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On Shitty Customer Service

Yes, the title of this post is crude and vulgar.

But we all know it when we experience it.  It can be maddening enough that any gentler term would be whitewashing of how it leaves us.

The other day I got an email invoice for my annual service with a company that, to protect the guilty, shall not be called out specifically.  It was for about twice the amount I paid for the previous years of which I’ve been a customer, and invoice contained these friendly words:

Thank you for your purchase! Please contact billing@____.com with questions or concerns.

Hey, I have a question or concern!  I mean the new price isn’t a big deal ($30 became $60), but such an unannounced price hike seems worth asking about.  So I wrote:

Hello!

I notice my price for one year of _____  this year ($60) is up substantially from what it was last year ($35), and that is up from what I originally signed up for in 2013 (and paid again in 2014), $29.99.

I don’t recall getting any notification about any impending price increase, what gives?

Thanks,
John

Within seconds I got back the following message:

Thank you for contacting ___ Customer Support,

This email notification was in regards to services in your account at http://___.com. If you require an invoice from your renewal, you can generate one in your account. To do so:

1. Log into your account at ___.com
2. Under the Billing header, click on “Payment History”
3. Click the “View Details” link next to the purchase
4. Click the “Printable Invoice” link on the next page

If you would like to cancel your services, you may do so through your account at http://___.com. To cancel your ____ service:
1. Log into your account at ___.com, using…

To cancel ____ …
1. Log into your account at ___.com…

As long as the service is cancelled within 30 days of the purchase, your services will be refunded automatically. Please allow a minimum of 48 hours for your refund to be sent to your payment issuer. Once it reaches the payment issuer, it is at their discretion as to how long it will take for the funds to post back onto your account.

Thank you,

___ Customer Support

Sigh.  Okay, clearly answered by a robot.  But at least the from email address seemed to indicate a real person, some dude name Kevin.  So I wrote back:

Hi,

As best I can tell that reply addresses absolutely none of what I just asked.  Can you tell me when the pricing was approximately doubled and why the first time I’m learning about it is when I get an invoice for my next year?

It’s not a big deal and I’m mostly happy to stay on as a customer, it just feels like quite an abrupt price increase with no warning.

That was sent 4 days ago.  No reply.

In a sense, I get it: I’m just a $60/year customer (at least that’s higher than I was before!) and my gripe (actually not so much a gripe as a question) is a matter of $25, $30.01 tops.  This issue might not warrant a thoughtful response, let alone from a human.  And in fact a less charitable reading of the response might suggest I DID get an answer to my question: a lot of words that boil down to “If you don’t like it and want to cancel, here’s how”.  (The “and go fuck yourself” subtext exists, admittedly, only in my imagination.)

But whichever way I slice it, what a sour taste this leaves me as a customer–such unresponsive service to a genuine inquiry.

Doing all of the customer service these last three and half years for CoachAccountable has made me particularly sensitive to seeing it done sloppily by other companies.  Certainly this is unfair, as I’m comparing the passion of a founder to whatever legions of support teams the big companies have to cobble together, but I still just don’t get how you can allow a really poor job to be done of it.

I’m just one dude and I handle hundreds of customers and thousands of users.  In the last 48 hours I have:

  • Spent 45 minutes helping one user tweak the layout and functionality of some of her Worksheet Templates.
  • Issued a refund of 5 months of invoices on an account that was canceled which I noticed had simply been quite dormant (this was unrequested, I explained that I sleep better at night knowing that folks are getting their money’s worth out of the system).
  • Built and launched a new feature within hours of the request (per-appointment type availability rules).
  • Chatted for 30 minutes with a power user of what they want to do next with the system and where things are headed.

And in the middle of writing this blog post I spent time consulting on how best to deliver a group program at scale with rolling admission, including how the software development to employ the CoachAccountable API should be handled.

What I’m trying to say is if you’re like me you’ve had your share of shitty customer service moments, where it’s just painful to do business with a company and/or you’re left to feel insignificant and unsupported.  And amid that kind of experience, putting your trust into a system & company like CoachAccountable, wherein key parts of your business hinge upon that system up and well supported, can be daunting.

To put your mind at ease I want you to know how thoroughly turned off I am by shitty customer service, and the flip side of THAT coin is that I LOVE giving SUPERB customer service.  Those bullet points above?  That’s my kind of fun, that’s what gives purpose and meaning to the many hours of heads down work spent creating CA.  That’s how I roll, and just as stated in the Terms of Awesome, that’s what my customers get to expect of me.  There will eventually be others doing the support for CoachAccountable, and you better believe they’ll be on this same page when it comes to offering that support.

It’s hard to walk away from every company that gives shitty customer service.  I’m proud to promise that you’ll never have that problem here.

8 Comments »

  1. Bret Larrimore said,

    April 16, 2016 @ 12:41 pm

    Hey guys, I want to shout out and say that John has delivered great customer service in even the little things, and I greatly respect him for that. My experience with Coach Accountable, and with personal and rapid responses, has been exceptional. John’s a class act and the platform is top-notch. Thank you, John, for your heart and service.

  2. Greg Bennett said,

    April 18, 2016 @ 7:43 am

    Great post John…and I can attest to how you’re on the complete opposite side of bad service…you’ve spoiled me for all other vendors/suppliers I use. Sheesh, I’ve lowered the bar on the old lament from “I can’t ever talk to a human” to “I can’t ever get a real email response”.

    When I DO get to talk to a human my favorite non-customer service response I get after I’ve gone through my litany of chaos and craziness their product or service has caused me is the person saying “Wow… that should never happen”….

    Uh no shit…

    In fact with one vendor I got so pissed after talking to 8 different people I started all future conversations by saying “Before we even get started “Brad” (yeah, okay) let’s start with the ground rules, you are not allowed to say the following ‘I’m sorry you’re having this problem’ (cuz you’re not)… ‘You appreciate my business’ (cuz you don’t)…and ‘wow, that should never happen’ (CUZ IT DID…AND IT IS…)”

    Keep up the amazing CA work John!

  3. John said,

    April 24, 2016 @ 3:32 pm

    Yeesh, yeah, script-based customer service is pretty terrible. I get the sentiment of “process engineering” behind it, trying to make scalable and replicable services where employees can be slotted in as commodity cogs, but it seems to be such a back firing move when the net results seems to be predictably alienating customers.

    I think Zappos nailed the right model, investing in their support team members to ensure they genuinely care, rather than relying on employees following a script and flow chart for “dependable results”.

    Thanks Bret for the high praise and thanks Greg for the share!

  4. Ed Abel said,

    April 29, 2016 @ 1:36 pm

    Great blog post… SOooo true so often!

    What I can say is that John at CA has demonstrated time and time again his commitment to timely responses as well as timely solutions to make the CA experience Beyond… Expectations…

    Rock on John!

  5. John said,

    May 3, 2016 @ 11:38 am

    Thanks Ed!

    It’s a pleasure to be on point in supporting you guys with your excellent program for cancer survivors. I’m honored to have a part in the work you’re doing.

  6. Marney said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 10:06 pm

    Whenever I get frustrated or disenchanted by poor customer service experiences, I think of you and sigh because I know I can focus on experiences that WORK rather than ones that don’t. I’m certain that your bullet list above is humbly minimized. Heck, I could make a bullet list about 50 times that long of the things you’ve done for my company alone. Thanks for modeling what it’s like to be passionate and let that passion carry all the way through. It matters, and I hope you don’t ever forget that.

  7. John said,

    May 13, 2016 @ 11:34 am

    Marney, you’re an absolute dear. Thank you for that sweet missive, I can see myself coming back to it for a pick-me-up on some grumpy day!

  8. Meggin said,

    July 2, 2016 @ 9:25 pm

    This makes me even more excited to do business with you. Thank you.

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