Why do we hate customers so much?

I don’t know of any organization that tries to make money, that doesn’t need customers. And yet so many organizations work very hard to ensure they don’t actually interact with their customers. Well, either they are so inept they don’t realize their interaction is so poor, or they actively ensure they don’t communicate with customers.

It starts with the simple ability to talk to someone in an organization, or even email someone in an organization. I was an ING Direct (banking) customer, which became Capital One 360. It’s a simple banking service, more online than physical branches, which has had its advantages over the years. Unless of course a problem occurs. On more than one occasion I have had suspicious transactions occur. Is there always a way to directly report a concern? No actually. The first time I had to email sales, as that was the only email they provided. I sat there by my phone and got immediate updates about withdrawals I wasn’t doing from the bank, but could do nothing to immediately stop the withdrawals. They thought about notifying me, yet didn’t provide a way for me to notify them. Eventually this lack of ability to send them information got so frustrating I searched through the ‘contact us’ information, looking for a way to communicate with them. All that was present was a physical mail address. So I sent them a letter and closed the account.

With my mortgage company, they started adding additional charges. In this case I was able to talk to a someone, but that someone couldn’t resolve the problem. The adjustments department only accepted faxes. Faxes? Geez, luckily I was able to find some software that could send faxes electronically to communicate with them.

And most recently I had an issue with UPS. Now I consider them the best package delivery organization around, generally providing detailed package updates and commonly delivering on time, if not early. Well, until this time. I ordered a part for my bike, and was waiting for it as part of a trip I was planning. I was talking directly with the company, and they emailed me it was ready. On the UPS site I could see ‘label printed’. I figured they would just pick it up the next day as I’ve seen many times, and I’d check then to see the status. Next day, still ‘label printed’. Same the following day. Sigh. Then all of a sudden I got a notice that package would be delivered the next day (from UPS). Checking on their website still showed ‘label printed’, leaving me to wonder if I was getting actual emails from UPS or the ever present spam that looks like real notices. I then got a notice that it was delivered at the front door, and being home I excitedly went to see it. Nothing. Checked by my garage, nothing. I assumed (as this has happened before) that they really meant to deliver it the next day. Nope. So now I went online to check on the package, and it was actually easy to file a problem. And after filing I saw a nice dashboard of ‘communication’ and their status. But then my login expired. Next time I logged in was that dashboard present? No. I poked around, I had preferences status, a very nice welcome layout page if I wanted to send packages, but nowhere did I see the problem report I had filed or the dashboard that was present before. I dug around some more and after quite some time was able to find a buried link to get back to this dashboard. Then a few days later a neighbor called to say they had the package, I walked over and got it, so far so good. Going back to the UPS site, trying to remember where the dashboard was and finally finding it again went to see if I could cancel or report all ok. Nope. Could I change status in any way? Nope. So I emailed them and noted that package issue was resolved (at least they allowed this). No response. A few days later a UPS staff member arrived at my house to ask about the package. I explained all that had happened. And while the service of someone actually present was great, because we hate customers it was far more expensive for them then it should have been, as I tried to cancel it.

So why do we do this? I mean I get it, servicing customers is commonly thought of as just a cost. At as long as we prevent customers from providing actual feedback, then we can also prevent them from reflecting poorly on us. Those of us familiar with an NPS (Net Promoter Score) can also understand if you never get feedback from customers that you don’t want, you can’t possibly have a bad NPS score.

Companies work very hard to not hear from their customers, and shape the experience so they only hear from customers when things are satisfactory. And questions, even in difficult situations are shaped to make it hard to tell them about the negative issues. Was our staff member pleasant? (Sure) Did they actually solve my problem? No. What can we do better? Only asked when the questions themselves started with a successful outcome.

Companies seem to pride themselves on their customer interaction, and yet at the same time ensure that the only interaction they record is positive. They aren’t looking to change, they aren’t looking to truly improve.

Good companies understand that they cannot make every customer happy. They understand that some customers cannot be satisfied. But they put the effort in to listening to their customers, identify true areas they can do better, and strive to do so.

But today it doesn’t feel like most companies are good companies.

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