Held Hostage by Customer Service

They simply don’t make things like they used to.  After 6 years of operation, my washing machine took a dive.   The transmission blew, but before that could be official, I needed to have a repair technician provide an accurate diagnosis.   The machine wouldn’t spin or do anything. It just loudly clicked. I called multiple places. I asked for referrals on our neighborhood Facebook page. I asked new contacts at networking events of any appliance repair man they knew.  I was looking for “the guy” to fix my washing machine as a mountain of laundry developed by the moment. 

The first referral provided from by the neighborhood Facebook page never returned my call.  The first blind call to the most reputable spot found on Google, tried to upsell me 10 times before actually confirming the appointment. With instant trepidation in my gut, I cancelled that appointment 20 minutes after scheduling it. Seriously, if you’re training your call center attendants to upsell before the appointment, how have you trained your technicians? Will they be able to fix it the first time or is this a money pit dive? 

I called the second most recommended Google source and was given a window of arrival for the technician.  That window was originally 8am – 11am, but when I mentioned that I had to get my daughter to school at 9am, they suggested a 9am – 12pm window.  I thought, “wow, you’re looking out for me.”  That is the last moment this thought would be entertained.

I provided my credit card information to hold the appointment, and moments later, I received a text notification with appointment details, arrival windows, the name of the technician and his cell phone number. I was impressed with this use of technology.  I was told that the technician would call or text me when in route to my house.  

Two days later while at a networking event, I was given a referral for an independent appliance repair guy.   His name was Dave. Dave’s contact info was texted to me with his first name and a phone number.   And although grateful for the referral, the hassle of trying to re-arrange schedules combined with laundry piles reaching new elevations, I refrained from reaching out. I was intrigued and decided to keep Dave as a backup.

At 10:30am on the day of the appointment (now in the middle of the time frame window), I called the appliance repair offices for any updates or ETAs for arrival.  I was told I’d be given an update and the line went dead. Expecting to be placed on hold, I dialed the main line once again and the phone was answered by a different customer service agent.  I provided my name and advised the operator that my call had been disconnected. Rather than being placed on hold and connected to the original customer service agent, the operators began discussing my name and updates with each other as if I wasn’t on the call. The agent soon returned her attention to me, and I was told they would call back with an update. 

An hour passed.  No update. 

At this point, I felt like a hostage in my own home. My dogs were pacing back and forth at the front door; anxious for their daily walk. Incessant whining from two Wheaton Terriers who knew that their schedule had also been altered on this day.  Their whining echoed throughout the house and empathized the fact that I was confined to my home and held captive by customer service.

At 11:30am, I texted the company from the original text thread received the week prior.  I asked if I should be concerned because I had provided my credit card information to confirm the appointment and no one was responding to my request for updates. No response.

So now I need to vent. I call my sister. I communicate my frustrations, and she advises: “It’s what they do. That guy will roll into your drive at 11:59.” 

Turns out he would be late. But my sister’s statement hit a nerve. “It’s what they do.”  Why do we accept this as the norm?

At 11:58 I called the referral provided to me from the networking event. Dave immediately answered the phone and diagnosed the washing machine’s condition:

“It’s the transmission. I won’t take your money.  It’s not worth my time or yours for me to come out and try to repair. Visit my website, I have machines that I recommend there.” 

Instant trust.

At 12:13pm while finalizing my conversation with Dave, guess who arrives at my house?  You guessed it. The man who held me hostage all morning long. There was no text or communication to advise that he was in route as the initial confirmation email suggested. No true apology or acknowledgement that he was late. In fact, all customer service promises – broken. His diagnosis the same as Dave from the phone.

washing spilling out of washing machine

How could one person diagnose over the phone and the other need an ineffective call center that failed at communicating the appliance issues in the first place? What if the call center could relay the initial concerns to the technician in advance?  Why not charge a phone diagnostic fee? Why keep me hostage in my home for three hours? 

Which brings me to the essence of “the window.”  I find that most clients when given a window of time believe and assume that the supplier will arrive at the top of that window.   

Supplier: “It could take 30 – 45 minutes.”

Client thought: (so 30 minutes).

Supplier: “It could take an hour or two.”

Client thought: (One hour.)

When did communicating expectations become a challenge?  Advising the time frame of “the window” would eliminate any frustrations from the start.  If you tell a client, “hey our guys run late,” or “here is the window and you’re the first or third appointment of the day,” then the client can guestimate. Use of technology to provide text updates is also encouraged.

Suppliers consider this. When you are called for a service need, it’s because there is a pain point attached to it. Life and routines cannot be performed because the car, the washing machine, the air conditioner, the heater, etc. does not work.  We desperately hope for a prompt repair and for life schedules to return to the norm. Mountains of laundry depend on you.

Simply communicate expectations and capabilities. Under promise and over deliver and you will find loyal clients and advocates for your business even when things go wrong.  

Companies have been purposely omitted from this blog.  Want to learn who the customer service offenders were? Respond below and I’ll reveal the businesses from this post.

2 Replies to “Held Hostage by Customer Service”

  1. Hi Holly.
    Loved your post.
    I must know who those clowns were. The competition is fierce in that industry. Those owners will end up working for someone else if they don’t figure out what customer service is. I’ll tell you one thing it isn’t…Rocket Science.

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