It’s a Customer Service Kinda Afternoon

It’s raining. It’s the first week of August. It’s PEI. Result: streets clogged with grumpy, soggy people who don’t really know where they’re going. Scene is set for mass grumpysteria.

Driving through New Brunswick, I found that my digital cell phone (a Nokia 3285 from Island Tel/Aliant) wouldn’t switch back to digital mode after automatically switching to analog mode in an analog-only area. I phoned Aliant in New Brunswick, and they told me my phone was probably broken and that I should drop in to the phone centre upon my return.

So I did, this afternoon. At 3:00 p.m. there was one clerk available, and two people in line. I sat down. Waited 15 minutes. The line didn’t move. The next person in line asked us all how long we’d been there, and I learned that the person in front of me had been there for 40 minutes already. Nobody at Island Tel/Aliant seemed particularly concerned, or even mindful of the problem.

I excused myself and ducked into the phone booth across the hall and called 611 (formerly the repair number for Island Tel, now repurposed as the Mobility phone number). The clerk there told me that I should go next door to the “mobility shop.” This is an office located in a temporary-looking building next door that used to act as a sort of parallel cell phone universe in the old days; I didn’t know they were still around. I hiked over there, and the man behind the desk told me that the behaviour of my cell phone was “normal” — in other words, for some crazy reason my phone, once in analog mode, has to be manually switched back into digital mode by either turning it off, or by chanting a special series of menu commands. The craziness of this seemed lost on the technician, and I went on my merry way.

Next stop, TD Canada Trust, to deposit a pay cheque for my brother Johnny. I decided that, since I was headed out towards the Charlottetown Mall anyway, I would stop by the Wal-Mart branch of the bank. So I fought my way out North River Road, found a parking space, waded in through the rain to the teller’s desk. Only to be told that “this is an in-store branch, we don’t offer any teller services here.” Which begs the question, what does the branch do? In any case, I headed back into the crowded rainy streets, thinking the world was plotting against me.

Up the hill to Future Shop, thinking I might exorcise my frustrations with Island Tel/Aliant by jumping shop to Rogers or Telus. Behind the cell phone counter was a pleasant but knowledge-free saleskid who, despite thrashing around from computer to computer, was unable to do anything more than pull a print-out from the Telus website, and tell me that although they have a complete display of Rogers GSM phones, they won’t actually sell them because Rogers service on PEI is so bad. Sensing that I should get out while the getting was good, I took my printout and headed home.

More crazy traffic. Stopped at Tim Horton’s to get a [rare, this summer] Iced Cappucinno, and received the usual stellar Murphy Group customer service — probably less than 20 seconds from order to driving out of the parking lot. Proof, at least, that there’s still some hope for service, even if only for caffeine.


nathan's picture
nathan on August 8, 2003 - 21:52 Permalink

As an account holder at the very same in-store branch, I quite enjoy not having to wait in line behind people depositing cheques and getting cash. I don’t go into the branch often, but it’s been convenient for services you can’t do online or at an ATM like fix a problem with your account or get a money order. But it’s not going to last. I received a letter recently that the in-store branch will be closing and my account will move to the downtown branch. Whatever that means, I’m sure it will still be on the same computer.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 9, 2003 - 00:34 Permalink

My pet peeve would be standing behind a “ticket person” at the counter…me with my diet soda in hand…the person in front of me checking their mittful for a winning ticket, collecting their winnings (seldom more then $1.00)then selecting from a glass drawer a specific, identical in everything but theme, but mindlessly inconsequential type of scratch ticket. While I wait, I really hate it when the little old ladies open a pocket in their purse, take out a smaller change purse, unsnap a snap, unsnap another, count out to the penny, and resnap every snap in reverse sequence…a seemingly endless ritual of snaps and security barriers for their pennies. Christ, have you ever counted the snaps? I remember 4 one time.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on August 10, 2003 - 20:27 Permalink

Perhaps a great deal of customer service problems stem from people not feeling fulfilled by their jobs. I think it leads to a situation where solving your problem, or not, matters nothing in the difference.

This leads to something that feels like “if these rules solve your problem then we’ll get along — if they don’t then you (the customer) are just hard to deal with anyway” type of thinking.

I’m not sure if there is a solution to bad customer service; many businesses these days find themselves in margins that don’t have room for much service (just see if you can get a water pump or vacuum fixed, for example).

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 11, 2003 - 17:23 Permalink

Bad customer service is, as the ad says, quite often…”You are too slow, you can’t respond, and you are in denial” or spoiled customers…take your pick.