Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Customer Service: Orchids and Onions

I made two calls in the past 24 hours -- one to Citibank and one to Sirius Radio for customer service help. Two totally different experiences.

Onions to Citibank

I had received some of those credit card checks where I could make a balance transfer with 0% interest through January 2013.  Yes, 2013! Good deal. The letter said that I could make the check out to any credit card, or make it out to myself and deposit it so I could use it for any purpose. The purpose I was considering was to put my estimated taxes on this credit card, using a check, so I wouldn't feel too stretched out financially.

However it wasn't clear whether I could make a check out to the IRS, and I didn't want to take that chance of having a tax payment rejected. So I called their handy dandy "hotline" (their word, not mine) to ask this simple (or so I thought) question.

I didn't have the credit card in my hand, but I did have the letter and the checks. When asked to enter my 16-digit account number, I looked at the check, noticed a string of numbers that could be 16 digits and said those. Evidently that worked as I got through to the woman.

I told her what I wanted and she said she had to first verify that the checks I have are still good. I said yes they are, I just got them today, and I have them in my hand and I'm reading that they are good until 9/29/11.

Not good enough. Maybe I was hallucinating or making that up -- she insisted she had to check on the validity of the checks and so she needed my 16-digit account number. I told her I wasn't sure and gave her the number I'd used to get through.

That wasn't it. I was in my bedroom, and I wasn't about to run up the stairs to get mycredit card and told her so and she insisted she needed the number.

Just to answer my question? I asked.

Yes, so I said "Well, then you can't help me today, and I'll have to call back another time."

Next was a classic. She said, "Thank you for calling Citibank. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

I said, "No, and by the way, you were of zero help to me."

These people make me crazy. I found my hands were shaking, and I feel like I have a high boiling point, but she pressed every bad customer service button I have.

Orchids to Sirius Radio

On the other hand, I have my friends at Sirius Radio. As you may recall, I have enjoyed having Sirius in my rental cars and for the Oshkosh trip, I opened an account and was told to cancel it when I get back. I'm going on another weeklong trip on August 22 so I was wondering if I should just let it slide.

I got the number for Sirius, which was immediately answered... picked "Manage my account" as my choice and then when given the next group of choices, I wanted none of them and I said "I want to talk to a person."

Guess what happened?

The automated voice said, "I hear you say that you'd like to talk to a person in our Listener Care department. Is that right?"

I said yes. The only other question was whether I was calling from the phone number that is registered in my account -- no need to hear my 72-digit account number. So when I said yes, the woman was on the line.

I long suspected that technology was available that could detect when someone was asking to speak to a real person. This is the only time, at Sirius, where I experienced it. 
I explained my situation; she said I could put the account on hold, re-open it on August 22 and I would have to pay a $15 transfer fee to get the service from one rental car to the next which I thought was reasonable. But as it turned out, I had been charged for the next month already and so she credited me and I have a $17 credit with Sirius.

This was one of those simple yet complicated calls and I said to the woman that I was sorry to be a pain -- really it's a lot of paperwork for not that much money for Sirius. I told the woman I had been impressed by the high level of customer service I'd received from Sirius and she was a human being and thanked me, said this call was easy and if all her calls were like this, she'd be happy. We reviewed everything and she wished me, and I feel genuinely so, a pleasant evening... not that sing-songy bull of what the script tells her to say.

Years ago, there was a newspaper feature called Onions and Orchids... so Onions to Citibank for their bureaucratic useless hotlines with mandatory 16-digit account numbers, and orchids to Sirius for understanding what customers want when it comes to service.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

I love it when I get good customer service! I suppose it's because it's so rare! I love the 'onions and orchids' designation!