but to own the problem. Often the issue that the customer reported was just a symptom of a larger problem. It could even be a competitors machine interfacing to it. Then it was expected that the person who heard about the problem made sure that it was solved and fixed, of course, by possibly many other people involved. The company was very successful in this market segment for years since they had second to none customer service and a lot of extra business came in without any competition. The competitor was wiped out before they even considered the next upgrade or use in other areas. I ran a group of experts in Europe, Middle East and Africa to be a backup for what the countries were missing in expertise so the customer became happy. This group was fairly expensive, but at times it was clear that we were instrumental in winning large business deals as well as solving problems at the customer.

I worked with Phase One in 2013 as an instructor on two workshops and during that time I got an insight into the company. Their attitude was very much like the one I had lived with for years in the computer business. In both cases, of course, it comes at a premium. But just like Apple, if companies do not make products and the whole business model compelling for customers then they have to fall back on competing on ever shrinking margins. Like the Dells, HP, Acer, Samsung, etc. So not only why does it have to be so hard, but really why don't they get it?

The two examples were high marging, very niche high-end businesses, but Apple is high margin margin and mass market, so it can be done, you just need to be better than the competitor by innovation.

amolitor

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2015, 12:52:23 PM »

Customer service operations are extremely easy to measure. You simply train and compensate a cadre of service staff differently, and measure results. Does customer retention actually rise? Is there more revenue generated from upselling? And so on. Then you run the numbers.

If you have a monopoly, you can afford to cut customer service. Even if it's a perceived monopoly.

Kevin, for instance, does not need to stick with ATT. He would not die or starve without international cell phone service. If he wants to continue to have global service, you could probably get by on Republic Wireless, for instance, and simply use WiFi when he's out of the USA. It would be uncomfortable. He's experience blowback from relatives if he forced them to switch to Android, or told them that they too would have to struggle through life without a cell phone.

ATT has enough stickiness in their service to retain him as a customer. Why on EARTH would they spend a bunch of money to make him happy? In a pinch, we can let Apple spend that money. They're the guys with the fat margins anyways.

That said, it is absolutely true that most US corporations are managing quarter-to-quarter. Long term plans are pretty much lip service. Better customer care might -- and I say might -- be a good idea for ATT in a five year plan, or a ten year plan. If so, they certainly wouldn't do it, because the only thing that matters is quarterly numbers, except at the end of the fiscal year when the annual numbers briefly become important.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2015, 01:11:04 PM »

Unfortunately for AT&T, they can not rely on foreign slave labor to fatten up their margins  ;)

Hans Kruse

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Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2015, 02:49:03 PM »

Customer service operations are extremely easy to measure. You simply train and compensate a cadre of service staff differently, and measure results. Does customer retention actually rise? Is there more revenue generated from upselling? And so on. Then you run the numbers.


I'm sorry, but you haven't understood a thing about this  ;)
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