where the writers are
Customer Service
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I've been dealing with customer service far too often lately. For me, the issue is why should it be needed? Seems to me, the quality of the product should preclude the need for contacting a customer service department in the first place. But when things don't behave as expected or promised, it's good to know someone cares. The question is, how much?

In most cases, there are two options: the phone or a website.

Phones: sometimes that's the only option. First pet peeve: having to listen to advertising. This was particularly annoying when I tried to ask a question about a cell phone purchase and had to listen for several minutes while a recorded voice gave me all the steps to follow if I wanted to be able to order an iPhone when it was released at the end of the week.

Or how you can get better service by going to their website. Like, I'm calling because you're my internet provider, and I can't get onto the internet. If I could, I wouldn't need you at all.

Or when you call, you get a 'corporate wide' message instead of the local branch of the store you're trying to reach. I can drive to my bank and ask a teller faster than I can get information from the customer service number for the bank.

Next: those menus. We won't even begin to discuss how many layers of menus you have to deal with trying to match your problem to their menu. I grumbled about this one a day or so ago, so I won't repeat it, but one menu went all the way to 9, and then said to press * for even more menus. Sheesh.

Third: Endless wait times on hold with music you don't like. Or if they play something halfway decent, they interrupt ever fifteen seconds to thank you for waiting because your call is so important. Not important enough to pay someone to answer your questions, though.

This week alone, I've dealt with service issues due to poor quality of a product. In one case, the letters on my keyboard wore off. After some relatively complex rigamarole, I found the right website, navigated to the right department, and stated my case. Someone working from a script, whose language was probably not English, tried to help. After sending a photo of the keyboard, (let's talk another pain. Get out digitial camera, get a decent exposure, transfer it to the computer, attach it to an email) it was indeed deemed faulty (I bought the keyboard because it said, "keys will not wear out-guaranteed for some ungodly number of keystrokes". Ok, they gave an actual number, but it was really big. After photocopying my receipt and scanning it and doing all that pain in the neck stuff, they did send me a new keyboard. Last October. It's already worn, so I dragged out the email thread, sent it back, explaining that the new keyboard hadn't survived 6 months. They went through their programmed routine, I re-explained it was a replacement, and they had the receipt documentation from the original. I was pleasantly surprised that they sent a new keyboard within a week. So, a bit of a pain, but they stood behind their product. Of course, it would have been nicer to have a higher quality product, one that lived up to the claims.

Next issue had to be resolved by phone. My cell phone is supposed to have a camera. Well, technically, it does have a camera, but the pictures suck. I took it to the store, and they agreed. So, I called and navigated the telephone tree, swore up and down I hadn't bent, folded, spindled or mutilated the phone, and they sent me a new one. It arrived today, but the battery and SIM card aren't included. Rather than risk screwing something up, I stopped what I was doing and drove down to the store to have the guy who sold me the phone transfer the electronic bits. He did, and although he tried to transfer the one free ringtone I'd earned by filling out the registration on the first phone, he couldn't get that to work. He said if I called customer service they'd probably issue a credit so I could get another one. BUT, before I left, I tested the camera. Same exact problems, both with out of focus pictures and a recalcitrant 'camera on' button. Another salesperson confirmed the phone should have worked better. Back home, back to the telephone, back through the menu, back to 'your wait will be approximately three minutes'. The customer service rep was very nice and told me to send the 'new' one back and she'd express mail a new one right away. Good service? Yes. But a phone that worked properly would make more sense.

Just asking a question is trouble. My book club's flyer this month said, 'buy 2, get a third for $1.99.' Their featured selection was a three book bundle. But the pricing didn't reflect that third book at $1.99. In fact, the total price on the website was fifty cents MORE than the individual prices of all 3 books. They've got a decent link to a form for questions, and a reasonable number of selections that come close to the problem, but it's going to take up to 3 business days for me to get an answer.

Or, the forms that insist on your whole life history before you can even send a comment. I wanted to praise some good service we'd had at a restaurant. I went to the website for a contact email. I got a form. I balked at including my phone number, but I filled out everything else, including a brilliantly worded paragraph extolling the praises of our server. I hit 'submit'. I was told that the phone number was required (haven't they heard of the dreaded asterisk for 'required' fields?), and to click here to resubmit. I did. You think anything I'd written was still there? Heck, no. Did I retype it? Double heck no.