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When Customer Service Goes Bad

During the past few months our company has had the misfortune of dealing with customer service from four companies that have all proven that customer service is NOT a number one concern (or even on their list) .

First, we dealt with tech support from Bizrate / Shopzilla. This company provides product pricing comparison to retail shoppers and also provides ecommerce surveys for merchants to get feedback from their customers.  Several months ago the survey code for our site stopped working. Instead of asking a customer on order completion if he would like to take a survey about his shopping experience, Bizrate popped up a window saying that there was a security certificate problem. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring sign for shoppers.

I wrote to the company and received an automated reply thanking for submitting a ticket. Several months later I got a call from a sales rep at Bizrate asking if we had heard of their service and if we were interested in trying it out. I explained that we had been using their service but had quit because their code was broken. The sales rep promised to look in to it for me. Weeks passed. Finally, I received an email from tech support saying that the code that I got off of their site for the surveys was bad and to use the code they sent me instead. That did fix the problem but it took almost four months to get a resolution.

Next, we looked into purchasing some database tools from Apex software. After using one of the demo tools I decided that the software fit our needs and made the purchase. As soon as I started using the full-featured software on a real database it started crashing every time I tried to run it. After talking to their support forum help (which seems to be based in Eastern Europe), I was told that I couldn't use the windows version of the software and would have to run it from a command line (Remember DOS)?

I sent a note to their sales department asking for a refund and was told that because they offer fully-functional demos that they don't ever give refunds. I pointed out that the particular piece of software that I was testing did NOT offer a fully functional demo and that the demo experience and the real-world experience using the software were so far removed from each other that it might as well have been different software. The sales rep said she would pass along my comments to "management". I waited for a week and didn't hear back so I wrote again and was told that my note would be passed along to "management". Again, no reply. I wrote again and told them I was filing a chargeback with our credit card company if they didn't reply. They didn't so I filed and got our money back.

TWO MONTHS after getting our money back I got a call from some rep asking why I had filed a chargeback with their company. I told her why and was told that my reasons would be passed along to "management".

Our third fun experience was dealing with Shopping.com. This is another product comparison / customer survey company that appears to be credible because it is owned by Ebay. The nice thing about their surveys is that you can add your own questions on to the basic ones that they ask. I updated our surveys and started looking for the additional answers to show up. They didn't.

I went to their website to find tech support and found that you can't email tech support directly, you have to register for and ask questions on their forum. I submitted a question and it didn't appear. I started looking at the forum posts and realized that their hasn't been a new post or a reply to a post in over four months! I then went back to my post and found that it is "Being held for moderation". It has been held for three weeks now and I still don't know how to view survey results.

Finally, I had to deal with Google Adwords. Somehow, our Adwords account got hacked and someone created an ad group for cheap airfare that cost us several thousand dollars to send people to one of those retched domain squatting pages that you find scattered all over the Internet.

I deleted the ads the same day they started running and contacted Google. They immediately shut off our account and gave us the following options for getting our money back:

  1. Take a credit and our ads would be turned back on in about a week.
  2. Have them send us a credit to our bank account and wait up to two weeks to have our ads turned back on.
  3. File a chargeback with the credit card company, shut down our account and start from scratch.

I wrote back saying I would take the credit and asked why it would take a week to get our ads turned back on (They were sure shut our account OFF fast). It is now two days since I asked that question and haven't received a reply.

Looking back over all these experiences one thing stands out. None of these companies really care about their customers.

How does customer service work in your business? Do you reply quickly to customer inquiries? Do you actually answer the questions they are asking? Do you have people who know what they are talking about answering your phones or is it a call center somewhere where the guy answering the phone could really care less about your product?

In hard economic times, good customer service should be one of the primary focuses of your business because if people have less to spend they are going to be a lot more careful how they spend it and bad customer service will send them elsewhere.

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