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The death of a customer

April 13, 2006

(I sent this email to my Cingular representative today) 

 

If a customer receives great service they might tell two friends. If they have bad service they will tell everyone they know.

Sometime in the past six months or so I came to the realization that I was in an abusive relationship with a vendor and had to find a way out. That vendor was Cingular and now you want me to pay for the privilege of leaving you behind and getting on with my life. Well, shame on you Cingular, shame on you.

Months ago I tried to get help from Cingular with my phone service. I tried to get you to do something as simple as meet your own request to switch from “blue” to “orange” (as if any reasonable customer should have to speak in YOUR lingo and understand the issues that surround your merger).  I spent over ten hours total attempting to have you solve a simple problem. Ten hours of my time when I could have been doing productive work for my employer (who is also your customer and your partner) or ten hours when I could have been spending time with my family and friends. But, it was ten hours spent talking to an endless succession of well-meaning, if clueless, customer service representatives. I wanted a simple problem solved so I would feel good about the service you provided. However, it was ten hours that left me feeling sick and disgusted and powerless.

In the past I might have suffered a bit and then told everyone I know. Well, I did more than tell everyone I know, I told thousands of people through my blog. You can read it here — https://thinktone.wordpress.com/2005/09/15/cingular-customer-service/ — and this entry is the most visited entry I have ever posted. Why? Because I get people coming to my blog every single day searching on terms like “Cingular customer service sucks,” “bad customer service,” “Cingular sucks”. These are the words used by people searching the internet. These are thousands of people. Through the power of the Internet I was able to tell them all. I suggest you read it for some background (I don’t really feel like recounting the experience again here). If that particular blog posting does not depress and embarrass you, try this one: http://forums.phonearena.com/showthread.php?t=2034, or perhaps this search: http://www.live.com/#q=cingular%20customer%20service%20sucks&offset=1 .

I am proud to be an employee of Microsoft, and if my company treated a customer the way Cingular treated me, I would hang my head in shame. I would also work to fix it. I would work tirelessly to fix it. My customers mean that much to me. Your customers suffer.

Back to the abusive relationship. After that set of incidents with Cingular, and a few sporadic calls to try and get you to stop sending me an bill for $0 each month for an account you created and I never used, I just let it go. But, I didn’t really let it go. It kept gnawing at me. It kept making me feel as if I had been taken by a cheap con artist on the street and was too embarrassed to report it to the police. Finally, I had to do something.

I decided to try Verizon and see how they would treat me. I took baby steps, first just getting a phone and new number there. That took all of five minutes on their website. But then I got a bill from Verizon with a mistake. I called them, my hands practically shaking with dread over the abuse I would receive (I had been conditioned, like a good lab rat, by Cingular customer service). Well, it took all of five happy minutes for the Verizon CSR to solve my problem. No secret lingo about blue or orange, no switching me from rep to rep, no treating me as if I was an idiot for wanting something from the big wireless carrier. Nope, five pleasant minutes of having my problem solved. Then I called them to inquire about porting my number. That took all of 5 happy minutes. I was free at last. It felt so good I called back a couple of days later and ported my wife’s number as well (yes, there were two numbers on my Cingular account – what was I thinking?).

It was a terrific feeling to be free of the cycle of abuse. It was great to wake up and realize that each month when I got the Cingular bill I was holding my breath, fearful that there would be something wrong and I would have to call customer service was over. I was free.

Of course, you want to charge me $175 for that freedom (and another amount for my wife’s number, but that has yet to appear on the bill. I assume another $175 dollars). Yes, you want $350 for me to leave an abusive relationship. As if the abused spouse is the one that has to pay alimony. Frankly, I am disgusted and will take this issue to the Better Business Bureau, to Cingular executives, to the wireless press, and to every customer service blog on the Internet. $350? You should pay me for the time I spent on the phone. You should pay me for being subject to your rude and inconsiderate and abusive customer service.

Did I mention what I do for a living? I am a marketing person. That means I know how to get lots of attention for the products I market. I am very good at it. Guess I will be spending my own time marketing how Cingular treats its customers. Did I mention I used to work in the wireless industry? That means I have lots of contacts that can route me to the most senior Cingular executives. Did I mention how unhappy I have become over the thought of having to deal with Cingular at all?

Go ahead, send me bills for $350. I will send you a bill for $1000 (I figure my time is worth about $100/hr and I have spent at least ten hours dealing with you.)

Maybe, however, you will do the right thing. Maybe you will tell me I can be free of you without the requisite pound of flesh. I can only hope.

And, I will post this email on my blog as well. The dirty little secrets of your customer service woes are not so secret anymore.

Well, the choice is yours.  Is it time for you to be “raising the bar™” or not?

(Look it up: account XXXXXXXX – if you can find it somewhere in your system at all).

 

(btw, I happened to find this great entry in Guy Kawasaki's blog today)

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