By Curtis Shelburne
“The Nine Circles of Customer Service Hell.” That’s an article by Jay Steinfield, CEO of Blinds.com, who, with apologies to Dante and his original “nine circles of . . .” asked the question for phone-holding customers everywhere: “Your customers are the cornerstone of your success. So why offend them?”
I had time to scan the article as I was stuck in Hades in what Steinfield calls the third circle: “Hold, hold, hold.” After three tries, I’d made it past the “never-ending voice mail phone tree” (the first circle) and had my account number ready (second circle: repeat same number three times).
I had my recorder ready. When they said, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes,” I’d respond, “It not only might be recorded, Bucko, it IS being recorded. Feel free to record on your end, too.” For the quality of this column, I wanted to record the idiocy.
I was told that the wait time for the next “Customer Service Specialist” would be 6-10 minutes. Wondering if more special specialists would be especially faster, I almost hung up. But my curiosity trumped six minutes of annoying music. I was thanked for my (nonexistent) patience and was surprised not to hear the cheery voice give the usual lie: “Your call is very important to us.”
No, it’s not. If it was, you’d be darn sure a human, and one of your best and happiest and most proficient ones, always answered your company’s phone and put your best foot forward. Always. Can’t afford to? Really? Can you afford not to?
The company that had me basting on the hook in the third circle is not a real company that has to care about real customers and worry about really going out of business. They’re a governmentally-created “authority” crammed full of bureaucrats and minions.
If you have a toll road, somebody has to collect tolls. And some folks have to live and work where tolls are regularly collected. I’m sorry. And I’m glad I don’t.
I got a bill for $2.86 a few weeks ago. $1.43 to get on. $1.43 to get off. I’d not been in that city for months, maybe years. But my license plate (at least) was there for about ten minutes. Two years ago. The ancient bill came in an envelope proclaiming, “Prompt Payment Required.” Bureaucratic humor? No such thing.
It’s what we’ve come to expect, but it always surprises me. A real business with customers with a real choice would go broke, and a better business would fill its place. But no.
I’m paying the $2.86. Plus $10 for being a month slow while I laughed at them for being two years slow.
When I finally did get a human on the line, I just said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” But I felt sorry for her, a really nice kid. She explained the software change that now makes it possible to go back and bill visitors like me infinitesimal amounts for old travel. She could have said, “I work for idiots who spend fortunes for PR and image consultants and shoot themselves in the foot for $2.86 a pop as they tick off non-customer customers.”
In God’s kingdom, you can expect better service. Your prayers to our Creator go right to the top. No waiting. Your prayers really are “very important to him” because you are. He’s your Father. Not a bone-headed bureaucrat lost somewhere in the nine circles of …
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at