Customer Service

This isn’t really about personal finance, but I’m also pretty interested in business topics, and business and money are closely related enough, right?

I had a prof in university, I don’t even remember what course it was for, but he said that it was our duty as consumers to offer feedback to businesses. Like, if we had a bad customer experience, it’s our duty to report it to the business so that they can make their business better. Now I’m really not the type of person who likes to make complaints or make a fuss, but I took that prof’s idea to heart and started trying to offer feedback to businesses (out of the goodness of my heart!) when it was appropriate.

However, I am now feeling more and more that businesses should reward customers for offering feedback. And maybe I’m being a bit of a self-entitled brat because some fantastic companies have realized what a great resource customers are and offer thanks in the form of coupons/discounts/freebies to customers who offer them feedback. So because a few great companies do that, I’m starting to feel that all companies should do that, and when I don’t get anything back from a company for offering my time and feedback, I feel ripped off.

Case in point, I ordered some boots online from an American online shopping site (to pick up in LA this week when I’m there) that is a subsidiary of a mega huge apparel company. Well, my customer experience was pretty terrible. First, I got hugely frustrated going through the order process because it wouldn’t let me enter my Canadian billing address. Finally, I gave up and just entered the same address as the shipping address.

Then, after the transaction, I was asked to fill out a customer experience survey in which they asked me all kinds of market research questions like how often I shop online and what other competitor sites I had checked out etc. The survey was getting long and I was getting annoyed but I just wanted to enter my comments at the end regarding the poor design of their billing address form because I felt it was my ‘duty’.

I wasn’t sure the order would go through because the billing address wasn’t going to match my credit card information. Sure enough, today I got an email from their customer service department asking me to call them and verify my billing address. More waste of my time, since I already wasted time fighting with their stupid website form. But it got worse! The kicker was their 1-800 toll free number didn’t work if calling from outside the United States, and so I had to call long-distance to talk to them. That really annoyed me because I’ve gotten used to being able to contact companies on their dime, not mine. Why should I have to pay long distance charges to straighten out information that I couldn’t provide to them in the first place because their website was poorly designed?

Anyway, I was going to leave it at that, never shop from that company again, but hopefully get my boots and love them and forget what an ordeal it was to order them. But I just got an email in response to the feedback I had left on that customer service survey and initially felt like my ‘duty’ was to clarify what I had trouble with, and add how lame it was to have to call them long-distance. But I figure screw ‘duty’, I’ve wasted enough time on them and they haven’t given me anything for it. That company clearly doesn’t want business from Canadians, and with the dollar at par and more and more Canadians interested in purchasing goods from US, they’re just going to miss out.

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