Customer Service Success and Failure

First off, I do not believe “the customer is always right” and I am generally very understanding with people when I am the customer even when there is a mess up.

I have two situations that I would like to talk about.  I’ll start with the bad example and move  on to the good one.

Tonight I noticed that my Norton wasn’t completing scans and I couldn’t get it to work and Norton kept trying to access Internet Explorer which wasn’t working either.  As a rule I do not use Internet Explorer and try to use very little of Microsoft’s products (unless forced).  So I jumped on to their site and started an online chat session at about 7 pm.  Immediately, I was 26th in the queue.  I waited for at least 20 minutes before finally getting to chat with someone.  (Not even irritated yet…lines happen)

I explained what was happening and so the rep wanted to remotely access my computer.  “No problem!”  I have always had great luck with remote access and know that most issues get cleared up quickly when the tech has remote access.

So I download the remote access file, run it and click yes allowing access…then nothing.  We tried this about 5 to 10 times, a few different ways using different browsers (Chrome and Firefox).  They wanted to use Internet Explorer, but it wouldn’t open any page.

At this point I am starting to feel like she thinks that I just don’t know how to follow directions.  I am by no means a computer genius, but I am the person at my job that everyone comes to when they are having computer troubles.  I also can read most any instructions and follow them even when they are a little unclear.  Remember, I am a Math teacher AND can read and learn from a Math or Science book without lectures.  Not bragging, just giving you a clear picture.  I can’t program and don’t pretend that I can.  And if you are an expert with computers, you will be able to stump me.

So finally, the rep seemed to run out of options and told me to restart my computer and then download the remote installer again with a specific pin.  Now I was skeptical at this point because we hadn’t done anything and I seriously doubted that restarting was going to solve anything…did I mention that I had already restarted the computer when I saw that Norton wouldn’t scan?

This always reminds me of an engineer joke:

1. FOUR ENGINEERS AND A BROKEN CAR

There are four engineers travelling in a car; a mechanical engineer, a chemical engineer, an electrical engineer and a computer engineer. The car breaks down. “Sounds to me as if the pistons have seized. We’ll have to strip down the engine before we can get the car working again”, says the mechanical engineer. “Well”, says the chemical engineer, “it sounded to me as if the fuel might be contaminated. I think we should clear out the fuel system.” “I thought it might be an grounding problem”, says the electrical engineer, “or maybe a faulty plug lead.” They all turn to the computer engineer who has said nothing and say: “Well, what do you think?” “Ummm – perhaps if we all get out of the car and get back in again?”

(I found this at Engineer Chic’s site http://engineerchic.me/2011/11/05/engineer-joke-of-the-week-4/ )

Ok, so I did what the rep asked knowing that it probably wouldn’t work and I would probably have to restart another online chat.  (A little annoyed, but hoping I would get someone better.) We are approaching 2 hours now.

In the middle of the restart process an error message pops up.  It stays up and wants me to hit ok.  So first I take a picture of it, so I can give them the error message info.  The last few days an error message had been popping up at shut down, but only for a millisecond, no where long enough to actually read any of it.  So luckily the error was so huge now that the message was staying on the screen until I said ok.  I have a feeling that it was the same error message all along, but seeing as I never could read it I can’t be positive.

So restarting it didn’t work.  I also tried to uninstall/reinstall internet explorer during this time between chats, so that maybe that would help the Norton problem…it wouldn’t even show up in the uninstall program list.   I tried everything that the first rep wanted me to do and nothing happened, so I had to get back in a new queue, 18th in line this time.  Twenty minutes later and a little past the 2 hour mark, I am on with a new rep.

In case you are one of the lucky ones and have never had a customer service chat, before being placed in the queue you must describe your situation.  I am slightly more annoyed because I am at the back of the line, but tiny bit of hope still exists.  Maybe the new rep has actually read my summary.  I even included specifics about my first call including the special pin.

She begins with having me do the exact same things as the first rep.  I explain that we already did that and it didn’t work, but I still did it all again for the new rep.  Even though I told her that Internet Explorer wasn’t working, she still wanted me to try it again.  I had also told her about the error message (which was a norton internet security error message), but she asked me what was the error message that pops up when I try to use Internet Explorer.

Irritation building…

The error message was with the restart.  There was no error message with I E, it just would think and wait. (Explained in my summary)  So my sarcasm started to show, “Did you even read what I wrote before getting in the queue?”  She promises that she had.

We now have a little back-and-forth, which was basically her asking about something that wasn’t happening or that I had already tried/explained/failed with even as we chatted and me reminding her of this already happening.  (Snark level rising on my part and steadily growing to rude.)

This is not my usual M O, unless someone is being redundant and not really helping at all.

She finally says that at this point the only option she has is for me to uninstall and reinstall Norton.  She does not say that given the nature of my problem and all other first steps tried and failed, that this would work, she was definitely in the ‘it might work to do this.’.

Instantly livid, because I know that if this doesn;t work I will be back in the queue and a new person that will take at least another hour of my time to maybe fix my problem.  So I let her know in sarcastic/angry but still civil language, that I was not happy to have the possibility of this not working and having to get back in the queue, etc and would definitely not be a customer any more if this didn’t work.

Her response was that unfortunately that is the process and she understood my frustration.  My response, “not really, but bye any way” and disconnected.  The only thing that she seemed to understand was that if it didn’t work at least I wouldn’t be her problem any more.

UUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

I worked retail for 20 years and even had read literature and had courses on customer service over the years.  Empathizing with a customer CAN be a good thing, but words do not make empathy.  If you say you understand the customer’s frustration, then you must mean it.  An understanding person would try and have an option to get out of the frustration loop (I will have an example of how this works in a minute.)  IN the summary before the queue you must give a phone number.  If that is a requirement, what is it being used for?  Many times these defusing comments are really only meant to make sure the customer stops yelling at you and is no longer your problem.

So now on to the good example, since I need to start coming back around to a positive side.

I have an out of pocket medical expenses benefit card from Polestar (an HSA or cafeteria plan or something).   Basically I use a debit card for medical expenses during the year that is filled with pretax dollars that I have taken out of my paychecks during the year.  It has to be used for medical expenses that take place the same year.  (I wasn’t clear on this, so part of the following situation is my fault.)

In Sept, I had a $100 balance on my account at my glaucoma doctor’s office, so I had them use my benefit card to pay it.  Then about a month later I had a visit with that same doctor and my part of the bill was almost $300 due to my deductible, so I used my card again…no problems.  Then a little later I got a notice that I needed to submit some documentation for these two charges or my card would be temporarily disabled.

So I faxed the documents.  I kept getting emails from Polestar, but I was having trouble accessing the secure messages and logging into my account on their site.  The have the deluxe requirements for passwords (more than 6 characters and at least one of each: upper case letter, lower case letter, number, and special character)  I always have trouble with these, since I don’t want to write down passwords, but also can’t remember which account has what kind of requirements….ok that vent can wait.

My schedule and life were hectic as Fall term was nearing its end, so I fell behind on checking up on all this.  My fault.

It ends up that the copier at work that we can fax from wasn’t actually hooked up on the day that I sent my fax, so Polestar never got it.

I finally went through the process of resetting my password and realized that they needed the documents still.  So I called Polestar up to find out exactly what they needed and got their fax # again.  Then I called my doctor and asked if they could fax the documents over to Polestar.  The office manager understood (I thought) what was needed and sent the fax and sent me a copy in the mail.

A week or two go by..ok a month.  My card hasn’t been working since sometime around Thanksgiving and I know that I am nearing the end of my benefit $, but I also know that I have a grace period of at least 2 months in 2014 to finish off my 2013 benefits (this I am sure about even though many people have a much shorter grace period).

So I am now into 2014 and the card isn’t active yet.  I finally call again to see what is the hold up.  I get Sue.  (I will now sing her praises.)

She searches for the documentation that my doctor sent.  It is a little bit of a hunt, but she finds it.  My doctors office sent a print out of a table/spreadsheet where every cell’s background is medium gray.  So the fax is black.  Sue tries numerous ways on her end to be able to read any of it…she tries for about 10 minutes.  Sue really wants to get this processed immediately and get me access to my money, because it IS my money.  She is unsuccessful.  So I tell her that I have the originals at home and I can take a picture of them and email them to her.

So I get home find the envelope with the gray ledger and I also find an earlier statement that has this visit on it.  (I then realize that the $100 payment was for a visit in 2012, so it prob won’t be covered).  I take the pictures with my S3 smartphone and email them to Sue.  It is after 5 on a Fri, so I know that it will take a little bit.  I told Sue that I needed my card for a visit on the next Tues and she said that it should be able to be processed before then.

Mon I call Sue.  She hunts for the email and at first can’t find it, but it is because she had me email it to the general claims email rather than her own.  So she finds it and is amazed that I took the pictures with my phone because it was much clearer than most of the documentation that they get.  She said no problem we will process this, and decides to send it to a coworker who can get it process that day.  Sue had a lot on her plate that day.

So Tues comes and I don’t hear anything, I ask my acupuncture office if it will be ok if I pay next week and they were fine with it.  I call Sue and she looks my account up and is really irritated because her coworker didn’t process it.  So she jumps right on it.  Ends up that 2012 charge can’t happen due to IRS rules.  We discuss the silliness of some rules…like this use it or lose it HSA (it’s my money, so why do I lose it if I don’t use it within the grace period…who gets the money?  Polestar’s hands are tied on this one, IRS forbids it.)

I totally understand…I’ll blog another time about how I could be breaking a federal law if I put assignment scores on the front of the paper where other students could see someone else’s score…really? Yep!  Ooops, tangent…

So anyhow, since Polestar already gave my doctor that $100, I need to submit more 2013 receipts to offset that $100….no problem, I have a shoe box full of prescription and medical supply receipts that I paid with cash or my bank account last year.  So I go home and take a bunch of pictures of my receipts and email them to Sue (her actual email).  During each of these phone calls and emails, I am very thankful for everything that Sue has done for me.  She has even explained different IRS rules, so that I can use my benefit card to its fullest and not break the rules or lose any of my money.

The next day I call Sue and see if she got the email.  She did and she quickly looked through them and sent them off to be processed that day.  So I waited and began seeing some emails, but they were unclear.  So I called Sue back.  This was the day before I really needed to pay my bill and had another appointment (about $150 total for 3 appointments.)  Thankfully the acupuncture office is really laid back about this.

Sue is irritated again because there were weird things happening with the receipts and the account and she was trying to understand the whole thing.  Finally she got a handle on it and saw what else they needed and where different receipts were being applied to that $100 unqualified charge.  They also were applying other receipts to my 2013 benefits so we could use it all up.  Sue then went in and reactivated my card, which should’ve already occurred since there was no issue with more than $100 in receipts that I had just submitted.  SHe said that there was no reason to be blocked from my card anymore, but that what she was able to do at that point was make sure that the card worked for the next 24 hours no mater what.

Sorry, this is getting really long.

During each of these conversations I never got irritated because Sue recognised that there was a problem and did everything that she could to fix the problem as well as explain everything that was an issue right then or could be an issue later.

We had a few more phone calls after that to fix some more minor mistakes…some mine and some theirs.

So why was Sue a rock star and Norton wasn’t?

When Sue saw that someone else was dropping the ball, she picked it up and ran with it.  She could’ve easily said that it was someone else’s job and since I had made some mistakes that it would take more time.  I thanked her every step of the way and apologized for my mistakes to which she genuinely felt I had no reason to apologize.  She could’ve given me a hard time about not getting back to them in timely fashion.  She also could’ve passed me off completely to someone else.  (Which she did at first, but then took the responsibility back every time we had a hiccup.)

She is used to people yelling at her about things she cannot control, like IRS rules.  So she has every right to be cynical and less than sweet in these situations.  However, even when she was irritated with her coworkers, she was never angry and stayed pleasant.  She made it easier to stay polite and pleasant.

When dealing with customer service calls/chats, it is important to really try to solve the problems and admit when you need someone else’s help and even to recognize when you need to take some of the responsibility.

You could talk about the differences i these two situations, how one is talking  (with emotions being heard) rather than text, which makes tone and intent hard to discern.  True.  Did I handle the Norton situation perfectly?  Of course not.  Did they?  Would it have been hard to call me at the number that they made me list, since the error was making it impossible to remotely access?  I don’t know because no one ever offered or explained why they couldn’t.  I do know that in many other customer service situations, I am asked if it would be ok for them to call me if we get disconnected.

Will I continue with Norton when this subscription year is up?  Probably not.  I really hope that I get emailed surveys about this interaction.  I will be truthful and try to leave the sarcasm out.  If it results in some feedback on their part that is not just lip service then I will consider staying with them.  But right now I will be searching for a new company.

I don’t know if Polestar has better policies or more options for their employees.  It really doesn’t matter, because I don’t have a choice in the provider.

This leads to an interesting question…Why does a company who is not forced on it’s customers (Norton…it was a choice on my part to be their customer) have worse customer service than the company that I have no choice in being their customer (Polestar–my employer chose)?

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