Talk is cheap in customer care

Sit through any industry conference and you’ll see a bunch of service providers bang on about quality of experience and putting the customer first. That’s fine in theory, but the reality can be quite different.
I should know – I spent an hour of my life on the phone to my ISP yesterday in a call that should have only taken five minutes. I’d called to request my MAC code so I can switch to another provider, having finally grown weary of paying over the odds for an ‘up to’ 8MB service that struggles to achieve a quarter of that speed.
Problem number one. My MAC code is in the process of being generated and will be sent to me by e-mail and post. Only the e-mail address the ISP is going to use isn’t one I’ve ever accessed, but the call center staffer is unable to take an alternative address.
Problem number two, call center staffer insists I’m paying £5 a month less than I am and asks if I’m sure about my monthly tariff. I could answer in the affirmative because I was looking at my bill, but by now am slightly annoyed with the guy’s snippy tone.
Off to the billing department I go, which is where the farce really began. Apparently the new rate was applied on September 14, I was informed of this by letter in late August (this letter never came), and the new rate will be reflected in my October bill. The staffer was unable to tell me why my pre-paid September bill – sent after the missing letter and covering the period Sep 1 to Sep 30 – remained at the old rate, but at one point facetiously offered to put me back on the old price.
On to billing staffer’s manager then to complain about his insolence and ask for the definitive explanation. Billing manager isn’t able to give out her surname – apparently no-one is, though the staffer managed it -, and the answer is that an adjustment (not a refund, mind) will be made on the October invoice.
While I smell a rat – isn’t it odd that my tariff dropped just a few days before I call to quit the firm -, that’s not really the point of this article. Instead I’m talking about the gulf that exists between all the talk of how important customer care is and the reality – at least with my soon-to-be former ISP.
I mean, not one of the people I spoke to made any effort to retain me. And there was I thinking that customer acquisition costs are one of any operator’s highest expenditures – typically far higher than retention costs. They have systems that don’t allow the billing department to re-send the missing letter – for that I have to write to the correspondence department using a pen and paper and request a copy. And the staff are just plain rude.
The chief executive of my ISP declared in August that its customers are “more loyal and more satisfied than they were 12 months ago.”

I, for one, am not.