Great customer service. A quaint notion. Maybe even something of an oxymoron these days. Perhaps you’ve had a better experience than I when calling an 800 number, but at least in recent months, the service rendered by those deputized to deal with the public is, well, spotty at best. I can’t imagine that’s by design, but it certainly seems like it.

First of all, if you’re actually calling a “Contact Us” number, it’s most likely because you couldn’t find an answer to your query on a company’s confusing website. Which is surprising since no company really wants to pay a human being to talk with a customer when it’s much more economical to try to resolve any issue with a “Frequently Asked Questions” category or a robot-like “Chat” feature on the Internet.

As you might imagine, I chose this week’s topic based on a recent experience I had involving the customer service of a very large corporation that’s purportedly in the communications business. My adventure began in August. The plethora of commercials featuring a perky spokesperson for a national mobile phone provider caught my attention. I’ve had my current device for about three years now, and its planned obsolescence is getting close. Time to upgrade. And the aforementioned spokesperson was pitching an enticing deal on the latest and greatest iteration of what was once just a phone but now is an extension of our brains and an absolute necessity.

Three family members on our joint account were ready to get new phones. I dutifully went on the company’s website, clicked on the “Great Deals” tab, compared the different features and benefits of the available models, and found the ones I thought best matched the wants and needs of all of us. Picked out colors too. That part was relatively easy. But then there was the issue of trading in our old phones. And we were adding a family member to our account. Alas, those matters made things a bit more complicated. So much so that I finally thought I’d just call the customer service number to quickly resolve the issue at hand.

In the ensuing two months, I ended up talking to no less than 12, yes, 12 employees of the company. Average time on the phone with each was right around 90 minutes. (I kept track.) I actually made pretty good headway with the very first representative. She followed what I said and put together what seemed to be the best available package. Then she asked what each family member did for a living. Turns out one member’s occupation entitled us to a nice discount. This was looking better and better.


It was simply the start of a 60-day saga.

Even though that initial customer service representative offered the discounted package, she was not actually authorized to okay it. She had to transfer me to another area. And the trouble began. I got cut off during the transfer. Shocker. I naively thought, “Oh, well, they have my phone number. I’m sure they’ll call back.”

Never happened.

So, in a day or two, I called the company myself. It seems no record of my deal had been kept by the previous representative. Had to go through the whole process again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Every time I would call in, something would happen to mess up the procedure. At one point, our new phones were actually ordered. When I checked my email the following day, the summary showed the order was for the wrong ones. Had to start all over again with the next representative because that order had to be cancelled.

I ended up talking with representatives from six states and two foreign countries, two supervisors, and at least one supervisor’s supervisor. The kicker came on call number 12. Just when it seemed everything was finally in order, the rep told me, “I can’t place this order.” “Why? queried I? “There’s been a fraud alert placed on this account,” came the reply. “Say, what?” said I. And that was the end of the conversation.

Two days later, I went into an actual brick and mortar store. The manager told me, “Don’t ever call our customer service number. It’s terrible. Always come in.” It cost me another two hours in person, but I walked out the door with the problem solved.

Why didn’t I go to another company? After two months it was really the principle of the thing. I was bound and determined not to let them beat me. I knew the company didn’t care if they lost me as a customer. There’s always someone else in line. No doubt trustingly awaiting some great customer service.

©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer