Thursday, June 12, 2008

Customer Service Has Gone Too Far

My phone rang a moment ago. It was American Express.

Amex: Hello, this is (redacted) calling on behalf of American Express concerning your customer service call on June 9.

Jamie: Yes? Hmmm... they called me Monday because I had forgotten to pay my bill last month. I paid them electronically the same day, they must have it by now...

Amex: I would like to assure you that this conversation is confidential and anything you say will never be released to a third party.

Jamie: Okay, fine. Why are you calling? This is weird. Do I need a lawyer?

Amex: How would you rate the quality of service you received on your recent call with American Express? Please answer using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent.

Jamie: Bursts out laughing. Wait a minute. You're surveying me about the call that you guys made to me to tell me I had missed a payment? Seriously?

Amex: Ummm, yes, that's correct.

Jamie: I'm sorry, it's nothing personal, but you have to admit this is pretty silly. The call was fine. They told me I was late paying my bill. I said I would pay it immediately. They said thank you and we both went on our merry ways. A this point, I have already spent more time on the customer service survey than I did on the original phone call.

Amex: Ah, OK, so you would say it was excellent. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your experience?

Jamie: I really can't think of anything else I can say about it... but thanks for asking!

Amex: Thank you, have a nice day...

It appears that we have gotten to the point in society where the followup and metadata generated around any given activity consumes more resources than the activity itself.

It's bad enough that we get barraged with emails demanding we rate every single online transaction. Did your item arrive on time? Was it as described? Sure - there is some value to being able to see this kind of feedback. But it goes too far. On, for example, you are actually required to leave a comment in addition to filling out the survey. One-click checkout my ass... the post-purchase process is more complicated than the actual purchase!

Another example. I went to DMV about a month ago for that wonderful biannual ritual, the vehicle safety inspection. I was advised that I might enjoy completing a customer satisfaction survey while I waited for my car. For DC government vehicle inspection? Surely you jest. You really don't want me filling out that survey. Do we really need to solicit feedback on what is universally reviled as a frustrating, time-consuming process that involves baking in your car for an hour while sucking carbon monoxide from a hundred tailpipes around you? You KNOW what's wrong: It takes too damn long! Open more lanes! Re-open the West Virginia Avenue station! But apparently, we'd rather devote resources to surveys that tell us what we already know, than towards actually dealing with the problem.

Stop the madness. For the love of water buffalo, Amex, I didn't even call you in the first place, you called me. I didn't want to hear from you then, and I certainly didn't want to hear from you now. This will inevitably come to it's logical conclusion in all aspects of society:

Prison Guard, about to release inmate: unused prophylactic, one soiled, one man's hair comb. One Timex digital watch, broken. Two gold-plated finger rings. One black suit jacket. One pair black suit pants.... but before you leave, we have a few questions.

How would you rate the cleanliness of your cell? Please rate from 1 to 5, where 1 is Gitmolicious and 5 is Club Fed.

Now, think about the last time you were ass-raped by a prison guard. Do you feel like they were too gentle, pleasingly rough, or raging like a silverback orangutan on steriods?


Shannon said...

I haven't owned a car in the District for years, so I don't have to do the inspection. However, since it's near my apartment, I do get the occasional Saturday call, "Hey, can you come sit in my car with me for a few hours?" Fun. But I don't think I've ever had to fill out a survey.

Jamie said...

Yeah, owning a car in DC is definitely a labor of love. For the car - not for DC!