Poor Customer, Poor Customer Service

As this story starts, I’ve already been on hold 11 minutes, and switched through three people. What I want to do is cancel a prepaid home theater installation. I’m not mentioning the store.

I get to "please enter your ZIP code." I did: five digits, not hard.

"We’re sorry, we’ve received an invalid entry ZIP code. Please enter a five-digit number."

So I entered it again: the same five digits. I swear, it was really my ZIP code. I could confirm with the LCD on my telephone.

"We’re sorry, we’ve received an invalid entry ZIP code. Please enter a five-digit number."

Really, I promise, I did type my Zip code. But I’d already invested more than 11 minutes, so I did it again. The result? You’re thinking "We’re sorry, we’ve received an invalid entry ZIP code. Please enter a five-digit number." So was I. Instead, it was "We’re sorry, we are unable to complete this call. Please dial the tollfree number again."


I called back. After another 10 minutes the nice operator managed to cancel my scheduled home theater installation, but she was unable to credit the card I’d used to prepaid for the installation because — although she found the job number, me, my address, and my phone number, and the appointment (prepaid appointment), the system didn’t know that I’d paid, or when, or how. Apparently I have to go back through my credit card records. Wow, that’s great service.

But wait! It gets better.

I had to cancel the appointment because the following had happened the previous week. I received an email from the store asking me to call about a bad credit card. The card in question had been used to order the stuff related to the home theater assembly, and the store was right, it was a bad card. That call went something like this:

"We’ve put that order on hold because the card was declined."

"Yes, I know, and I know why. The card was compromised. Chase is sending me a replacement card. I’ll have it in two days."

"The system’s going to attempt payment two more times, then cancel the order."

"But no, please don’t! The card in question was compromised, I can’t give you a good number today because I’m waiting to receive the new card number on Monday. Can you please just hold that order until I call with the new card Monday?

"No, I’m sorry, we have no way to do that. It’s all automatic."

"Oh no, I’ve been waiting two weeks on backorder, and I have assembly at home set up for next weekend. Please, there must be an override. Just put it on pending until I call back on Monday." (Not to brag, but our company, with only 40 employees, could do that easily.)

"I’m sorry, there’s no way to do that."

"No offense, I know this isn’t your fault" (I really wasn’t angry at her, and I didn’t sound angry), "but  could I talk to a supervisor or somebody who can override the system?"

"I could put you on hold for 10 or 15 minutes to get a supervisor, but I can save you the time. The system is automatic."

"What if I call back Monday, between 9 and 5 pm?"

"The system works the same regardless."

I wanted to spend about two thousand dollars with that store, between the wall furniture and the installation services. I wasn’t able to. Part of my hardware order was canceled because of the bad card, part had to be returned, and I canceled the installation services. So I ended up buying the stuff I needed and getting the home theater installation through zipexpress, a national vendor, with great customer service from a guy named John. The installers came on time, did a good job, and were friendly and professional. The big store still has the money I paid though, and now I have to go back into the customer service nightmare world to get it back.

What’s the name of the store? I’m sorry, irrelevant, could have been any of the big ones. Naming the store turns a blog post about customer service into a diatribe from an angry customer; that’s not my point.


  • Melodie says:

    Windstream should make no claims about good or even acceptable customer service. I have reached this opinion based on how Windstream has treated me over the past 8 days.

    Contact with Windstream on 7-25-08
    I called my local Windstream office to see about telephone and internet service. I gave the lady my information (name, address, cell phone number, etc) She read back the information with the wrong street name. I corrected her saying it was South not West. She told me that someone would call me on 7-28-08 with my new phone number and scheduled installation date and time. As I work via the Internet, I will have to delay working for one week and take a loss of $1000 wages.

    I did not receive a phone call from Windstream.

    I went into the local Windstream office. The lady couldn't find my information in the computer. Finally she found the handwritten form in a cupboard. She wrote my phone number and installation date (8-1-08) on a blue post-a-note and gave it to me. I asked what time on the 1st would the technician be out. She said "Oh, they will call you before they come out". Then she verified my cell phone number.

    Ok I have planned my whole day to be home and available for the Windstream service technician. At 2pm, I call the office wondering if the tech is coming or not. The lady tells me that they work until 7pm and yes the tech will be out. She doesn't verify any information like name, address or contact number.

    8pm on 8-1-08
    No technician, no phone call from the technician or the Windstream office. I contact the repair department as they are the only ones available. The lady there informs me that I am not in the system and would have to contact the business office on Saturday morning between 8 and 5 EST.

    8:15am EST 8-2-08
    I call the phone number I was given by the repair representative and get a recording that tells me I need to call back during business hours. So I call repair again. The lady there tells me I have to wait until 8am my time (MT) to reach the business office. So I go to Windstream.com. There it says that the business office is open from 8:30 to 5 Eastern. By now it is 8:40 Eastern. So I call the business office number again. I still get the recording that I need to call back during business hours.

    So I call repair again. I ask to speak with a supervisor. I explain to the supervisor that I am very upset and I really need to contact the business office. She places me on hold while she gets someone from the business office on the line. The person from business finally finds my installation information. He is upset with me because I don't have the work order number. I was never given a work order number.

    Finally he finds my information and tells me that I gave them the wrong address so my installation was placed on hold until I contacted them. He informed me that it was my fault that the tech was sent to West instead of South and that I would just have to wait until the next available time for installed. I asked him why the technician had not called me when there was a problem; he said "We don't do that. We wait for the customer to call us when we don't show up."

    I went to where I had Internet access to look up the corporate information for Windstream. I find 501-748-7000 is the main office number. I call it and as I expected, got a recording. The male voice said to leave a message and someone would return my call during the next business day. Then a female voice says "This number does not accept messages".

    So the poor communication and customer service starts right at Windstream corp headquarters.

    So here I sit waiting until 8-8-08 sometime between 8 am and noon to maybe, possibly, have a technician appear to install my phone/internet service. I wonder if Windstream will reimburse me for the second week of lost wages or even apologize to me for the physical and emotional stress their poor customer service has caused me.

  • Larry Sheldon says:

    Won't say their name? You don't need to, their name is legion.

    Similar episode here yesterday–ended up with me deciding to eat my small part of the loss and the insurance company to eat the rest (I think that is identical with the problem, but…)

    The setup: I get long-term prescriptions in 90-day chunks by mail.

    In May I got notice (from both the company, and from my GP doctor) that there was some kind of problem with a drug. Replacements were in short supply so they were only going to send 45 days worth at the outset, while I was to return the (unopened-but paid-for) 90-day supply in trouble.

    Fast forward to mid-July, I realized I had never gotten the other 45 days worth. So I used their online "email" to inquire.

    I got a real email saying they had the question, and then another real email saying it had been answered, but I would have to use the "on-line" thingus to see it. (With HIPAA and stupid "business solutions" web packages, that is not as easy as you might think.

    But I finally get to the "email" and buried in about 5000 characters of "you really matter to us" pap is "this is really hard" you have to call Customer Service.

    Now, you may think otherwise, but you have never know pain (unless you are a card-carrying mother of 8) like what this outfit's Automated Attendant Hell can inflict. (An example: You call the number and listen to the cutsey, saccharine into which clues you in that this the worst kind–the kind that uses "voice recognition" that can't make heads or tails of an elderly Californian living in the middle of fly-over country using a modern telephone handset whose quality would be improved i9f they had used tuna cans instead of dog-food cans, and if they would upgrad to waxed linen string. You listen to the choices–nothing about "Customer Service", until you let the line go silent for 30 seconds at which time you get a prompt to ask for more options or to start over. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. Eventually the pause will fetch up a Customer Service option.

    But it turns out they can't do anything because they have decided no to send out the missing 45 days worth! But they were paid for! No matter.

    After a long time listening to what is apparently what Muzak has deteriorated to, I get to talk to a "Resolution Manager" who singsongs through the litany again and again and again. Finally says she will put me through to somebody I can talk to about a refund.

    After enough of the "music" to cause my ears to bleed, I hang up.

    What will the morrow bring? I dunno.

    But I know I can get most of my meds from Walmart for $10/90 days.

    And they treat me like I mattered. (I didn't say they told me I mattered. I said they treat me like I mattered.)

  • Bryan says:

    Hey Tim,

    You are probably aware of the system already but if you call the card/ bank and say, "Never got this stuff and can't seem to get a refund" they will just charge it back against the merchant and credit you. Then someone "not automatic" will get a merchant dispute notice. They will then probably look and see the card is on a canceled order and just approve the charge back. It's probably 3 minutes with merchant services versus 30 with big box store customer service. I don't like the tactic when customers do it to us but hey- they set up the system, you are just playing within the rules.

    Have a great day!

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