How Technology Destroys Customer Service

“Dynamic technology is changing our lives for the better.”

We have all heard something along these lines over the past two decades. First it was the, then smartphones, now smart everything. The oft-celebrated Internet of Things is forecast to make existence more convenient, less time-consuming, and more user-friendly.

Sure, tech has created positive change and unified people across the world. It has given us new industries, aspirations, and means of communication. All one must do is dream, and type in a Google search.

But there is something else: the wondrous change has  allowed corporations to turn a middle finger to the individual consumer. The customer is no longer “right” in our world; as an entity we hardly exist. In fact, we remain little more than a credit card swipe and a flicker of lights in the data center’s tower aisle.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I picked out an appliance for my new house. Being the deal-sensitive person I am, I went on the Bank of America app to change my cashback category to home improvement stores. After all, why not get twenty bucks back on a sizable purchase?

As it turned out, the app did not permit me to change the category, and advised logging in to online banking, which I did. On the website, I received a message saying I needed to use to app to change the category, or login to online banking. Obviously, neither option worked.

Feeling rather annoyed, I tried using “Erica,” the virtual assistant. When I inquired about the category change, she feigned digital ignorance by asking me to repeat the question. BOA’s customer service number was no better, leading me through a maze of menu options before claiming to “not understand” the request.

You might say this is a one off, but I’m seeing it regularly. Last year I booked an appointment with Best Buy to have a remote start installed in my rover. I paid the fee, got numerous reminder emails, and drove almost an hour to the GeekSquad bay. The door was locked, and no one answered the phone. After finally getting in touch with the manager, she bluntly announced that her technician had quit the previous week.

Instead of exploding, I calmly called Best Buy’s customer service, where I ended up speaking with five different representatives, each holding unique titles and demanding I repeat the story over again, before they made up an excuse to transfer me. I was stonewalled continuously, and eventually disconnected from the “Customer Care Manager” who could barely speak English.

Around the same time frame, I ordered a video game on Amazon as a Christmas present for a family member. After my other items showed up, I saw that the game was delayed by almost a month. I promptly attempted to contact Amazon and cancel the order. Like with the others, I was led through an endless maze of virtual assistants, disconnected numbers, and general indifference. All for something that should have been a simple, one-click solution.

Of course one cannot email any of these companies anymore, because they don’t want a paper trail if the underlings screw up and promise something they refuse to afford.  At best you’ll get to use chat, or maybe a 1-800 number. How joyous.

But at least we have “smart” refrigerators.

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