Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Good and bad customer service

You may have heard about the idiot AOL rep who wouldn't just let the guy cancel his account. Whether or not AOL wants reps to do a reverse "tough sell,", the rep got canned, and he deserved it. Our friend William J. Beck felt that being fired "would have been an enormous stroke of luck for him, by my lights. He should have received a stout caning about the head and shoulders." That sounds good to me.

Phone jockeying is ordinarily not comparable to the rigor of military service, but if a rep blindly follows management's orders to read scripts verbatim and refuse to cancel calls, it's as bad as the soldier who claims "I was just following orders." There is a point at which you need to think for yourself and decide that what you've been told to do is not the right thing to do, let alone the tech going above and beyond in being a pure jerk.

Well, that's AOL customer service for you. I, thankfully, had two really good customer service experiences in the last couple of days.

After a bit at Saturday's Young Republican-sponsored street fair, I went to C&C Unisex at the Danbury Fair Mall for a trim and fresh highlights. Carol usually cuts my hair, and she's terrific. In fact, the last trim was so good that one of my co-workers gushed over it for two days, telling me "how cute" she thought it was. Carol doesn't do highlights, so another stylist does my highlights before Carol cuts. This time it was Carol's friend, Billy. Maya was the first to give me highlights, and she always did such a good job that I always had her do mine for a couple of years. However, she moved, and since then I've rotated through the weekend staff. There's never been a problem until this last weekend.

Instead of my usual medium blond, this time I wanted a light brown. When I woke up Sunday morning and saw myself in the mirror, I said, "Oh my God!" It was lopsided, with not enough color on the very left side. But the color was the real problem: it had turned into this awful blend of burnt orange and copper. It looked fine when I left the salon, so I don't know what happened. Perhaps the gel darkened my hair and obscured that truly horrible shade, perhaps my hair wasn't rinsed thoroughly enough and kept bleaching. So back to the salon I went on Sunday afternoon.

The woman at the counter said that Billy was off but would be in on Monday, and she asked if I wanted to come back then. No, I replied, I could never go into work looking the way I did, so I needed my hair fixed that day. Valerie did a good job. She evened out the color to a uniform blond (very yellow), then we decided to tone it down to cocoa, with a hint of red. Much, much better. The salon didn't even have to tell me there would be no charge, and in fact I might have been insulted had they said that. It should be implied, and so it is.

My other good experience with customer service was tonight with Yahoo Music Service. It's a little pricier than others, $7 per month and 99 cents per song download. However, its songs are at 192 kbps, instead of the poor 128 kbps that most use, and Yahoo has a very wide selection. For the last two billing cycles I've had a problem that, so the rep told me tonight, some others are also experiencing. My account is active, according to my Yahoo account page, and my credit card is being billed. But the service insists that my account has expired and asks me to log in. Tech support has been completely useless, blaming my computer for not accepting cookies (when in fact it is accepting cookies, because I'm logged in).

Yahoo's billing department's number is (408) 349-5151, open seven days a week from 6 to 6 (Pacific Time). The toll call was no problem since I have plenty of minutes on my cell phone. After 19 of them, the rep was able to cancel my account and refund my last two charges. It took me a bit to explain what I've gone through, and she didn't raise a fuss at any time. The only delay was that she needed several minutes to ask her supervisor to credit my card, which showed up immediately in my Yahoo billing history. I was really impressed.

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