Online Customer Service

Two stories for illustration and then some tips.

Story # 1.

We wanted to pay a large online company just £70 by credit card but kept getting this message:

“IMPORTANT! An error occurred. To continue, please see below for further instructions. The address data are not valid. Please check your data.”

Clearly we were doing something wrong, but it was not obvious what and the message didn’t really help. Cue customer service call. We were told that the company: “….might have an issue with the address fields. Please try again later.”

So we did. Same result.

Cue online support email and response!

“Thank you for your email. I would like to confirm that a new debit has been arranged. The outstanding amount on your account will be debited within the next 2-3 days.If you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact us.”

Excellent! Except, the next day:

“Unfortunately, according to our records, your account shows an outstanding balance. To solve this issue quickly, please either check or update your credit card details in the Control Panel…”

Cue 11 more emails and 7 further phone calls. The phone calls were painful with people who could hardly speak English. One call ended up in their US billing department – which gave the agent there a laugh – though not us.

On another, the phone was put down on us because the person making the call was out of the office but had a text to call their billing supervisor. He was told that the account number was required to transfer the call – naturally he could not remember it and asked why the account number was required to make a call transfer when he had been asked to call the billing supervisor. That got him cut off.

Eventually we got to the bottom of it, we had filled in two fields incorrectly – see here and see why. So, yes, our fault, but guess what – they won’t get the renewal.

Story # 2.

We wanted to pay an online company £14 by a major online payment provider having received:

“The payment for your subscription to X failed because of a problem with your credit card. X has been notified of this failed payment. We will try to make payment again on Mar 30, 2008.Please change the funding source for this Subscription by clicking this link and following the steps below…”

Now the issue here was simple – we don’t use a credit card but a bank account as the source of payment. There was no reason it should fail there was plenty of credit on the account. Telus webmail down

Anyway in the spirit of goodwill we decided to go to the site and check the details. They were correct but, maybe changing to a credit card would work.

Except we were not ‘allowed’ to do this by their system.

Auto-responder reply to the email:

“Thank you for contacting Customer Service. In an effort to assist you as quickly and efficiently as possible, please direct all customer service inquires through our website. Click on the hyperlink below to go to the website. To ask a question that is specific to your account, you must log in to your account. If you indicate the type of question you have with as much detail as you can, we will be able to provide you with the best customer service possible.”

Oh well, back to the website and send a “ticket”. Though the site actually says:

“Help by Email – Our Customer Service team is specially trained to address all account inquiries. Send us an email and we will reply promptly. Contact Customer Service.”

An email is not sent but a form served up! No response. Send another “ticket”. No response. Email received:

“Your subscription to X has been canceled because your credit card was refused.You will not be invoiced for this Subscription again.”

Cue phone calls x3. Automated menu systems that just get more automated menus that just get more automated menus that…

Called supplier and made other arrangements, canceled payment provider account.

So what should you do to make sure you provide good customer service? Firstly, remember that is Customer Service you are after NOT ‘Online’ Customer Service – online is only a part of good Customer Service. And, actually, some of it is law and the rest of it is common sense.

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