I've had remarkably good customer service (most of the time) for the past several weeks, so it's no surprise that today saw the return of my customer service demon.
Yes, this is yet another Jed Complains About Customer Service entry. Feel free to skip it.
(For those of you who're new around here: Ever since I moved back to the Bay Area after college, in '91, I've been having really remarkably bad customer service experiences. Sometimes it's at least partly my fault; for example, I often don't speak loudly or clearly enough when ordering in restaurants, and I often fail to make allies out of customer-service people. But various of my friends have long agreed that the kinds of things that happen to me do go beyond what they would expect even taking my failings into account; for example, ordering quietly at a restaurant should not result in the waiter entirely forgetting to deliver my order to the kitchen. I took to referring to the phenomenon as my "customer service demon" some years ago. It disappeared for a while during and after my Wanderjahr in '96-'97, but every so often it pops up again.)
I ordered a nice big flat-screen monitor from Dell on Monday. (Got a special discount through work.) I selected the "three-day shipping" option, which was the cheapest (and slowest) of the available options, though still fairly pricey.
On Monday night, according to the shipment-tracking web page on DHL's site, DHL picked up the package from Dell. Thursday afternoon I checked the tracking page again and saw that there was no update in status since Monday night. I called DHL, and a nice friendly person told me that since it was traveling by ground, there wouldn't be an update posted 'til the package arrived in California Thursday night. "But," she added, "we guarantee delivery tomorrow." I think she even repeated that guarantee a little later. I figured, well, four-day delivery isn't so much worse than three-day; I can live with that. Not a big deal.
But I got home from work tonight and found no package. Checked the tracking page and saw that it had arrived in Fresno at 9:00 last night, and had arrived in Redwood City at 7:15 this morning, and apparently hadn't gone anywhere since then.
I called DHL customer service. The woman who answered was relatively nice, but had no idea what might have gone wrong. She sent a message to the Redwood City office and included my phone number and asked them to call me tomorrow. I said, "Do you deliver on Saturday?" She said, "Only if the shipper sent it as a Saturday Delivery package." I said, "Since I was guaranteed that it would be delivered today, I'd like you to deliver it tomorrow." She said, "I'm sure the Redwood City office will be happy to discuss that with you when they call you tomorrow, sir." We sniped at each other a little longer, then I got off the phone. I had, alas, forgotten the extremely helpful first rule of customer-service interaction, which Arthur H. taught me a while ago (I'm loosely paraphrasing here): treat the customer-service person as if they and you are friendly colleagues working together to deal with a difficult problem that isn't the fault of either of you. But I did more or less remember my second rule of customer service interaction: As soon as it becomes clear that they can't or won't help you, or that they aren't going to be able to understand your question, end the conversation as quickly as possible.
So I thought, hmm, I probably can't get them to do anything to make up for failing to deliver on this alleged "guarantee," because presumably if they made a guarantee it was really to Dell rather than me. So (I thought) maybe Dell can exert some pressure on them to deliver it on a Saturday.
So I called Dell's customer service number. I entered my customer number, and I navigated three or four levels deep into their phone tree. There was a brief snatch of music. Then another, different. Then silence. A minute or so later, the line went dead.
I tried again. Same result, only after the second momentary snippet of music, a recording came on the line:
"Thank you for callatee for callatee for callatee for callatee for callatee for callatee for callatee for callatee for—"
I've never heard a major business's answering system skip before. I pressed zero to see if I could speak to an operator, and the line went dead.
I tried one more time. And after entering all my information again and navigating the phone tree again, I finally reached a recording telling me that it was after hours and there was nobody to talk with me.
So I went back to the Dell website, where I'd found the phone number (with no mention of what their hours were). There was a "Chat With Us" option that said "Get an immediate response from a Dell representative." I followed the link and reached a page of half a dozen possible departments I could chat online with. Only they all said "All agents are currently busy. Please refresh the page to see if agents become available."
Come on, people! Lands' End, not exactly the highest-tech company in the world, has a queue system that lets you line up to chat online with customer service. But all Dell can manage, despite being one of the biggest computer companies in the world (and don't they have a reputation for excellent customer service?) is a page that you can keep refreshing until someone's free.
I came back a couple minutes later and reloaded. It told me someone was free now. I clicked the link and was told to type in info about myself and then to type my question. I did. It told me that now nobody was free to talk with me.
Repeat above paragraph, except that this time I just pasted in my question instead of typing it, so it took a total of maybe ten seconds between clicking the "chat with representative" link and clicking the submit button on the form. And it still told me nobody was available to talk with me. So even after you click the link to chat with someone, you still don't get into a queue; it's just pure luck whether you happen to be able to type fast enough to get to the available rep before someone else does.
Third try's the charm. I did it again, fast as possible. And got . . .
. . . a page saying that I wasn't actually a home or home-office customer, so I would have to contact them some other way.
They couldn't have told me that ten minutes earlier; no, they had to wait to tell me that until I was fast enough to get all my info in before the service person was busy again.
At that point, I resorted to their email support system. We'll see if it's any better. (I did get an autoresponse from their email support system; it told me that it might take up to 24 hours for them to reply.)
It's possible that DHL will tell me tomorrow that they're very sorry and they'll deliver it immediately. But I ain't holdin' my breath.
Well done, demon!
I should mention that I'm not actually bitter or angry about this; mostly just wryly amused at this point.