Point taken: Why customer service is broken — and how to fix it

For many of us, posting on social media is a daily habit. For parents, that often means updates about what their young children are up to. (Robin Worrall/Unsplash)
(Robin Worrall/Unsplash)

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You have a problem with your cell phone provider. Or your printer. Or your cable provider. So, you turn to customer service for help.

Press one. Press two. Try to talk to a human, but you can’t.

Our recent show asked the question: Is customer service bad on purpose?

Here, some listeners share their stories:

Jim in Savannah, Georgia

My experience has to do with the low hanging wire that was in my backyard. It was hanging to the point of being dangerous. I spent much of a recent Saturday trying to report it as a safety hazard. I used their telephone number, their website and their online app, and I was unsuccessful in getting to talk to a real person or to find a way to report my problem. What I frequently ran into was a request to restart my cable box on my TV. After I gave up with that, I received a call from their customer service asking how I would rate my call experience.

Erica from Seattle

I have also worked in customer service, and I've also worked as a web producer on e-commerce sites. I think a lot of people also need to consider the fact that companies are always looking at cutting costs all the time, and that seems to figure — have a big impact — on customer service.

And so if you're receiving bad customer service on a website, you're calling a number or a webchat or you can't reach somebody, it's usually because the company is trying to cut corners by hiring less customer service staff. And so I think that's something that companies need to address. That they really want to provide good customer service, they need to be able to invest the money, and having enough people available to have a robust customer support center.

Madeline from Bellevue, Washington

I empathize and sympathize with every horror story that I'm hearing, and have had horror stories. Maybe not as horrible, but really bad. But I wanted to actually leave a story about a positive experience I had with, of all companies, Apple.

I was having a nightmare in my calendars and things weren't showing up. It was a complete mess. I was missing appointments, so I reached out to AppleCare and ended up sharing my screen of both my phone and my computer with a lovely man from Apple customer service.

And he took the time to go through every single possible reason why my calendars weren't sinking, and he fixed them and there were like three different issues. So I just wanted to say that because you hear all the bad stuff, but this was actually a very positive experience and it left me feeling almost hopeful for our future as a society.

Stu in Ohio

I worked for a company where the owner came in and looked at customer service people and said, this large customer of hers was complaining about service. And that was a clue right there. It was the salespeople and the delivery staff, but she was yelling at the customer service department. So I always hated the terms customer service because it pinpoints those with that title. No. 2, I worked for a company that was purchased by another company that was actually bigger. Our ecommerce system was actually better.

And of course, they bought the company for the customers, many of whom I knew for ten, 15 years. They were not happy and there was nothing I could do about it. It was purely just over money. They knew the system was better, but they just moved them into a worse system.

Patti from Savannah, Georgia

Around ten years ago when my husband and I bought our current home, we scheduled Comcast to come and connect our Internet and telephone, television system. And after about the fourth or fifth appointment, after which we still did not have Internet connection, I went online to the Comcast website and dug around until I found the vice president of customer service.

Name and email address. I emailed the Vice President of Customer Service. And I had a response from him within 24 hours and within three days I had a supervisor level installer at my home who stayed the entire day until everything was working perfectly. The great experience, at a time when Comcast was really struggling with customer service. And so maybe people need to go online and look for those vice presidents of customer service and email them respectfully, but go straight to the person at the top.

Sydney Wertheim Associate Producer, On Point
Sydney Wertheim is an associate producer for On Point.



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