A tale of two customer support experiences

Woman sitting at a PC wearing a telephone headset

Today I’ve had two experiences of customer support: one with a national car insurance firm, the other with a national telecommunications firm.

Customer support experience #1

The first left me feeling frustrated and undervalued as a customer, and the obviously scripted reply of “[name of national car insurance firm] apologise’s for any inconvenience caused”, funnily enough, didn’t help to make me feel any better about our conversation.

I’d contacted them in November 2006 after we’d moved to inform them of our change of address. It was obviously a complicated and unusual request as it cost us a £14.73 administration fee to do so. A few days later (on 8 December) I received a letter from them:

Thank you for asking us to change your address details. This change will take effect from 08/12/06… There is an additional premium due of £14.73.

And here was me foolishly thinking that moving both cars off-street onto our own driveway might even bring the premiums down. When I opened the letter I distinctly heard the sound of a cash register (ker-ching!) and the sound of money being slowly shovelled from our bank account into a safety deposit box somewhere in the south west of the British Isles.

This morning I received a letter from them dated 22 December 2006 addressed to our old address in Cellardyke. In other words, fourteen days after they had confirmed in writing, by letter, that our new address was in their system they sent me a letter to my old address; a letter that took twenty-two days to get here.

So I gave them a call to ask them what was going on, and was our new address actually on their system? And was told that yes of course our new address was on their system didn’t I know that they’d written to tell me that? The problem, of course, lay with me.

You see, what I hadn’t taken into account was that the claims department don’t check the central records for the most up-to-date details during a claim. Because that would a ludicrous idea. Once again, I’d completely forgotten that people plan their car accidents around their house moves.

Customer Service Advisor: I’ll just give you the phone number for the claims department and you can advise them of your change of address.

Me: What?!

Customer Service Advisor: I’ll just give you the phone number for the claims department and you can advise them of your change of address.

Me: Sorry?! Hang on, let me get this right. You want me to telephone your claims department to tell them information that I’ve already told your company and who have already written to confirm that they have it. Forgive me, I don’t understand. Have you got my new address on your system or not?

And it was at that point that he told me that during a particular claim the claims department don’t check the system to see if the contact details are correct, and “[name of national car insurance firm] apologise’s for any inconvenience caused”.

When I hung up I felt angry and frustrated; I felt brushed off and devalued as a customer. Jane and I have been with this company since 1999, since we bought our first car together, and on the whole they have been great: friendly, helpful, courteous and understanding.

In the last year, however, we’ve found their quality of customer service to have plummetted. They’ve been quite consistently rude and discourteous, particularly to Jane as she fought for three months to prove that they had over-charged us. “Oh no, Mrs Saunders, we can’t possibly have got it wrong,” said they to her.

So when our car insurance is next up for renewal we will be moving. Any personal recommendations?

Customer support experience #2

Fast forward to this afternoon when I telephone British Telecom to inquire about how to set up our Broadband Talk telephone line. This is a Voice over IP service that gives me a second, non-geographical telephone number and allows me to make free telephone calls (evenings and weekends) over our broadband internet connection.

I got through fairly quickly, having negotiated the automated options (which if you are interested I got to by dialling 0800 800 150 and then choosing options 1, 1, 1, 1, 2), and spoke with Sandra (names have been changed to protect the innocent).

Me: Hello, I wonder if you can help me. I have the BT Broadband option 4 with free Broadband Talk but we’ve never set up the talk option and I wonder if you can give me a Broadband Talk phone number and password please?

Customer Service Advisor: Certainly.

Me: Great!

Customer Service Advisor: Now, would you like the “Evenings and Weekends” package or the “Anytime” package?

Me: Erm … I’m not sure. We’ve got Option 4 which says it comes with free Broadband Talk.

Customer Service Advisor: That’s the “Evenings and Weekends” package.

Me: Great! Well, we’ll have that one please. That’s perfect for me.

She read out a legal disclaimer (something about not relying on calling the emergency services on that line as the internet connection might go down during a crisis) and then tapped a few things on her computer keyboard and promised me that I’d receive an e-mail within the next two days giving me my new telephone number, password and instructions on how to activate the phone line myself online.

Within two days?! Nonsense.

The confirmation e-mail was in my inbox within an hour and another giving me my new number within two and half hours of that. And the instructions could not have been easier. While I was thinking that I’d have to log in to my router and fiddle about with various settings, all I had to do was log in to my account on their website (they even provided the correct URL) and click on a link which sent an instruction to my router and activated the account. Which worked from within Mozilla Firefox.

Now that is quality customer service and one of the reasons that we’ve stuck with British Telecom.