Rotten to the core

MyCustomer.com
12

Well last week’s little rant about broadband customer service seems to have struck home with a quite a few of you. As well as the reactions and comments we’ve run elsewhere on the site, there were also a few, shall we say more robust uses of Anglo Saxon vernacular to describe some of your experiences that I didn’t think entirely appropriate for a family web site, but my sympathies go out to all of you.

The basic message coming back for the broadband services providers - with the notable exception of Telewest about whom no-one appears to have a bad word - is that across the board, service levels suck and the consequent damage that’s being done to Broadband Britain is enormous (although it was encouraging/discouraging to hear from some of our US readers to realise that things are bad on occasion over the pond as well.)

My own technical problems this week brought forth another aspect of the broadband service problem, that of reponsibility - or rather the desperate avoidance of responsiblity. Having installed some new software on my Apple iBook, I had problems reconnecting to my Alcatel broadband modem to get access to my BT broadband connection. The problem appeared to be that the Apple systems software wasn’t deleting the old copies of the modem drivers from trash and as such the necessary new ones were not loading.

So I phoned Apple. My first contact was a man who spoke with such an incomprehensibly thick French accent that I couldn’t understand a word he said and vice versa. So I had another go and came across perhaps the least helpful individual I’ve ever found on the end of a customer service phone. As soon as he heard I had a broadband modem, he informed me happily that this meant that Apple did not offer support because I’d chosen to introduce a third party piece of hardware.

I pointed out that this was nonsense as the problem was that Apple’s own system software wasn’t deleting something and it was nothing to do with whether I had the modem, a printer or a George Forman Lo Fat Grilling Machine plugged into the side of my computer. Surely there must be some way of forcing a delete, I asked? “Well, you go and find it then,” came the reply.

I must admit he was good. This sheer rudeness totally took my breath away for a good ten second before I regained balance and demanded a supervisor. I was told there were no supervisors (nice try, but better to base your excuses on some kind of reality matey!) until I insisted so many times that he finally snapped (after complaining that I was “bullying” him) and put a supervisor on the line. She appeared, I explained the problem and she reached for the first line of defence: I’d introduced a third party piece of equipment and as such Apple’s support was invalidated. “What do you expect Apple to do about it?” she demanded.

At this point, I lost the will to live. If this is the attitiude of the supervisors at Apple, what hope do you have dealing with the front line Orcs? So there you have it: if you buy an Apple iBook, don’t put any extra software on it or plug any hardware in to the USB ports that they provide on the side or you can hardly expect anyone at Apple to do anything with that customer support you’ve paid several hundred pounds for.

This is a ludicrous scenario. BT blames Alacatel for the modem drivers, Alcatel passes the buck to BT, Apple says it’s the fault of Alcatel or BT or Saddam Hussein or the cast of Crossroads or anyone but them. And stuck in the middle is poor old Joe Self-Install who wants to join Broadband Britain but can’t make it work. I’ve got some degree of technical knowledge and am more than willing to stand my ground and be a totally awkward consumer, but pity the poor sods who just let themselves be fobbed off.

Oh and for those who asked, the hero of last week’s sorry tale of Freeserve’s incompotence may be interested to know that we advised him to write to the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) and to make sure that Freeserve was copied on the complaint. Miracle of miracles, two days later his Freeserve conncection was restored...funny how they jump when you poke ‘em with a big enought stick, but shameful that you should have to in the first place!

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By admin
04th Feb 2003 23:54

Now that I know that you have a service contract, I have to say that your experience is outside the normal range of my own (US admittedly) long history with Apple and I've been giving them support calls since 1987, sometimes for myself, other times for clients.

What should have happened (and has always happened when I have used an Applecare contract in my long experience) is that the 1st level drone should have figured out that you did, in fact, have your computer plugged in and you were, in fact, executing an empty trash command in OS X. Once the 1st level script is exhausted, what happens next varies but you end up talking to a 2nd level engineer who has much longer scripts and much more lattitude in digging deep into problems. Stumpers hit the 3rd level support engineers who are the true wizards who fix your problems and then end up writing appropriate scripts for the 1st and 2nd level people. The fact that this policy was not followed makes me thing that either something is really rotten in EU Apple tech support or you dialed the wrong number and landed in the freebie, 90 day support pool at which point they should have tried to upsell you into an Applecare contract, found out you already had one, and given you the right number to call.

One of the nice things about Apple is Steve Jobs. He is a perfectionist, compulsive control freak committed to excellent quality. That's a good thing to have in a CEO when you're a customer (but you wouldn't necessarily want to work for him very closely). Try emailing your experience to [email protected] and [email protected]. I've known people who got personal notes back from 'the Steve' when they did so.

Fundamentally, I think that Apple has good support and lots of rating agencies seem to agree over the years (including some studies done quite recently). No doubt you had a bad episode and perhaps that is indicative of a bruise on the apple but rotten to the core? Unfair!

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By djb554
31st Jan 2003 14:16

First of all let me say who enjoyable it is playing 'ain't it awful' about broadband service providers. I'm sure we could do the same about many other common experiences (don't get me started on BT's inability to deliver directories, or RBS's online banking that is so secure you can't actually use it...).

But what's the CRM angle? For me there are two things. Firstly, that companies carry on releasing technology of all sorts without thinking through how to support it. And the problem is that we punters keep on buying it... Perhaps we're too price sensitive, we should be realistic about self-install services, and opt for the more expensive but more secure option of getting an installer to do it for us.

Secondly, there really ought to be a good business in providing supperior customer service. US research shows, for example, that companies with higher customer satisfaction generally have higher share prices than their competitors. But it seems that UK companies in particular and, I'd hazard, European firms in general haven't got this message. It's up to us 'CRM agitators' to point this out.

We really need proper forums for sharing our customer experiences. If they were widely used, they could act as a real incentive for all companies to clean up their customer service act. There are some specialist forums, but I've yet to find anything as useful epinions.com, but unfortuantely this is specific to the US.

David Bradshaw, Ovum
www.ovum.com

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
31st Jan 2003 17:48

The reason your software was not getting deleted in your trash is that the software installer was probably putting an inappropriate set of permissions on it, thus not letting you delete it. The solution is to open Terminal.app, go to your .Trash directory and sudo rm -rf * (this is Unix, remember?) entering the root password (or your first account password if you haven't enabled root via netinfo manager) and hit enter.

The problem is fairly well known but the 1st level service drones generally either don't know the solution or are not allowed to provide the solution based on the massive amount of trouble you can get into by opening up terminal and not knowing what you are doing.

I'm guessing you didn't pay for support but were using your free 90 day support based on your buying an Apple product.

On the Apple website there is a knowledgebase as well as a discussion forum on all things apple that could have helped you (accessing it via modem or from your local library perhaps). You also could have paid for a support incident and gotten superior service. When you pay for it, the cost limits come off and you would have gotten better service.

I do wonder at the surly nature of the tech support person. I've personally found Apple support people to be quite good and friendly as a rule. On the rare occasions when that's not the case, I hang up and try again, mention it to the next fellow and usually get very good results.

I don't doubt that the EU states have a different support group but the principle should work just as well there.

Thanks (0)
avatar
31st Jan 2003 15:21

Perhaps what we really need is for one of the finger pointing suppliers to change sides and bat for the customers. In this case BT would be best. Imagine if BT said to Alcatel and Apple that unless they fixed the problem they would notify all users, and those who want to order broadband service, of the difficulty with those vendors devices. This could be a far more valuable piece of CRM than many other things that BT could possibly do. I can see the headlines now "BT, the people's champion"

Malcolm Wicks
Three Step Consulting
www.3sc.co.uk

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
04th Feb 2003 23:54

Now that I know that you have a service contract, I have to say that your experience is outside the normal range of my own (US admittedly) long history with Apple and I've been giving them support calls since 1987, sometimes for myself, other times for clients.

What should have happened (and has always happened when I have used an Applecare contract in my long experience) is that the 1st level drone should have figured out that you did, in fact, have your computer plugged in and you were, in fact, executing an empty trash command in OS X. Once the 1st level script is exhausted, what happens next varies but you end up talking to a 2nd level engineer who has much longer scripts and much more lattitude in digging deep into problems. Stumpers hit the 3rd level support engineers who are the true wizards who fix your problems and then end up writing appropriate scripts for the 1st and 2nd level people. The fact that this policy was not followed makes me thing that either something is really rotten in EU Apple tech support or you dialed the wrong number and landed in the freebie, 90 day support pool at which point they should have tried to upsell you into an Applecare contract, found out you already had one, and given you the right number to call.

One of the nice things about Apple is Steve Jobs. He is a perfectionist, compulsive control freak committed to excellent quality. That's a good thing to have in a CEO when you're a customer (but you wouldn't necessarily want to work for him very closely). Try emailing your experience to [email protected] and [email protected]. I've known people who got personal notes back from 'the Steve' when they did so.

Fundamentally, I think that Apple has good support and lots of rating agencies seem to agree over the years (including some studies done quite recently). No doubt you had a bad episode and perhaps that is indicative of a bruise on the apple but rotten to the core? Unfair!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
04th Feb 2003 12:58

I do agree that customer services are not the panacea we have been told, and not only in the UK or USA but also in other countries like France or Spain…

We do forget too easily that CRM are operated by people, the same that answer you from a call center, web center or so.

As my experience told me, one mayor problem is that in order to reduce costs from the customer services, too many companies “save” money by reducing the training and the information provided to the agents (our interlocutors), forgetting that a good knowledge of their job and all its matters will provide a far better service than the ignorance. At the same time this would pay us with better service and the companies with more satisfied and loyal customers.

But too many people still thinking that customer service is only a word with no need of effectiveness at the other side.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
04th Feb 2003 12:58

I do agree that customer services are not the panacea we have been told, and not only in the UK or USA but also in other countries like France or Spain…

We do forget too easily that CRM are operated by people, the same that answer you from a call center, web center or so.

As my experience told me, one mayor problem is that in order to reduce costs from the customer services, too many companies “save” money by reducing the training and the information provided to the agents (our interlocutors), forgetting that a good knowledge of their job and all its matters will provide a far better service than the ignorance. At the same time this would pay us with better service and the companies with more satisfied and loyal customers.

But too many people still thinking that customer service is only a word with no need of effectiveness at the other side.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
31st Jan 2003 17:48

The reason your software was not getting deleted in your trash is that the software installer was probably putting an inappropriate set of permissions on it, thus not letting you delete it. The solution is to open Terminal.app, go to your .Trash directory and sudo rm -rf * (this is Unix, remember?) entering the root password (or your first account password if you haven't enabled root via netinfo manager) and hit enter.

The problem is fairly well known but the 1st level service drones generally either don't know the solution or are not allowed to provide the solution based on the massive amount of trouble you can get into by opening up terminal and not knowing what you are doing.

I'm guessing you didn't pay for support but were using your free 90 day support based on your buying an Apple product.

On the Apple website there is a knowledgebase as well as a discussion forum on all things apple that could have helped you (accessing it via modem or from your local library perhaps). You also could have paid for a support incident and gotten superior service. When you pay for it, the cost limits come off and you would have gotten better service.

I do wonder at the surly nature of the tech support person. I've personally found Apple support people to be quite good and friendly as a rule. On the rare occasions when that's not the case, I hang up and try again, mention it to the next fellow and usually get very good results.

I don't doubt that the EU states have a different support group but the principle should work just as well there.

Thanks (0)
01st Feb 2003 12:47

Actually I have a 3 year Applecare support package that cost me dearly. But even if I didn't, if Apple's argument - as you seem to explain it - is that the first line drones should leave customers with systems that don't work just because it's too much trouble to fix them, isn't that an absolutely appalling example of inadequate CRM?

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avatar
By admin
05th Feb 2003 11:23

Having had the pleasure of meeting 'the Steve' on various occasions and being a fully paid-up member of the Steve Jobs For God fanclub, I might well try emailing him. But whether I should have been upsold to or not, the fundamental point remains that the call centre operative was unhelpful, unpleasant and downright rude! And despite lodging a
complaint with Apple, I have yet to receive a reply, let alone an apology.

Thanks (0)
avatar
31st Jan 2003 15:21

Perhaps what we really need is for one of the finger pointing suppliers to change sides and bat for the customers. In this case BT would be best. Imagine if BT said to Alcatel and Apple that unless they fixed the problem they would notify all users, and those who want to order broadband service, of the difficulty with those vendors devices. This could be a far more valuable piece of CRM than many other things that BT could possibly do. I can see the headlines now "BT, the people's champion"

Malcolm Wicks
Three Step Consulting
www.3sc.co.uk

Thanks (0)
avatar
By djb554
31st Jan 2003 14:16

First of all let me say who enjoyable it is playing 'ain't it awful' about broadband service providers. I'm sure we could do the same about many other common experiences (don't get me started on BT's inability to deliver directories, or RBS's online banking that is so secure you can't actually use it...).

But what's the CRM angle? For me there are two things. Firstly, that companies carry on releasing technology of all sorts without thinking through how to support it. And the problem is that we punters keep on buying it... Perhaps we're too price sensitive, we should be realistic about self-install services, and opt for the more expensive but more secure option of getting an installer to do it for us.

Secondly, there really ought to be a good business in providing supperior customer service. US research shows, for example, that companies with higher customer satisfaction generally have higher share prices than their competitors. But it seems that UK companies in particular and, I'd hazard, European firms in general haven't got this message. It's up to us 'CRM agitators' to point this out.

We really need proper forums for sharing our customer experiences. If they were widely used, they could act as a real incentive for all companies to clean up their customer service act. There are some specialist forums, but I've yet to find anything as useful epinions.com, but unfortuantely this is specific to the US.

David Bradshaw, Ovum
www.ovum.com

Thanks (0)