Customer Service: Please Be a Human!

Please be a Human

I’ve spent two days in customer service hell.

I’ve been handed off to machines before reaching a human, and the humans I did reach did not have the resources or information to assist me, their customer. Let me rant for a moment.

Spectrum Customer Service Fail

After Spectrum indicated on their automated phone system that their hold times were over an hour and their online support chat was “unavailable,” I took to Twitter, where I managed to get a human, but my problem still took all day to resolve, and it was their inability to process paperwork that caused the problem in the first place.

If you need to reach Spectrum, my advice is to go through @ask_spectrum on Twitter. At least they were responsive on social media.

Credit Union Customer Service Fail

If you follow me here you know I love to travel. In preparation for an upcoming trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England, I attempted to submit a travel notice through my bank online. After searching online unsuccessfully for this service, I called. I typically love my credit union, but after a lengthy and excruciating automated phone maze, during which the option to speak to a human wasn’t presented until the very end, I became angry as I waited on hold for 13 additional minutes for human intervention. When the rep picked up, the travel notice took 1 minute and 45 seconds to complete. The phone maze experience eroded some of my trust, and trust is a scarce commodity in business these days.

Chase Bank Nailed It

Next, I called Chase Bank to put in that same travel notice for my credit card, assuming they, like my credit union, would not have that online. Chase’s phone system immediately offered me the option to choose between an automated service and a human. I chose the human and a very well-trained and friendly person told me about their mobile app or travel notifications online the next time I travel. As she took my information she asked me about any layovers in case I wanted to add them. I hadn’t thought of that (and neither had my credit union) and I added the Netherlands and New York City. Total time for this human engagement? 1 minute 45 seconds, including the time it took her to wish me a wonderful trip and banter about travel in general. I received an immediate email confirmation of my notice.

Verizon Nightmare

Next, I headed over to to add a temporary international travel plan to my cell phone service. I was presented with four reasonable options, chose the best one for me and added it to my account. And then this happened.

I called and got their automated phone maze, pressing buttons until reaching a human. I explained my issue in detail, gave account numbers and pin numbers, was told to hold and was cold transferred to someone else.

Cold. Transferred.

I confirmed with the new rep picking up the call that I’d been cold transferred, as is now my habit when that happens. “Was I just cold transferred to you?” Um, yes, ma’am.

In his defense, this customer service rep really tried to be helpful, but after an hour he could not assist. He had no access to the plans displaying on my account, could not see what I was seeing and had no authority to resolve my problem. At the same time, I was engaging their live chat, (which I did confirm was a human,) who also had no access to my account or the options I was seeing. The plans they were seeing were $170 more than I was being presented.

Think about that.

These reps are put in the position of embarrassing their company, and themselves, with their lack of authority and ability to access the data they need to do their jobs. That’s poor organizational leadership and horrible customer service. I was angry with Verizon, but not them, and no, I do not yet have an international service plan.


UPDATE: The next day I received a promotional email from Verizon advertising the very travel plan they insisted did not exist.

I’m pretty much a self-service gal when it comes to most customer service issues, but when I do need to call, I expect the person at the other end to:

  1. BE a person.
  2. Have the ability and authority to help me.

Customer Service Lessons

There’s a lesson here for marketers. Use technology to help your customers, NOT you. You are angering and frustrating them with unhelpful and poorly designed chatbots, automated phone system mazes and digital promotions customized so completely your reps can’t access or even see them from their screens. Don’t even get me started about interruptive popups for products I don’t want. Technology should serve to make your products and services easier to use, be invisible, and enhance the experience with you. If it doesn’t, get rid of it and let a human take the wheel.

As I said in my blog Social Media Marketing, Why Trust is the New Black,  building trust must be part of your marketing plan. For example, if you do use automated messages on Facebook or elsewhere, it should be a temporary communication only to bridge the gap until a human can return the message. If you’re responding to questions on social, make sure you don’t sound like a bot. Vary your message and speak to people as you would in person! Discourage the use of anything that makes your customers feel like they are unimportant and makes you look unhelpful.

If you want to learn more about how and why being human is a must for your marketing, I encourage you to read Mark Schaefer’s Marketing Rebellion. As he says, “The Most Human Company Wins.”

If you have an idea on how to be more human in your marketing, or just have a customer service story like mine to vent, let me know in the comments.

And if you want to follow my travels, join me on Off Duty Traveler!

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