Customer service must improve – it is not good enough.

Customer service is something that we discuss at a very high level. Two recent – one on-going – stories very close to home illustrate how appalling customer service can be.


One BillingViews operative has spent almost nine hours getting stable broadband within one mile of the centre of a capital city.

Said operative used to live slightly the other side of the middle of nowhere and got stable broadband at a reasonable, if not spectacular, six megabits a second. And had a box that talked to his mobile phone and gave him 3G mobile around his office and house. Outside that area there was no signal.

If said operative has to tell said broadband provider, whose name begins with V, his password, how he pays the account, his postcode and his mother’s maiden name one more time, said operative is quite likely to rip said broadband provider’s non-functioning router from the wall, walk around to said broadband provider’s office and do things with it that should not be described on a web site accessible by the public.

Mind you, the customer service people are all friendly, even the ones that apparently work in the CEO’s office. They just never phone you back when they say they will and play loud music at you for 20 minutes when you phone them. And none of them have the authority to solve your problem. The last time, having struck up a relationship with many of the nice people at the service provider, their computer said he was not allowed to speak to them anymore and he had to hang up. He eyed the non-functioning router.

And talking of service providers whose name begins with V, try changing anything with the mobile service provider used by the same, slightly stressed BillingViews operative. He has an account with three phone numbers on it. After an interesting year, he had moved from said rural idyll with stable broadband and 3G coverage to the middle of a capital city with unstable, slower broadband and patchy phone coverage.

Setting aside the coverage issues and the lack of broadband in a capital city, let us examine their antiquated customer service.

He wanted to get two of the three numbers onto their own, separate accounts, and all concerned were happy to stay with the V service provider. He asked how this was to be done. They said (after divulging passwords, postcodes and mother’s maiden names on many occasions) that they would email him a form.

The following week he rang again to enquire when said form would be arriving. They said they had sent it, but would send it again.

The following week he rang again to enquire when said form would be arriving. This time he received it four times.

He opened the email, and the attachment. He closed the attachment and the email.

Three times during the next two weeks he opened said email and said attachment, gazed at them in a mixture of horror and admiration. Never before had said operative seen a form of such masterful complexity and ridiculousness. To transfer one number would require proof of identity, proof of solvency, proof of suitability for marriage, proof of gardening skills and was only allowed if you bicycled from said capital city to a neighbouring capital, naked in the rain, in February, as long as there was a ‘z’ in the day of the week.

Said operative, having given this some thought, rang said service provider, provided to said service provider passwords, postcodes, previous addresses and mother’s maiden name and told them this was rubbish. Why, said said operative, don’t the owners of the numbers simply cancel the account and set up another one.

They, apparently, hadn’t thought of that.

So, they asked the BillingViews operative whether he would like to request a PAC code. Perfect, said said operative. Once transferred to the PAC code department, and having shared his password, postcode, proof of identity, proof of solvency, proof of suitability for marriage and proof of gardening skills in order to make sure that said PAC code department didn’t mistake said operative for someone else who had been transferred from one call centre operative to another, a PAC code was sent out.

The owner of this number went to a V shop. All went smoothly. Probably too smoothly.

Indeed, too smoothly.

Said owner was given a new number. Apparently it is not possible to transfer a number from said service provider (or presumably any service provider) to the same said service provider.

That is without a now wilting BillingViews operative spending another hour on the phone to several lovely people in several call centres run by said service provider and sharing with all of them his password, postcode, proof of identity, proof of solvency, proof of suitability for marriage and proof of gardening skills.

Then he found that in-bound calls cannot be transferred to another service provider operative so he couldn’t do what he had been asked to do. So his hour listening to their music would have been better spent listening to his own music.

Just when he had given up and taken to the bottle, someone rang from said service provider. Even though they were ringing his number, they still asked for his password, postcode, proof of identity, proof of solvency, proof of suitability for marriage, proof of gardening skills.

Then within moments, it was done. A click of the button, a word and the number was safe.

In the same capital city, there is an auction house. They specialize in antique things, paintings, jewellery, and lovely porcelain. In Scotland there is an office in Glasgow and the main office and sale room in Edinburgh. They love their customers.

Several days ago a customer of the Glasgow office emailed said Glasgow office asking whether they had a cardboard box. The customer needed to pick up some hens the next day and hadn’t got a box to put them in. The fine people in the Glasgow office went to the cardboard box holding area, found a decent sized cardboard box, poked some holes in the sides, shredded some newspaper and delivered the perfect hen carrying machine.

That is customer service.

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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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