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The Razor's Edge
by p.l. frank
The New Face of Customer Service

JoAnne G. Regularly receives one of her medications shipped to her via a famous express shipping company. Several months after relocating to a new city JoAnne’s medication was scheduled to be shipped to her but did not arrive. Calling the company who shipped the order she tracked the package to the express shipping company’s office. It had been sitting there for three days. When JoAnne asked why her order (which she needed several days earlier and had been waiting from 9 to 5 each day to receive) was still sitting in the shipping company’s office she was informed in a curt, accusatory tone that the driver had tried to deliver the package but that she (JoAnne) had refused to sign for it! After two more attempts to get the order delivered to her JoAnne finally gave up, canceled the order, and had to place a new order to be delivered by a different shipping company.

When John B.'s magazine order with a major publisher had not arrived several months after he had paid for it, he contacted the customer service department. After six letters and still no resolution, John finally contacted the supervisor.

The supervisor responded that (a) they never received any correspondence from John concerning the problems with the subscription, and (b) the problem with John's subscription resulted from "Gremlins in the computer system". (Gremlins ?)

The supervisor corrected the problem but never apologized for the bad service nor expressed any regret that their customer had experienced so much inconvenience. The subscription continued for three months and again stopped arriving. John made two more attempts to get the service running. When he again received an unsatisfactory response he finally canceled his order and requested a refund.

No apology was ever made and John's opinion when he called to cancel was that their reaction was one of relief more than anything. Perhaps they were glad to have one less customer to deal with. Perhaps they lost sight of the fact that if they had no customers, they wouldn't have a job.

After receiving a call from her local newspaper's sales department, Carol S.signed up for daily newspaper delivery. She paid in advance to start the service, but the paper never arrived. Carol began calling immediately to see what the problem was. After the fifth day (and the fifth call to customer service) Carol had still not received an apology for the non-service. As Carol put it, the customer service representatives acted with indifference and disinterest at her situation.

A few weeks after Carol wrote the newspaper a letter stating she had never received even one paper and was therefore requesting a refund, she began receiving bills from the newspaper for future deliveries. (Apparently, the billing department was right on top of things.)

For four months Carol continued to receive billing statements for a paper that had never been delivered. Each time Carol received a statement, she took the time (not to mention the postage) to write a note explaining the situation and asking for a refund on the original deposit she had paid to start delivery.

On the fifth month a customer service representative called Carol, but not to apologize for the bad service nor to straighten out the delivery problem. Instead, the representative demanded payment on Carol's "delinquent" account and proceeded to chastise her for the inappropriateness of accepting a paper without ever paying for it.

Noah P. called 411 to get the number of his sister's employer so that he could call her before she left work. The 411 operator insisted in a snotty tone that there was no such listing. When Noah tried to tell her that his sister had worked there for fourteen years and that he, himself had the number for the company at his home, the operator angrily replied, "Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?". And then promptly disconnected him before he could respond.

Noah immediately called back to 411. After getting the number he needed from a different operator, he asked to speak to a supervisor where he reported the rude incident and gave the original operator's name. One hour later Noah received a call back from the supervisor who thanked him for reporting dissatisfactory service. She informed him that she spoke with the operator in question and was told that the incident had not occurred the way Noah had presented it. The operator told the supervisor she had not done anything inappropriate, so what could the supervisor do?

It was, afterall, one person's word against another. Perhaps the supervisor felt that Noah had taken the time to call in and discuss a complaint because he was secretly harboring resentment towards the phone company. They have been badgering us about being lazy and not using the Yellow Pages lately.

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P.L. Frank enjoys writing both nonfiction social satire and funny, thought-provoking novels.  Dr. Frank has been a researcher in the field of Behavioral and Social Sciences since 1983, and has worked as a university professor and therapist. 

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