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Site & Board Matters => Rantatorials => Topic started by: LesPalenik on March 10, 2015, 04:46:20 am

Title: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: LesPalenik 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.


 
 
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Ken Bennett 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.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Paul Gessler 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.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Kevin Raber 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
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: amolitor 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.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Ken Bennett 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.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Telecaster 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-
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: amolitor 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.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: PeterAit on March 10, 2015, 03:45:00 pm
Any chance of a photography website limiting itself to photography?
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: amolitor on March 10, 2015, 03:55:50 pm
None.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Rajan Parrikar 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 (http://blog.parrikar.com/2015/03/10/canon-ef-11-24mm-l-f4/) 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.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Telecaster 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-
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: telyt 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.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Hans Kruse 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 :)
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Ken Bennett 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 (http://www.vox.com/2015/2/23/8088231/apple-car-margins) -- 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 (http://www.cnet.com/news/lenovo-hit-by-lawsuit-over-superfish-adware/) 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.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Kevin Raber 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
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Hans Kruse 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.

Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: amolitor 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.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic 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  ;)
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Hans Kruse 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  ;)
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: amolitor on March 11, 2015, 03:22:43 pm
Feel free to elaborate on what you think I am missing!
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: dreed on March 11, 2015, 11:52:09 pm
...
The funny thing is, Apple is making very high margins in two traditionally low margin businesses (http://www.vox.com/2015/2/23/8088231/apple-car-margins) -- 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.
...

Let me know how you get along with Applecare when your laptop fails and needs to be serviced manually. Further, let me know how you get along when you're in a different country from the one in which you bought it.

When I can get "Next Business Day, On Site Support" from Apple to fix a broken screen or something else that can't be done over the phone, let me know. Until then I'll stick with Dell who I've had service laptops on multiple different continents "the next day" and for which I never lost contact with my laptop.

Apple make trendy products and people pay for trendy. Just look at fashionable clothes, etc.

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.

Wow! I hope those laptops aren't "business critical" for you.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: jeremyrh on March 12, 2015, 02:33:33 am

Apple make trendy products and people pay for trendy. Just look at fashionable clothes, etc.


They make popular, stylish and functional products. If you knew Hans you would know that what other people think of his buying choices is the last thing on his mind!

(Since we're trading anecdotes, I once had a Dell laptop. Once. Briefly. And occasionally it worked. I spent a lot of time on the phone to their support centre, a lot of time waiting for them to send out spare parts and even longer waiting for them to send out the right spare part.)
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Hans Kruse on March 12, 2015, 03:59:32 am
Let me know how you get along with Applecare when your laptop fails and needs to be serviced manually. Further, let me know how you get along when you're in a different country from the one in which you bought it.

When I can get "Next Business Day, On Site Support" from Apple to fix a broken screen or something else that can't be done over the phone, let me know. Until then I'll stick with Dell who I've had service laptops on multiple different continents "the next day" and for which I never lost contact with my laptop.

Apple make trendy products and people pay for trendy. Just look at fashionable clothes, etc.

Wow! I hope those laptops aren't "business critical" for you.

I have not had the need. I have been traveling a lot over many years and I never had a laptop failing on any of my trips. That includes Compaq and HP laptops and since 2009 MacBook Pro's.

I did recently have a fan stop working in my MacBook Pro and got it replaced under warranty in one day in a local Apple certified repair shop. I never chose Apple Care and I'm not a dropper ;)

I don't know, but I would suspect that if I'm e.g. in Sicily and go into the Apple shop in Catania, that if my MacBook had stopped working that they would help me immediately if the machine was under warranty. But never had to test that out so far. Dell laptops I have seen and the cheaper ones are junk. The most expensive ones are well built and cost as much as MacBooks.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Ken Bennett on March 12, 2015, 09:36:37 pm
Let me know how you get along with Applecare when your laptop fails and needs to be serviced manually. Further, let me know how you get along when you're in a different country from the one in which you bought it.

It has worked very well on several occasions, including very fast onsite service for a Mac Pro at my studio, and 3 day turnaround on a dead Macbook Air.

I have no experience with getting service in another country - not really an issue for me.

If anything is truly mission critical, then one needs a backup device of some sort.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: dreed on March 12, 2015, 10:48:49 pm
...
(Since we're trading anecdotes, I once had a Dell laptop. Once. Briefly. And occasionally it worked. I spent a lot of time on the phone to their support centre, a lot of time waiting for them to send out spare parts and even longer waiting for them to send out the right spare part.)

That's why you buy the "NBD On-Site Support" option for devices that are critical. Typically this costs about the same as Apple's AppleCare but guarantees a better level of service.

Dell laptops I have seen and the cheaper ones are junk. The most expensive ones are well built and cost as much as MacBooks.

I've never bought the cheaper Dell laptops.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: davidgp on March 15, 2015, 05:24:30 am
Stories like the one Kevin told is why I buy my phones free, without any contract to a phone, but I understand this may be complicated in USA (I live in Spain)... When I want change of company I just change, without having to pay any fees... And my phone working perfectly in the new company... It is bit more expensive this way... But more liberating knowing that if you have an stupid trouble that the one Kevin had you can just change of company ... Probably the new company will have similar problems in the future, but at the beginning they try to be nice with you... Usually...
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Paulo Bizarro on March 24, 2015, 11:17:06 am
I also can not understand why people get trapped into two year contracts with a company or other. I just buy the phone I want, contract free, and then choose the operator. Here in Portugal, unlocked phones are much more expensive than under-contract ones, but it still compensates.

For someone that travels, buying an unlocked operator free phone is no problem at all, and then just bring it back to your own country, go to an operator store, and choose your plan, get the sim card, install it, and that's it.

I agree that customer care and customer perception of how people are being taken care of in case of problems, is very important, and Apple excels at it. But Apple's business is selling stuff, not communication plans, so they can not afford to treat customers badly.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: jjj on March 24, 2015, 12:29:40 pm
About 14 years ago I took a customer service course.  I learned two things.  The customers is always right.
Whilst growing up my parents owned a restaurant which I also worked in and I quickly learned that some customers are anything but right. They are chancers looking to pull a fast one or simply rude, horrible people. They do not need pandering to, but getting rid of as quickly as possible. You lose nothing as they have already decided to be a problem and are basically trying to either con you or behave badly. You deal with them politely but do not lower yourself to their level. The chancers are a marginal step up from shoplifters as rather than steal directly, they create an artificial problem and demand free food. Here's a fantastic example of that from a couple of days back.
Rat in restaurant. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/mar/23/fraudster-released-rat-in-sunderland-restaurant-to-get-free-meal)





Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: jjj on March 24, 2015, 12:51:06 pm
Regarding Apple's service. I have had truly excellent service from them and I'm afraid to say some less stellar experiences. My iPhone 4s from the word go had terrible battery problems, it never got sorted, both O2 and Apple said the other were responsible until they then said it was out of warrantee, which it wasn't. It never got resolved.
My brand new MacPro went to Apple store numerous times to get issues sorted and one of the problems was memory in the incorrect slots which I sorted when I read instruction manual. The 'Genius who recommended more memory to solve my problems had placed memory in the wrong slot thus causing a new issue in addition to others.

But generally speaking the customer service in Apple stores is amazing and is part of the reason I buy their products. However if I did not live near one, I would be far more hesitant about buying their kit as all items bar the iPod Nano have back been to the shop to be fixed/replaced, several times in some cases. I live a 30mins cycle from one, so I'm fortunate.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Telecaster on March 24, 2015, 03:53:20 pm
My experience from working in retail—and later working for/with companies whose main focus was retail—was that the customer is always right…but not everyone who enters your establishment (whether physically or virtually), or even buys something from you, is a customer.

As for service…no company is always gonna get it right. Humans make mistakes.

-Dave-
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: amolitor on March 24, 2015, 04:20:28 pm
In the USA we're seeing new carriers popping up that offer crazy cheap plans based on the assumption that you are, mostly, using a WiFi network.

These work globally, no problem, as long as there's a WiFi connection. Which isn't everywhere by any means, but it's probably "everywhere enough" for almost everyone, if you can bear to be disconnected for sometimes up to hours at a time.
Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: Peter McLennan on March 25, 2015, 01:54:46 pm
In today's world, it's all about customer service.

I recently had to intercept and cancel a substantial FedEx shipment in mid stream.  Expecting a significant financial penalty since the error was entirely mine, I was surprised and delighted at their reponse: 

"No problem, sir.  Have a nice day"

I did.

Title: Re: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?
Post by: jjj on March 28, 2015, 05:22:45 pm
My experience from working in retail—and later working for/with companies whose main focus was retail—was that the customer is always right…but not everyone who enters your establishment (whether physically or virtually), or even buys something from you, is a customer.
That is some interesting massaging of the English language and the meaning of the word customer.

Quote
As for service…no company is always gonna get it right. Humans make mistakes.
Swap company for customer, as they are also human. So I've been led to believe.   ;D