The BillingViews Easter Guide to Customer Service

See if you recognize yourself from this ‘cut out and keep’ guide on how not to provide customer service.

BillingViews decided, with regret, to change broadband provider. The reason for this is that the old provider of broadband could not, um, provide broadband. So the call was made, the deal was done and the date was fixed for the changeover.

At some point during this day, the old provider would stop providing and the new provider would start providing.

As you would imagine, the old provider stopped providing just before 9.00 a.m. Being just a touch cynical, we assumed that the new provider would start providing at about a minute to midnight.

But no, at 10.30 we received a text, and possibly an email, saying that service was up and running and if there were any problems do not reply to the text or the possible email, as we can’t be bothered to answer them.

The only problem, of course, with this communications strategy, is that we did not have the kit to make the broadband work. So we couldn’t see the possible email with the possible number to ring them up and point out that it might be sensible to send the kit out a day or two ahead of the service being activated. If they had done that, then when the service was switched on the kit would be waiting, blinking away quietly to itself and ready to provide instant, blindingly fast, reliable and robust broadband.

So, whiling away the hours waiting for the new provider to provide, becalmed in a world without internet, we started compiling a list of ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ on how to treat customers.

All of these have happened to BillingViews’ operatives in the last six months.

Extrapolating from these experiences, and using finely honed technical, scientific and mathematical methodologies, as well as algorithms, logarithms and biorhythms; we have concluded that customer service is still absolute rubbish.

Here, then, are the don’ts:


Have a database security answer field that does not accept hyphens, while advocating that including symbols in passwords is great practice.

Send your customer an email which allows them to track the box which will connect them to the internet – they are not connected to the internet.

Send your customer a text or possible email at 10.30 a.m. saying that their service is up and running – ‘Welcome!’ – and do not deliver the kit that makes it work until 6.00 p.m.

Include in your ‘Welcome!’ email – which he won’t be able to read because he doesn’t have access to the internet because he is waiting for your kit to arrive – ‘if you have any problems connecting, please call this number.’ You are likely to get a rude phone call. That is, if his patience and your ‘on-hold’ music is good enough.

Make a fuss about when the kit is arriving, sending texts and possibly emails, giving the customer the idea that there will be some major fanfare along with a special delivery. And then shove the thing through the letter box in the ordinary way – no signature needed.

Deconstruct your offering to the point of making it senseless – e.g advertising flights to Nice for £29.99, which does not include a seat, which is extra. As are check in; online check in; luggage; meals; drinks; pilots etc.

Transfer a customer from one department to another and insist on him going through the eighteen security questions again. You transferred him.

Live with an IVR system that says Goodbye and disconnects customers whichever button they press – for over a week.

Add so many options to your IVR system – most of which invite your customers to go to your web site – that they lose track, get frustrated and start trying to chew their leg off. If they wanted to go to your web site, they would probably, er, go to your web site.

Make your web site so completely and overly complex that people try ringing your IVR system in a vain attempt at talking to a human being and end up getting frustrated and chewing their leg off.

Send out dunning letters demanding a completely different amount to any bill or combination of bills that your customer has received in the last year.

Ask your customer, who has said he is in Edinburgh, for the serial number of his booster box in a county a hundred miles away. He probably can’t see it from there.

Send a letter threatening legal action with the first statement.

Make it impossible to move a customer from one account type to another without him filling in a four page legal document. Or without him losing his number.

When a customer rings for the fifth time, begin to take him through the same, basic script that you did the first time.

If you have been talking to a customer about his broadband account for six months, insist that, because the whole account is in someone else’s name, that you cannot talk to him about his phone service.

Put a message on your IVR system that says ‘we are very busy at the moment’ and leave it there for over a year. You may as well say ‘we don’t have enough staff and your call is not very important to us.’

Say ‘we may take ten minutes to answer your call’ and take 50.

If you are a bank and have just arranged some financing for an obviously compelling, going places publication (just saying) – lose the company’s credit card application form. Twice.

If you are a bank and one week you manually arrange a payment because your online banking belongs in the 19th century, refuse to deal with that customer the following week when he rings to say the payment never went through. Ever.

If you make an obvious mistake, such as issuing a passport with your citizen’s/customer’s first middle and surname crammed into the field marked ‘surname’, tell him to take two photos, a completed application form, his birth certificate, inside leg measurement and appropriate fee to a city 100 miles away. It is not appropriate.

And a couple of – important – Do’s

When you need a meter reading and the customer, feeling weary, says ‘I will have to ring back. Do I have to wait another 50 minutes on hold, to give you the meter reading,’ and you say ‘No, I can ring you at 11 on the 12th’. Then, ring the customer at 11 on the 12th.

If a customer gets so cross that he is escalated to the point he finally gets a nice email ‘from the office of the CEO’ with a reference number (that may or may not be right) assuring him that he will receive a call within 24 hours – call him. Preferably within 24 hours.

If the customer has become so irate with the lack of a call back ‘from the office of the CEO’ that he calls you (and discovers that the reference number is wrong and needs to be transferred), call him back when you cut him off.

When he finally gets a second nice email from ‘the office of the CEO’ saying you will call him within 24 hours. Call him. Within 24 hours. Or he will leave. In a huff. A really big ‘I will never use or recommend those people, ever again’ huff.

 Use common sense.

Related articles: An award winning customer service horror story

And – Revenue assurance helps the customer experience! Really.








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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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