I heard a rather pathetic story today which underlines just how bad many large companies have become at (what is now an oxymoron): customer service.
Here’s how it went:
A deadbeat customer of Virgin Mobile gave Virgin Mobile the cell number of his ex-roommate, who is a former student of mine. So Virgin Mobile starts calling the roommate demanding payment even though he has nothing to do with it. Later, their collection agency puts the roommate on their call list—twice a day, every day he gets harassed for payment on an account not his own.
Even though he correctly identifies himself, they refuse to take him off their call rotation now because he is not on the account which means, citing privacy concerns, they cannot discuss it with him. Still, they incongruously demand he either make payment or get the former roommate to call Virgin Mobile even though the roommate has: a) left the City, b) has no forwarding address and c) no phone either because, of course, he never made any payments on it…
They are hiding behind the privacy act and, in effect, they are in cahoots with the deadbeat to shakedown another paying customer. His only recourse after contacting the CRTC (the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission regulates cell phone companies in Canada) is to use call block and phone the police (!) if they somehow get through to report them for harassment and extortion. Sheesh.
Next time someone calls me asking for money, I’ll just give them Stephen Harper’s number at 24 Sussex Drive.
Compare that to what Zappos.com did with their customer service (see: Delivering Profitability—A Review of Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh’s New Book, http://www.eqjournal.org/?p=973). CS is one of their key competitive advantages and a big time differentiator for them. Who would have thought that Tony could take an online shoe business, build it into a more than $1 billion in revenue enterprise and then sell it to Amazon for more than $1 billion? Their corporate culture did much of the heavy lifting on that.