'Customer Service' and the importance thereof has been rammed down the throats of upper management for so long now that you would have thought there was nothing more to say on the subject: all companies must, by now, have CS departments of surpassing quality. End of story.
But I fear this is far from the case.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the job of finding a new web hosting service for a number of domain names, in preparation for some radical changes we are making to our business management software. After considerable Googling, I settled on a company I had used before called 123-Reg, who were offering a decent deal for transferring names. I duly went through the transfer process, somewhat perplexed but not beaten by the byzantine convolutions apparently required by their unhelpfully-designed web site. At the end of it, I expected two of the domains to be running smoothly with the remainder on hold.
However, both domains, for which all steps had been completed and files duly uploaded, returned 'server not found' errors, despite my best efforts. Check all the steps. Re-check. Everything looks fine. I reach for the phone and dial their 'customer service' number. After the usual multiple button-pushing and a few minutes of Mozart, a soothing, female voice tells me the unsurprising news that due to 'unprecedented levels of traffic' it is unlikely that anyone will get around to talking to me for at least 25 minutes and that meanwhile they would be charging me 10p per minute to listen to pop classics.
Much as I love Mozart, the sound quality on my telephone is not what you would call 'high fidelity' and, in any case, I was not willing to clog my phone line for half an hour at my expense. So I scribbled a curt note on some headed paper and made for the fax machine, reminding myself that, just occasionally, it was indeed a useful gadget. It took me a minute or two to recall the sequence of operations, but I managed to get it to dial and swallow my original. Engaged. Never mind - it has auto-redial and will do so for at least three attempts. So I left it to it's dialling and went back to my pc to fire off an email, explaining the problem and requesting help.
Taking another look at their site, I noticed that they are owned by Pipex, for which no number was given. Directory enquiries provided me with - bless them - an 0800 number! Only two options to select from, one rang for a couple of munutes and then cut me off. The other was answered by a chap who sounded like his phone hadn't rung for a couple of weeks and he was quite surprised that there were still people out there who had his number. When I explained that DE had given me an 0800 number, he said that he didn't know there was such a thing and in any case 123-Reg was a separatge company, had nothing to do with him and he couldn't put me through to them. I asked him if he had any numbers for 123-Reg other than the useless one I had already dialled. He reluctantly admitted that he had a number for their head of Customer Service - jackpot! So I thought. But, with his number burned onto my redial list, I can reveal that the Head of Customer Service for 123-Reg is either dead at his desk with the receiver off-hook, or is so frightfully busy dealing with the thousands of complaints from dissatisfied customers that he hardly has time to put his phone down between calls. Either way, he does not answer.
Someone handed me a note to say that my fax, despite its auto-dial feature, had failed to get through.
So, here I am, a week later, with no response to phone, fax or email, a CS manager who is permanently unavailable and two web sites that do not work.
This is one company that had better get its 'customer service' act together pretty damn quick to avoid losing this customer - and, I suspect, many others.