The Devil Incarnate

the devilThe scene: 

We’d been talking about it all week – that ‘big game’ banter. It’s an important year, it’s an important game, it’s a massive rivalry and a cauldron of passion and emotion….and we had die hard supporters of both sides – this was going to be massive! Even better, it was a Friday night game meaning it was a 9 a.m. kick off in New Zealand, live on Sky 1. Get in! Thank you (wo)man in the Sky!

What on earth am I writing about? I’m talking about Wales vs. England in a sell out Millennium Stadium to open up the Six Nations Rugby Tournament in 2015 England World Cup year.

We’d got it all worked out. Four families all going round to Stu’s (biggest screen – obvious choice!). Mostly England fans but pockets of Welsh resistance within.

We were going to do a full English* Breakfast fry up at the end, and the shopping list had been divided up and bought. It was going to be an epic post match feed. (* an omen perhaps?!)

We get to Stu’s at 08:30, and stack the breakfast goodies in the kitchen – tonnes of bacon, sausages, eggs, hash browns, tins of baked beans, mushrooms to fry, bread for toast, (exotic) corn fritters….and so on. Jonesy had even remembered the HP sauce – good man!

H had already got the tea pot on for a brew.

Stu’s got the TV on and is playing with the remote.

Stu: “eh? It’s not showing on the sky listing anymore!” said in an uncertain and shaky voice “it was there the other day. What the hell’s going on?!”

Me: “perhaps it’s moved over to the Rugby channel.”

Stu: “erm, no, not on Rugby channel or ESPN”….losing his composure a bit “…what the @#$% is going on.”

Me: “Have we got the right day?”to which I receive a stern look.

In walks Paul with 5 mins. to go before kickoff. He’s a bit more ‘techy’ than Stu and I (which isn’t hard): “use ‘Sky GO’ and stream it live.”

Now, picture the scene….we’ve got:

  • Stu doing the comedy typing thing on an (allegedly) SMART TV – trying to speed type website addresses, user names, passwords etc. with a TV remote control. If you’ve ever tried it you will know how frustrating it is;
  • Jonesy texting his mates up in Auckland to see if they are having the same troubles and trying to work out alternative methods of obtaining the holy grail of live rugby;
  • Paul trying to find a number to ring Sky…looks all over website, can’t find one (why do they make it so hard to have a 2-way interaction with them!)…finds a number….on hold, clearly very busy at the movement….wonder why!!
  • Me being as much use as a chocolate fire guard….but offering lots of helpful suggestions (I thought they were). H was keeping me supplied with tea to calm my nerves;
  • The ladies in the kitchen surveying the mountain of food and wondering how on earth we’ll eat it all. (We will);
  • Loads of kids in various states: some desperate to watch the rugby, some running riot around the house.

We tried all sorts of internet sites, including Sky Go: all the genuine ones said that we couldn’t view it from New Zealand; a number of dodgy sites requested credit card details – Stu did really well and resisted. Jonesy was willing to pay with the shirt off his back but we protected him from himself.

Finally, after over an hour of trying (i.e. the 2nd half had already started) we all reached that point when, looking around the room and seeing the pain in our comrades eyes, we admitted defeat. We weren’t going to get to watch the rugby live.

But NO, Jonesy wasn’t having this…he wasn’t going to let Sky get away with this – they were playing with people’s lives….he was going to ring that number and wait to talk to someone no matter what it took! His rationale was that they needed to know how we felt, they needed to know what they had done, they needed our feedback else how can they improve.

So he rings the 0800 number…and he waits…and he waits…and he waits.

The music comes on, he puts it on loud speaker so that we can all enjoy, thanks Jonesy – all heart.

And then, after 10 minutes of waiting, it happens – the computer talks to us:

“Thank you for your patience. Because your call is important to us we have increased your priority in the queue.”

Oh man, that really set me off. If they knew there was a Steve ‘button to press’, they had found it! (I even wrote down the exact words so I could write this post).

What does their message even mean! The first sentence is okay…the second part?????

How have they increased our priority in the queue?

How is this any different to a ‘first in, first served’ priority that we should all expect as normal decency?

How do they know that we should be of a higher priority – they don’t know who we are or what we want (yet).

These words are worse than throw away…they are infuriating, treating the human being (the customer) as some low intelligence life form who is expected to be pleased, puppy-like, with the words “you are important so we’ve bumped you up the queue.”

Important? No we’re not – if we were important you would have spare capacity in your contact centre so that you could answer your calls!

Bumped up the queue? No you haven’t – we are in the exact same place as before, only now we’ve been waiting longer whilst you’ve been attempting to answer all those calls above us!

Now, just to finish this up:

  • we heard that lovely message a further four times in the 20 minutes we waited. Fat good that increase in priority did!
  • Jonesy did get to have his rant at the call centre agent: I thought Jonesy was very restrained considering. He’s a nice polite English man;
  • we turned the TV off and consoled ourselves with cooking one humungous breakfast…’comfort food’ if you will…and it was good;
  • Stu wandered around the house, dazed, a broken man, looking a shadow of his former self;
  • we all spent the day with our fingers in our ears so that no one could tell us the score…and then reconvened in the evening to watch the replay;
  • ….consolation: England won!!! (commiserations to my Welsh friends)

So, what’s the point?

There’s a couple:

  1. Any company that plays at the customer service game (i.e. that doesn’t actually get it) thinks/acts as if the customer need starts with the customer attempting to make contact with them. In reality, the customer’s need can start hours, days, even weeks earlier. So much so that when that customer hears ‘that message’ it is soooo much more than a simple computer message…it is the devil!
  2. A computer message might be helpful…but it can also be incredibly harmful! Words that sound like marketing spin or, even worse, like you think your customer is a bit dim, are very likely to wind your customer right up, so much so that the poor customer service agent then has to spend some of that precious ‘handling time’ bringing them back down again!

We should be really careful about the use of those computer thingys when attempting to serve our customers.

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