To help us serve you better


I’ve been fighting with websites lately. Yesterday was Rogers.com. Today it’s Chapters/Indigo.

I’m getting the impression that these big corporations are more interested in deflecting customers than in serving customers. In the old days, the theory went that businesses only survive if they provide excellent customer service. In fact, there were books written very recently that repeat this same obsolete theory. And all big companies want their customers to believe that excellent customer service is still their goal.

The new goal is to be no worse than their competition – no more, no less. To survive, they have to put a minimum number of customer service reps on the phone lines, pay as little as possible, serve customers as little as possible, and still not lose too much market share.

The other day I had a question about my cell phone. I went on the Rogers.com website to find the answer. (Hopefully I’ll learn some day.) After searching the website for some time, and determining that I would need to talk to a person, I clicked on “Contact us by phone.”

Silly me. I assumed a phone number would come up eventually. It didn’t.

What came up was a list of questions. Are you calling about your Blackberry? No. TV? No. Home phone? No. And so on.

Nowhere was there an option to say “I am calling about my Rogers cellular phone.”

After searching the website some more for a contact phone number, I remembered that my bill always had a contact number for billing inquiries. (You can bet that they are always willing to talk about how to pay the bill, even if they don’t care about customer service.) I found the number and gave them a call.

After that came a series of “To help us serve you better” questions. I think they should reword that a little: “To help us avoid putting this call through to an actual human being.” But it wasn’t too long before I got through to a human being who was able to tell me with great confidence that there was nothing he could do for me, because my request was outside the realm of possibility. He was very pleasant, however.

This morning came the battle with Chapters. I searched for a book, found it quickly, and was quickly presented with options to pay for one of the editions on the list. The one I wanted had this description: “Not available.” And, “Usually ships in 24 hours.”

I thought that sounded a little contradictory, so I clicked on “Not available” to see if there was some kind of explanation behind it. What I got was a list of over 3,000 titles that are “not available” but which “usually ship in 24 hours.”

Then it dawned on me: They put a 24-hour ship time on all their titles, regardless of availability, just to make us feel better. Maybe it ships in 24 hours. Maybe in 24 weeks. Maybe never. But you can confidently click the order button and enter your credit card number if you believe that you will have it in your hands in about a week or less.

Maybe I should order the book and offer to pay by cheque. My cheques usually go out within 24 hours.

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About Craig

Craig lives in Calgary, Alberta.
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