Last week we took delivery of a new phone only to discover that it wasn't working and so I rang and having been put through to a techie I explained that it had a problem (appeared to be a NAND gate issue apparently). The result was that I was told that a new device would be dispatched at some rate of knots to resolve this issue.
We waited a couple of days and I rang Customer Services who assured me that it had left and was with the delivery people, so I smiled and waited - and it never came. But the weekend did and so we waited until today (when a silver 'returns bag' arrived - so I dispatched the duff handset as per instructions) and rang again.
'The order has been cancelled,' was the response I received when I contacted someone to find out what was going on, 'Because you sent it back in the seven day 'cooling off' period!'
So I explained that I hadn't sent it off because I'd rejected it (shh, it's alright phone, we does love you really) but because it was broken. 'Well you can't have another one until you return it,' they said.
So I pleaded miserably (and I can be a really miserable pleader) that we needed one and were just a little upset at this fourth account (and assessment) of the situation I was in. I told them I wanted someone from Customer Services to call me back - they (of course) never did - to resolve this issue.
A little later I contacted Vodafone using their chat system and received pleas of impotence, a complete runaround and when asked to have the issue escalated was told that that took two to three days! Now who runs customer services like that? I told them that this was unacceptable in today's current culture and was passed up to someone who portrayed themselves as a line manager. He was a total waste of space and was stealing oxygen from people who could have made better use of it.
His Customer-facing approach was this: 'There is no negotiation - there are no options, you have to do it our way!' I demanded that he escalate the issue but all I got were his protestations of impotency and limited options (I have the whole chat message saved and will have to publish it one day - it's a gleaming example of everything that really shouldn't be found in a customer support environment).
Eventually I wished him Namaste and left feeling that my future with Vodafone was indeed dim and limited. Four scenarios with no service, little feeling of being cared for and a sense of diminished worth (was the customer really king once?) - not a great advert' for the company at all.
The automated telephone system was even less help and yet amazingly, dialling the wrong option, I chanced across a Scottish voice that was warm, friendly and helpful. They went off and looked and called me back and explained the problems that had resulted in my problems and it's Tony rather than the bunch of impotency that exists somewhere at the end of the wire some five hours East of me that will probably keep me with them!
And it struck me that this was a great parallel with some of the encounters that people have had with the Church. There are those encounters where we meet the 'I have no options' people who are limited and limiting - who bring about such niggardly and sterile encounters that make the Church look so bad.
The people who, like those who produced the four differing scenarios (plus a really dodgy attempt and portraying the same option three different ways in a hope I would think I had been cared for or listened to and accept one of them) in the hope that it would make me go away! You know them I'm sure. They're the people who mirror those often found in a Church setting; those people who are happy to agree to differ as long as they can have it their own way.
The people who are skilled at making issues disappear by pretending that they have and rejoice in the ability to be absent when the situations they've helped cause need to be addressed. This is a real problem in any customer-facing environment this is, for you move the issue on to someone else and whilst you're living in peace with all, they have to fight the issue and the reaction to having been duped!
What I needed was someone to own the problem and give me the information I needed regarding it and its resolution.
Someone who would tell me the truth (even if I didn't want to hear it) and would lead me along the path to resolution.
Someone who would listen and dialogue rather than stick their fingers in their ears and pretend they were offering something along the lines of support.
You know what?
If Vodafone, or the Church, did that it would have so many people wanting to be in relationship with it - and that's the lesson to be learned from this engagement today for me:
It's no good telling people you care when you patently don't.
It's no good having people to talk to if they don't actually listen.
It's no good listening if you're not prepared to escalate the issue up the chain (w in Church it's called 'prayer' in Vodafone it appears to be called 'wishful thinking')
How's the Customer Services where you worship?
(If you answer 'poor' then I think you might need to look in the mirror and have a word with that member of the team before you engage with the others ;-))