The Death of Customer Service – The Better Business Bureau III

Social Media logos
Social Media logos

The internet and almost instant access to information have changed our lives greatly over the last ten years. Today anyone can create a website or blog and connect with thousands if not millions of people. Often when someone feels they were mistreated they will turn to their blogs to tell anyone and everyone about it. In the past this action was mainly ignored by companies, but with social outlets such as Facebook and Twitter many companies created teams dedicated to seeking out issues on the net and solving them before they spread.

In part two of the series we talked about step 3, 4 and 5 from the eight steps important to being a member of the BBB.

  1. Build Trust
  2. Advertise Honestly
  3. Tell the Truth
  4. Be Transparent
  5. Honor Promises
  6. Be Responsive
  7. Safeguard Privacy
  8. Embody Integrity

Moving on to step six, Be Responsive, we devle into one of the main issues with companies and their responses to the BBB. Most of the time if you have an issue with a company, in this case a computer company, and you file a BBB complaint it will be sent to the company and directed to the person or persons in charge of the BBB complaint department.

Many larger companies create templates to respond to BBB complaints, but this is not just to save time. There are certain words or phrases that if sent to the BBB will be accepted as being responsive even if the overall issue was not solved.

For example if your system arrived damaged, but you did not report it within a certain time frame for whatever reason many companies will not be able to file a claim with the shipper. In this case they will tell you that due to you not informing them of the damage there is nothing they can do for you.

If you were to write to the BBB about this all the company would have to do is reply with a canned answer about the policy of the company and the policy of the shipper. They do not even have to reference your specific case. This will be accepted by the BBB and even if you file a rebuttal all they need to do is respond with the same answer and again it would be accepted. This is called ping ponging because this can go back and forth indefinably.

Many companies do not fear the BBB because it is easy to remain compliant which is why if you find a company that has a non-compliance with the BBB you know they have issues. Even large companies that receive many BBB complaints can have one agent answer them all due to the use of template answers. So what can customers do if the BBB fails them?

Originally customer complaints were limited to phone calls, e-mails and in some cases internal message boards. The main goal was to keep issues internal where they could be controlled. As the internet became more wildly used people began to create blogs and websites where they would talk about their daily lives and if they had an issue they would post about it. This was also done in public message boards.

At first these few incidents were ignored, but as some forums became wildly popular some companies created field teams to track down issues on popular forums and engage the customer there hoping to solve the issue and if not that bring the issue back under their control and out of the spotlight.

For the most part forums were happy to have representatives come to their boards because it would bring in more members. As time went on however, many board administrators would limit what these representatives could do. This was mainly done to keep them from posting about new sales or features or derailing topics.

In the end for many companies going out to forums backfired because now their representatives could do nothing to stop members from coming to those boards and posting about their issues. Sometimes information would even be leaked by disgruntled employees. Strong arm tactics aside these boards remained firm and the companies had no choice but to message the members in private hoping to solve the issue quietly.

Step seven, Safeguard Privacy, came into play not against the customer, but against the companies. Often when company representatives would contact customers they would offer free items or discounts to make the issues go away. Some of these members would post the e-mails, personal messages and chat sessions they had with the company representatives after they received compensation. This would lead to other members with issues demanding the same compensation which in turned caused some companies to withdraw from these forums.

When Facebook and Twitter became wildly used an old problem was given new life. Now anyone could easily create a blog, add hundreds if not thousands of friends via Facebook and followers via Twitter and post about ongoing issues with a company. Sometimes if the issue was serious enough other blogs and websites would pick up on the story and share it on their blogs.

This was a serious problem for companies because these complaints spread quickly as they were shared throughout the internet from website to blog to forum. Again teams were create to search out these customers and try to get them to stop posting. Some customers took it to the extreme and create hate sites which were only about complaining about a specific company.

At this point companies began coming up with different ways to deal with these issues. Some would give almost any compensation if the customer agreed to remove the criticism and or post something positive about the company. Large companies decided to abandon the field teams altogether feeling that even responding to complaints would just fuel the fire.

Step 8, Embody Integrity, also took on a different meaning depending on the company. Smaller companies would still seek to help their customer and engage critics on websites where as large companies felt it was not worth it.

It was easier to respond to BBB complaints and keep issues internal and ignore external complaints unless it was picked up by a major outlet. The result was larger companies receiving a lower customer service score, but this would be compared to sales and if the company felt the low score was not affecting the bottom line then no changes would be made.

Today there has been some pushback to larger companies who ignore or mistreat their customers, but as more and more companies merge there are fewer places for customers to take their hard eared cash.

It has become cheaper to cut back on customer service and instead put that money into marketing and sales. The idea is that if you only see commercials and ads you are less likely to see complaints. Some fault is also put on those who looked to take advantage of compensation policies by creating websites or blogs for small issues hoping to get something for free from the company.

Unfortunately the end result is customer service is looked upon even more as a waste of money for companies. This is why most customer service centers are overseas and the few located in the U.S. are understaffed.

The BBB can do little to help the customer and with economic hardships all around us many customers will return to the same companies that mistreated them because they have the lowest price.

The best thing to do is fully research any company you wish to do business with. Sometimes you will need to spend a little more if good customer service is important to you, but beware of some companies offering you “premium support” for a higher cost. These services are the same you would have received ten years ago for free, but have to pay out of pocket for today.

The Death of Customer service series will continue as we move into other aspects of dwindling support and service. If you have any issues you would like to see discussed please contact us via e-mail.

Click here to read part 2 of this article. Click here to read part 3 of this article.

The Death of Customer Service: The Better Business Bureau II

Broken PC
Broken PC

Many in the past and some still today look to the better business bureau to guide them to reputable companies and in case of problems help them receive the service they paid for. In the previous post we talked about the eight steps important to being a member of the BBB.

  1. Build Trust
  2. Advertise Honestly
  3. Tell the Truth
  4. Be Transparent
  5. Honor Promises
  6. Be Responsive
  7. Safeguard Privacy
  8. Embody Integrity

Moving to step three, tell the truth, again we run into the same problem we did with, advertise honestly. Keeping this in the realm of computer companies I will offer an example. A customer may ask about a known issue regarding a piece of hardware within a computer not working with an operating system. The company knows full well it is an issue they were caught unaware of and are scrambling to fix. However, they do not want to stop production and will continue to sell the product knowing it has the issues hoping they will find a fix in the near future.

An educated consumer will pick up on the issue and ask about it before purchasing and many times sales agents are instructed not to even acknowledge the issue and instead focus on up-selling the customer to a part that does not have the issue if at all possible. When pushed on the specific issue the agent will state a fix is forthcoming which is on the edge of truth, but he or she will sell it as an absolute. This can convince the purchaser to buy the unit only to be stuck dealing with the issue when it arrives.

If you were to contact the BBB the company will be able to easily state that it informed you of the issue and are working on a fix. Since your PC has a warranty and the company is working on the issue you have little recourse. In fact, if you have a no return after thirty day policy and are not vigilant it can pass during the time you are waiting to have your system fixed and this enters us into step four, be transparent.

Transparency in the computer world is clouded by trade secrets and the fact that so much can go wrong with a computer that many companies rather just replace your system than troubleshoot and fix it. Also, many companies will release a product knowing it has issues from hardware to software to even the build design and not release any of this to the public.

The problem is that it is hard to track down if the company knew of the issues before the system shipped. Just like the issue in the earlier paragraph the key to the BBB, at least for computer companies, is that they are trying to fix the issue and are honoring their warranty, which leads us to step five, honor promises.

As long as a computer company is at least trying to fix an issue with a product they sell the BBB will turn a blind eye. Most computer companies do not want to spend too much time on warranty issues. Most companies consider support a losing department which explains why it is outsourced and more often than not, not well staffed.

Larger companies have even replaced total units because to continue to support the product would be far too costly not only in man hours and parts, but in the press and PR. As issues arise today’s consumer turns to the internet to post about them and as it spreads it can become a PR nightmare even for the giants of the industry.

In these instances companies rather give the customer a new and different unit they believe will work to silence the cries on the internet and hopefully lower the calls in the call center.

For those who don’t receive a new unit many times they are trapped because the company is doing something (even if it is the minimum) to fix the issue and as long as they are there is little a customer can do even in contacting the BBB.

Again during this time your return window may close and in many cases even if it does not you will have to pay a hefty fee if you choose to return your system. This ties in to transparency and honoring promises.

Many times the parts you return will be sold again in one form or another netting a dual profit for the company and since the policy is stated (somewhere on their website) the BBB can do nothing to help you.

Warranties like insurance are looked at by the companies that issue them as rent for a home they hope you never use. When you call in a claim it costs the company money which is why you get the low end of the totem pole first. Unfortunately, the best tool to fight against these companies is not the BBB, but the internet and specifically social media sites.

In the next installment we will cover the final three steps and talk about how the internet and social media can and has brought justice to those who have witnessed the death of customer service.

Click here to read part 1 of this article. Click here to read part 3 of this article.

The Death of Customer Service: The Better Business Bureau

Computer Fraud
Computer Fraud

In the age of online shopping even from our phones many people do not look for companies to be part of the BBB like they use too. Twenty years ago, if you weren’t part of the BBB chances are you would not receive much business. People would call to find out if the company they were going to deal with was part of the BBB and if so what their standing was. It was like a government run Angie’s list with consequences.

Today with thousands of companies online the BBB is not as important as it once was. Though many companies still register with the BBB far less people look into companies through the BBB and much less care if a company is registered with the BBB.

Even companies with the BBB no longer have to adhere to strict policies once laid down by the BBB. Though the BBB still has their 8 important steps to being a member:

– Build Trust
– Advertise Honestly
– Tell the Truth
– Be Transparent
– Honor Promises
– Be Responsive
– Safeguard Privacy
– Embody Integrity

Now these things may sound good, but for many consumers who have a problem and try to seek help from the BBB may find that this list is easy to work around.

Building trust for the most part is already established once a person finds out a company is with the BBB so they figure if anything goes wrong they are safe or safe enough.

Advertise honestly. Here it can get tricky. Let’s talk in the realm of computers. Some companies offer rebates with their systems. Many people have come to realize that rebates are not so much to give the customer back his or her money, but to hope they forget to send their form in so they do not get the discount.

An example would be that a computer has a $500 off coupon which makes it a great deal. What you may or may not read is all the limitations and time restrictions on that rebate. For instance, one trick is to make you send the rebate in within a month of purchase. This means when you are charged. So if you are charged before building and it is a custom system, then it could be almost a month before you receive your system.

Now, in order to retrieve most rebates you have to have your invoice which only comes with the system, so if you receive your system at the 25th day it could be very hard to send it back within the timeframe.

Another trick it to make you request the rebate once your system ships they claim they do this to prevent being scammed, but the scam is on you. Now all this is totally legit, it’s not illegal or against BBB rules, but the idea here is to give you another task that hopefully you will forget.

Many times the rebate form will not arrive in the box and you have you call in and have it mailed to you. If you are ever told this demand they fax it or e-mail it to you, there is no reason they should not be able to.

Even if you send the rebate in on time you may encounter problems with them only applying the rebate to the card you used to purchase the system. In most cases this is normal and standard, except when you split pay across multiple cards. Here the problem comes in when the company delays the process making you wait. It is a known fact that many companies will delay payment when nearing the end of a financial quarter.

There’s much more to break down regarding the BBB and we will be doing so in the next installment. For now, if you have any experiences dealing with computer related or gaming related companies giving you a hard time with rebates please share them.

Click here to read part 2 of this article. Click here to read part 3 of this article.