Customer service these days — NOT!

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

By Maramis

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

It’s hard to believe, yet it is increasingly true ­— Customer Service is more about how to get the customer to just give up and not make an issue of their issue.
A woman I know was telling me about the way Customer Service had handled her two issues. In the first case, she never got the delivery.
Although there was no excuse for that since her address was clearly written on both her mailbox and a temporary sign right at her gate, it never arrived. When she called to check on the delivery, they looked it up on their computer and the computer told them that it had been delivered.
So who are they going to believe, a non-human computer, or a person telling them that it never arrived? They chose to believe the non-human computer and made it clear to her that she must have    received it because the computer said that was so.
Now here’s the extra funny thing. This woman took the time and trouble to track down what really happened to that item and discovered that it was sent back to the company since it was “undeliverable” due to the FedEx driver not being able to find the house. There are only about
four houses on her block, two on each side, and her address sign is bigger than all the others.
At that point, they still claimed she was lying about receiving the item, but told her she could order it again (which meant she would have to pay for it again). They told her if it was really returned to the company, she would eventually get a refund. Well, she really wanted that item and, knowing that it had been returned, trusted that she would get her refund, but she still had to go through their Customer Service department that insisted she already had it.
“Why on earth would I agree to pay for it all over again if I already had it?” she asked the very impertinent Customer Service rep. That didn’t seem to faze the rep. So the woman ordered it again, making sure the driver would have her phone number in case of another failed delivery due to the driver’s inability to read signs.
This time the delivery was made. But there’s more to this story. Much more. (BTW, she got that refund.)
First of all, the item was an address sign for the house, an item that no one else would get any use out of since it was for their specific house. That in itself can be seen as humorous. But when she was reviewing the charges on her bank statement, she came upon a strange thing. While she has often ordered from Amazon and has had good service from them, including accepting returns without a hassle, if ever there was a need to send something back, this was a new kind of
problem. Apparently they (Amazon) have adopted a new policy when it comes to charging the buyer’s credit card for a purchase. If they run it through and for any reason it comes back as not accepted, rather than notifying the customer that that is the case, they simply go to any other credit card that is in their system and has been used before, even if it is not that person’s own credit card. (For example, it could have been her mother’s card or even a friend’s card that she
had used once in the past.)
In her case, unbeknownst to her, her credit card had been updated to reflect a new expiration date, rendering the exact same card in their system unacceptable because the expiration dates did not match, and so they arbitrarily chose another card in their system to use for the charge.
As she was looking through her bank statement that month, she discovered that all the charges made since that change of expiration date were charged to that other card, which was not her own. Naturally, she called Customer Service.
As she told me, she was on the phone for over two hours trying to make it clear what had happened, and expressing outrage that the company (Amazon) could just take it upon themselves to pick a card to charge an item to without first informing her that such a thing was
happening. She could have easily then explained it was just a need to update that expiration date and none of all the rest of the issue would have happened.
Now she had to go back and get them to “uncharge” the other card (credit it back) for her recent purchase (which had been charged to someone else’s card) and put that charge on her correct and merely updated card. Could it be done? Of course, it could, IF they had real Customer Service. But did they? Well when you hear the rest of the story, you be the judge.
I will not tell all the “gory details” of what she had to go through during those two hours of trying to get her situation rectified, but the supervisor seemed to have the same mindset that the Customer Service rep had.
Here is how the supervisor told her to resolve the issue. Now mind you, the item she purchased was an address sign for the house. It could not be used by anyone else, yet the supervisor told her that in order to get it properly credited to the preferred credit card, she would have to send the sign back and get the refund put back on the card that they originally charged. Then she could order it again, and in that case, it could go on her own credit card.
Yes, a sign that was perfect and wanted had to be returned (at their expense) because no one knew how to correct a mishap that did not have to happen. Sure, the woman could have been on the alert to catch that card update, but she had no idea of their new policy to randomly charge any other card in their system. A simple email notifying her of the fact that her own card had not been accepted would have led to her finding out why and avoiding the whole fiasco that followed.
So the lesson learned here is that the Customer Service reps are not given the authority to make “executive decisions” in solving customer problems. And apparently no one else ever had this problem so there was no “how to fix it” listed in the Customer Service manual. If you ever have a problem that seems unique when you explain it to your own Customer Service rep, think of how you would solve it and be prepared to suggest it to the person on the other end of the phone for at least these six reasons:
1. It will save time, energy, and money on one or both sides
2. It will resolve the issue in a customer-friendly way
3. It will save the company the value of the wasted product, that cannot be re-sold
4. It will save the customer the aggravation of having to reorder something that is already in their hands and perfectly fine
5. It will suggest that the company knows how to handle any problem in the best way
6. It will be a win-win situation and handled with just one phone call to the right person, taking perhaps 15 minutes or less, once they get that new policy for fixing such problems in place.
So when it comes to taking your problem to Customer Service, first be sure you are speaking to someone who has the authority to actually fix your problem. Have your problem delineated in bullet points clearly enough so your own mother could understand it. And have your suggestions to fix it also delineated with bullet points to where any high school student could grasp them. If they are that easy to understand and do, maybe someday, somewhere, Customer Service will really be what it claims to be in those two little words!
* * * * *
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at

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