My 2 Cents To Businesses Everywhere

Customer service seems to be on the minds of everyone lately.  First I posted about my recent not so great experiences, then today Strange Librarian posted on her blog her dealings with Weiss and being rushed out of the store, and then Andrew Shuping posted at FriendFeed his less than stellar experience with Cracker Barrel.  Something must be in the water.

You might wonder what do I know about customer service.  Well I served at the public service desk for many years as part of the Circulation department, I have contact with customers on weekly basis via email when dealing with technology problems, I have to interact with internal customers (staff and they are just as important as our external customers) daily solving their problems, answering their questions and helping them succeed in their roles but most importantly I AM A CONSUMER!

So whether you are a library, a retail establishment, small business or major corporation here is my 2 cents to you:

  • Hire the appropriate staff.  Make sure your interview process asks probing, clarifying questions.  Don’t just give scenarios and ask how they’d handle them.
  • Once appropriate staff are hired, TRAIN THEM.  Don’t assume because they answered questions correctly in the interview they know everything.  Technology comes along that they need to be aware of to interact correctly with customers.  Also refreshers are never a bad thing we can all benefit from that.
  • Make sure your company policies are inline with good customer service.  Don’t tie your employees hands with silly policies or rules.
  • Trust your employees.  You interviewed them, you hired them, you trained them now trust them.  That isn’t to say not to be aware of what they are doing but don’t micro-manage.  If you hover over them that kind of pressure won’t bring out the best customer service in them.
  • Reward great customer service.  Let them know you value the kind of service they are providing.  Anything from an “attaboy” to comp time to monetary rewards – doesn’t have to be big but acknowledgment is always great to hear.
  • Nip bad customer service in the bud.  One bad experience by a customer can multiply times ten and now with the social web it can multiply times ten thousand or more.  Pull that person off the front line, get them back into training, listen to them and help them learn a better way to handle the situation and if worst comes to worst fire them.  Keeping bad customer service employees in this day and age is tantamount to suicide.

I am as loyal as they come when you treat me right.  But all it takes is one wrong customer service experience for me to write about it, tell all my friends and more than likely never darken the doorstep of your establishment again.  Just ask Sears.  Had a bad experience with them back in 1989 and other than walking through their store to get inside the Columbia Mall I have never bought anything from them again.  You might think how much damage can one little person not buying anything from a major company like Sears do.  Well, it isn’t just me that isn’t buying it is my family and friends who have heard the full story – now with the social web that story can be told to many, many more.

Seriously? In This Economy You Can Afford To Offer Bad Customer Service?

I think  most people who know me would say I’m pretty fair.  I don’t immediately fly off the handle at a drop of a hat.  I am someone who will give you 3 strikes before calling you out.  So it is fair to say I gave VPI Pet Insurance more than their fair share of strikes.  I’m just utterly blown away by the experience I had today with VPI.  All because I wanted to cancel my policy.  I will say that at the beginning I wanted only to cancel my policies for now and had all hopes of reinstating them at a later point.  That point is now NEVER going to come.  VPI blew it big time.

Below is the email I sent to their customercare@petinsurance.com.  First part about canceling the policies and the numbers have been left off.  I’m still realing after this interaction.  I would never in good consceience recommend this place to ANYONE because of the bad customer experience I had today.  Sad to say one really bad experience can negate previous good ones.  Worst part is if the supervisor had taken a different route with me a lot of my frustration could have dissapated – she just added to it.

I’ve attached 2 screen shots to explain the problems I was having with your web site.  The first one shows you that I have all the information filled in and all the boxes dealt with correctly.  The 2nd screen shot is the message I got after clicking on submit.  I called to make sure there was no changes pending (as I have not submitted any claims or made any changes for 6 months) – there were no changes to my account that anyone could find.

As someone who has not only worked in customer service but also in Information Technology for over 25 years this was the worst experience I’ve had dealing with both a web site and people via the phone.  If you want your customers to be able to manage their accounts (make claims, cancel, etc.) you need to make your web site is web standards complaint (any browser, any operating system and interoperability/accessibility for all no matter what their situation might be).  At first I tried your web site in latest version of Firefox on Ubuntu (Linux) and was unable to do so.  At first I thought perhaps you were down or having problems with the site so I decided to try later.  2 weeks later (today) I try again – after filling out all the info and checking boxes (see 1st screenshot) I see a small box flash quickly (something about searching a database) and then I get the same page I was on.  I felt as if things didn’t go through correctly.  So I called the first time to verify.  I explain to that person (sorry he didn’t give me his name) and I explained in a calm voice that I was frustrated but trying to cancel my policies.  I told him about my experience.  He was (out of the 3 people I talked to) the best.  He explained that I should see another screen, he was patient with me and I with him.  I asked him if the site didn’t work with Firefox and he put me on hold to check.  Someone (don’t know who) told him the only problem they were aware of was Safari (which means you are limiting your whole MacIntosh user base).  I told him I’d try again on my WindowsXP machine.

Tried Firefox again but on WindowsXP and experienced the same problem.  I then decided to try Internet Explorer – I was able to get further than I had but was presented with a box saying that changes were still pending on one of my accounts and you couldn’t cancel my policies.  (see screen shot 2)  At this point I again called your company.  Amy helped me this time.  Although she was nice I don’t think she understood the problems I was having and after more than 30 mins of trying to cancel my policies I needed this escalated to someone who understood web browsers as well as your policies.  I asked to speak to a supervisor or possibly someone on the web team.  After several mins have gone by I finally get to speak to Jeanette.  No offense but if you have a customer who up until that point had been kind, calm and understanding but extremely frustrated and asking for a supervisor – that is not the time to try and sell me on your policies or lowering my coverage.  At that point you need to see to my frustration and needs by doing that you may have retained me as a customer.  She asked to hear my story (and I wanted to give her the details of what happened) before I had finished she cut me off and didn’t want to hear anymore.  That was just plain rude.  I lost it.  I could understand if I was being rude or if I had been yelling at her but I was not.  There was no excuse for cutting me off.  She didn’t even hear all of the problem before she just jumped in.  She was curt and rude with me for the rest of the call.  At one point I wanted to let her know that I was not happy with my customer experience and I was letting others know this.  I told her I was Twittering this.  She assumed I was trying to cancel via Twitter (NO I’m not stupid but I do have a fair following on my social networks and many of them are pet lovers like me).  She curtly asked me if I had sent the email only moments after I wrote down the information.  HUH?  Come now you need information from me, I need to log into my account – how on earth did she expect me to send an email within seconds.  She informed me that the calls are monitored.  If that is so I certainly hope as a supervisor she is given better training on dealing with customers.  Interrupting, being insulting and rude are not values we instill in my work place with our customer service staff.

I expect my policies to be canceled effective today. I don’t expect anything more than to make sure your web portal is web standards compliant and will actually ALLOW your customers to use it and to educate your customer service staff in how to best give GOOD customer service.

This is really a shame because up until today I had been a loyal customer.  In the past my phone calls have only resulted in the best customer service interaction (especially one kind lady who even called me back and walked me through a procedure to ensure I got all that was due).  But after frustration with the web site, dealing with a supervisor who doesn’t know how to deal with customer service I don’t have the same high opinion of your company as I once did.

My Tweets:

  1. @AAHAHelpingPets I’d have to say #unfollowfriday to VPI after the experience I had today. Bad customer service and poor web portal.

  2. I sense another blog post coming on – must be record bad customer service week.

  3. @rachelrapp Funny thing is one woman I spoke to (3 people total) was named Amy – my Amy knows customer service

  4. Even told the woman Jeanette I believe she said that I was Twittering about this. So VPI Pet Insurance I recommend you clean up your act.

  5. Condescending supervisor asked for my story then doesn’t want to hear it all. BAD customer service rep. VPI Pet Insur. major fail.

  6. FAIL – your site doesn’t work in Firefox or Safari and only on Windows?!! VPI pet insurance no wonder I’m canceling my policies.
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