Banking 
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Are Online Savings Accounts Worth It?

Hand Painted Piggy BankMy friend asked me the other day whether I thought high yield savings accounts were worth it. He’s an engineer and a numbers guy at heart, so he appreciates the mathematical differences between an online savings account and your standard no-interest checking account. What he wanted to know was whether there were headaches involved in dealing with something that was online-only.

I think that as I’ve gotten older, the amount of headache I’m able to stand has dropped significantly. A few years ago, I’d be willing to stay on the phone for an hour with a Comcast rep arguing down my bill. I’d research purchases for hour, then wring my hands for days, and then research some more before pulling the trigger. Now? With all the other headaches I have, the last thing I want to do is add to the mix!

(Click to continue reading…)


 Shopping 
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Netflix Good Customer Service Experience Story

As a fairly frugal person, it wasn’t until recently that I opened an account at Netflix. Maybe it was the monthly fees or the fact that I saw stacks of the same movies week after week on my friends’ coffeetables, but I never really got why people loved Netflix so much.

(Click to continue reading…)


 Shopping 
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Call Center CSRs Ruin Customer Experience

Yesterday I wrote about how I closed my Washington Mutual account by mail and the infuriating experience I had with a call center CSR. If you don’t feel like reading the entire saga, here’s the thirty second recap. I wanted to close my WaMu account and was given incorrect information that led to additional headaches and a $4 service fee. I called to try to close the account and discovered I was given incorrect information and charged the fee, so I was struggling with the CSR to get both the fee removed and the account closed. Eventually I learned the correct process and had the fee removed, end of story.

The infuriating part of the entire process was the fact that the first person you talk to isn’t going to help you unless it’s on their script. I understand the need for companies to outsource call centers to areas with a lower cost of living. The bottom line is the bottom line, cutting expenses is has a direct impact on that and outsourcing customer service is something all businesses are looking at. The problem is that you cheapen the user experience in interacting with your company and, if you frustrate them, you could potentially lose a customer because they don’t want to deal with your crap.

Unfortunately, it’s gotten to the point where people have associated accents with outsourcing and outsourcing with garbage customer service. I’ve been primed to believe that if I hear an accent then chances are I’m dealing with an outsourced CSR who is forced to follow a script and probably answers phones for multiple companies. They are effectively living, breathing robots.

Businesses need to think of customer service not as a cost they should be reducing but an opportunity to build a relationship at the first level, not at the escalation level. I was so frustrated at hearing the same canned response from the CSR that by the time I got to the supervisor, who coincidentally had no accent and all the authority (thus reinforcing an entirely unreasonable association), I was already formulating a blog post about how I’m glad WaMu got gobbled up. The supervisor was great though, she immediately removed the charge and told me how to properly get the account closed.

I was leaving and they were making it easy (they could’ve demanded the $4 fee), which made me kind of sad they were being gobbled up… but companies really need to rethink their call center strategy. There’s are quite a few similarities between all the hated banks, hated cable companies, hated internet companies, hated cell phone companies, and other hated companies – infuriating outsourced call centers. (and relentless fees!)


 Shopping 
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Howard County Verizon Technicians: Thumbs Up!

I think that the key to finding a good cable company is identifying which ones have the best local technicians. The call centers will always be spotty, I’m sure those folks are overstaffed and overwhelmed (especially if they’re located internationally, if you’ve ever seen the documentaries), so their performance is always going to vary depending on when in their shift you call. Get lucky and get someone just beginning their shift, you’ll probably get 100% accuracy. Find someone who just ended a horrible 30 minute call with a customer bitching at them… probably not the best time to get them. So the discriminator should be the local technicians (since services will vary little, unless it’s Comcast downsampling HD!) and I wanted to give a ringing endorsement to the local technicians in the Howard County area (I have no idea how their areas are segregated). I’ve had two calls (installation and one repair) and each went very well.

My most recent one began the other day when my wireless connection to the Verizon-provided cable modem and router went down. I turned on my XBox 360 to see if the connection is still good because it’s connected via ethernet cable (I could’ve brought my computer down and connected it but I figured if all was well, I could squeeze in a couple games of Call of Duty 4 for my trouble :) ) but that connection was down as well. So, I called up Verizon and we went through the process of resetting the router, resetting the box outside (not sure what it’s called), and then checking the settings on my computer (traceroutes, pings, resets, the works). All fail. No biggie, electronics fail all the time.

That’s when the Verizon tech said that the problem was probably the coaxial connector on the cable modem/router. The explanation seemed a bit off, since I could ping the IP of the box outside (meaning the signal went through that connector), but the end result was that they’d mail me a new cable modem/router which was a good thing. The modem was supposed to arrive on Monday but when I called that night, the CSR on the phone let it slip that perhaps the last CSR didn’t complete the shipment order. What’s funny is that when I asked him directly whether the package was shipped, he would give me evasive answers (I didn’t ask more than once, I just thought it was funny he’d respond like taht). Anyway, the end result was that a local technician would be out the next day.

So a lackluster performance by the call center but once again the local technicians came through. The woman arrived first thing in the morning and got to work. We tested out everything, swapped out the cable router, and still no wireless or wired connection. She reset the box outside, still no good. She played with the settings on my computer, which I had jacked up trying to get the XBox to use my computer as a wireless modem – I couldn’t figure it out. Still nothing. Eventually we tried the XBox again and then finally the computer connected without a problem. Apparently we just didn’t wait long enough for the box to fully cycle when we tried to connect the first time. Either way, she said that she’d stick around until everything was up and running.

Now, I don’t consider that above and beyond service, but given all the complaints people have about technicians (like sleeping on the job), I figured a story about how a technician that showed up on time, was courteous and did a thorough job, would be a nice change of pace. :)

Thumbs up Verizon, please keep it up.


 Shopping 
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Crappy Customer Service

I was reading Capital Ideas today and the lead post was titled “Bad Customer Service: Baskin Robbins” and it was about the promotion Yahoo! ran yesterday where registered members could print out a coupon for a free scoop of ice cream in celebration of Yahoo!’s 10th anniversary. If the closest Baskin Robbins was too far away, I may have run into this very scenario. In essence, he brought the coupon in and Baskin Robbins wouldn’t honor it. Now you have a disgruntled customer posting on his blog about the awful customer service of an ice cream chain that isn’t doing as well as, say a Coldstone Creamery (they’re awesome by the way).

This got me thinking about my own customer service troubles. There was this one time that I brought in a coupon for 50 free prints to the Kodak PhotoCenter in a Target. The manager looked at the coupon (it was a printout from the Target website) and then looked me as I was just caught shoplifting baby clothes. She asked me I had ever used the coupon there before (no, I just printed it out that afternoon) and then asked me my name and practically scolded me. She told me that she had my name on record and that if I tried to use it again she would report me. Report me to whom? I gave her the coupon and took my prints. The prints were absolutely awful. Kodak prints terrible terrible digital photos. How do I know? I printed out the same photo from Snapfish, Target, and ShutterFly and the Kodak’s were the worst by far. I wrote Target a letter and was told that the Kodak photo centers are their own company and I left the matter alone. Don’t go to the Kodak booth in the Target in Silver Spring, MD.

Well, that’s a case of bad customer service. I have several instances of good customer service. I once bought a 12 pack of Diet Cokes from somewhere and they had no syrup! I called up Coca-Cola (number printed nicely on the can) and after I told them some tracking numbers so they could do quality control stuff, they sent me a nice metallic coupon for a free 12 pack. I probably should’ve tried the rest of the Diet Cokes but two of the 12 were bad and so I tossed the other 10. Starbucks once sent me two coupons for free drinks (anything you wanted) after I complained about rude service from a Starbucks in a rest stop. So some companies are on top of their game and others just don’t get it.

I suspect that if Murray complained to Baskin Robbins management, they’d send him a letter and a few coupons for the treatment he received at that franchise.


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