Dissatisfaction, customer service and surprises

Like all modern consumers, I have a love/hate relationship with many suppliers, which can be largely driven by their products or their customer service [or, sometimes, both]. Mostly, I am aware from being on the “other side”, customers happiness is largely driven by managing their expectations, then delivering on them.

In recent days, I have had slightly irritating experiences with two very different companies, both of whom had the opportunity to have a totally satisfied customer, but failed to take it …

My first challenge was with British Telecom – the primary supplier of telephony and Internet services in the UK. I normally find them OK to deal with, but I guess we all have our off days. Among the services they provide is a voicemail facility on my landline, which is simple to use and better than having an answering machine, as it can take messages when the line is busy with another call. Some years ago, they used to provide the capability to access messages remotely. All I needed to do was call my own number, wait for the answering service to respond and press * and enter a PIN. I was wondering whether this service was still available.

I spent a while looking at BT’s website, but could not figure out the answer. I noticed that I could use a “chat” service to make enquiries – this seemed like a good idea. It was not. I “spoke” with a total of 4 agents, each of whom had a very narrow view of the company’s services: “You want to collect voicemail using your mobile. I will transfer you to the mobile team.”; “You do not have a BT mobile? I will transfer you to the landline team.”; and so on. Their collective opinion was that this service was no longer available. I found this hard too believe.

I started checking my account to see what add-on services I had and could select. It looked as if the answering service was not activated and would cost me about $3 per month. I called the access number on my phone and got the message: “No answering service is activated on this line.” It seems that, sometime in the last couple of weeks, they had silently turned it off! No wonder I received no messages in recent days!

I activated the service and shortly received an email saying that I was all set. I called the access number and listened to the menu options, which included a PIN setting. I set that and, as you can probably guess, the remote access worked just fine. Thanks BT – I got there despite your Customer Service.

The other company that anguished me is probably surprising: it was Apple. I am generally a fan of Apple products, using an iPhone, iPad, iMac and MacBook. Although I am very resistant to the “We are Apple. We will look after you. You do not need to know how everything works. It will just do it.” attitude, I do like stuff that just works. I recently got a new iPhone – a 7 Plus. I was attracted by the larger screen and the great camera. I am very pleased with it. A particular feature, that I have come to enjoy, is “3D Touch”. Having used this feature for a while, I thought that it would be good to have it on my iPad.

My iPad is an Air 2, which has served me very well. It is fast and smooth and I have no great desire to change it, but 3D Touch would be so nice. I did some research, as a new iPad Pro had been released last year. All I could find were complaints that it did not feature 3D Touch. I wondered whether the new model – released just a few weeks ago – would have it. I read reviews and looked at Apple’s website, but could find no reference to it. Chatting with a friend – another keen Apple user – he said that it was such a no-brainer that maybe it just did not need to be mentioned.

I happened to be passing an Apple store, so I stepped in to take a look. I played with the new iPad Pros and, although they are beautiful and the Apple Pencil was delightful [my fantasy self loves writing by hand], I could not find the 3D Touch capability. I checked with an assistant, who confirmed my conclusions. I asked why the feature was missing. The answer was that this is just the way it is – no specific logic. Apple: you have disappointed me. [But the Pencil was alluring …]

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2017/07/13/dissatisfaction-customer-service-and-surprises/