Have I Resolved Your Inquiry?
Back in the 80s, when I was in college, I had a marketing professor who said the worst thing that ever happened to customer service was the phrase “the customer is always right.” He explained that retail folks who were trained that the customer was always right daily encountered people who were clearly not right. He said, faced with those competing “facts,” the retail workers were forced to conclude that since the person before them was clearly wrong, they couldn’t be a customer; therefore, the retail worker could treat said wrong person any way they liked.
He decidedly had an insulting view of retail workers, but I got his point, and it’s stuck with me ever since: realistic and achievable standards and expectations need to be set for customer service. I wonder sometimes what he’d think of the state of customer service today, where everyone is driven to check off your issue as being resolved regardless of whether it is, in fact, resolved or even properly considered.
The event that has me thinking about customer service was an issue with Amazon.
Let me say this upfront: I love Amazon. I’m probably on Amazon.com at least once every day. I compare almost everything I’m thinking about buying against what Amazon offers. My dogs are on a first-name basis with all the delivery drivers. Why? Amazon has almost everything, and with Prime, I get free delivery on most purchases. And, returns are super easy. In fact, I think the partnership Amazon has with Kohls for returns is ingenious. With their partnership, Amazon provides a hassle-free method for returns, and Kohls, I’m sure, gets a lot of impulse buys — see, there’s a reason Kohls places the Amazon refund station at the back of the store and lines the path through with all sorts of enticing bargains.
So, what’s my complaint with my best friend Amazon?
If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I include book reviews. I read the books on the Kindle app or Kindle Unlimited, and I upload the reviews to Amazon to help out the authors. Usually, Amazon accepts my reviews within hours – overnight at the latest. But my most recent review (below) ran into some unknown snag.
Three days after I’d submitted my review, I’d received no confirmation from Amazon. After I verified it didn’t show on the website, I searched for a customer service number on the site to call. Of course, they don’t want you to call. Calls cost too much. And, I suspect that if it’s hard to find a number, they hope most people just give up. So, I went through the Help function, and it forced me to search help topics before it excepted my response that there was nothing that addressed my issue. (Okay, maybe forced is too strong a word, but it provided damn few alternatives to following the path laid out.)
I’m then similarly forced down the online chat route. But not with a human. There was the implicit promise of a human, but no human showed up to chat with me. The bot ran me down the same list of help topics. It was a very persistent bot – persistent in trying to get me to say it had addressed my problem. I don’t know how many rounds of “does that answer,” “no,” we went through before the bot gave up and asked if I wanted to chat with an actual human. Yes, please. A few minutes later, I explain the whole situation again. The human asks me for my order number. I explain again that it’s not about an order, there are no order numbers associated with my review. He’s gone awhile, and then comes back and tells me that he can’t help, but he’ll send a communication to another customer service unit, and they’ll send me an email in 24 hours.
Then he asks me if he’s satisfactorily resolved my issue. My simple response is, “No.” He asks what else he can help me with. I say, “Apparently nothing.” He tries a couple more times to get me to say he’s successfully helped me. I ended up closing the chat window.
Twenty-four hours later, I get a form email telling me that reviews aren’t posted until they’ve been approved. I’ve done something like thirteen book reviews. I’m very well aware that reviews aren’t posted until approved. If the email had also said, “We received your review, and it’s being processed,” I would’ve been done. But it didn’t. So, I took a hydration break and then returned to continue tangoing with Amazon customer service.
At the bottom of the email was, of course, a prominent link to indicate my problem was resolved. (I guess even a form email needs to keep up its resolution stats.) Much less prominently, there was also a link to say my issue wasn’t resolved. I, of course, selected the less prominent link.
Immediately, a window popped up asking me to select a reason why. I chose something indicating the email was nonresponsive. I’m taken down a trail that I’m sure is going to lead back to the chatbot. I close it out, and, instead, type a scathing reply to the email I’d received. Scathing in that I likened Amazon’s customer service to Comcast’s, which, in my mind anyway, is the worst insult I can lob at a business. Comcast is the devil. But, that’s a story for another day.
Sometime later, I get another email expressing regret for my dissatisfaction. This time I’m given the option to send an email to customer service to explain what I need. I click that link, and immediately I’m sliding down the chute toward the chatbot. I don’t know what I clicked, but suddenly I’m given the option to have someone call me. I accept and wait to be asked if my issue has been resolved. I guess whatever logic pathway I’d stumbled upon does not care about its resolution stats because no resolution query appeared.
Twenty minutes later Amazon calls me. I explain the initial problem and how communication efforts over the past two days indicate that no one has understood, let alone acted upon my inquiry. She asked me for my order number. I tell her there is no order number. I tell her I’m trying to get someone to find my submitted review and tell me it’s being reviewed because it has never before taken anywhere near four days. Predictably, she tells me she’ll be right back.
When she returned, she told me that she needed to give me another number to call. Then she said actually she’d have to give me a link because neither she nor I could call the group to whom my matter needed to be directed. I said, “Okay.”
“So, have I satisfactorily resolved your issue, today?” she asked.
“No. No, you have not resolved my issue today.”
“I’ve sent the link.”
I thanked her for that and explained to her that that does not resolve my issue; it just kicks the can down the road.
“What else can I help you with?”
I’ll admit, I became a little snarky at this point, “You could find out the status of the review I asked about originally.”
“I sent you the link for that.”
“That does not resolve the issue. It means you could not resolve the issue, and you’re making me contact someone else to see if they can resolve it.”
I can’t remember exactly what she said, but she tried again to get me to say she’d resolved my issue. I told her the bottom line was that I was not going to agree. She put me on hold.
She must’ve discussed things with someone, and they decided that I was not a customer because I didn’t have an order number and I was wrong not to agree she’d resolved my issue. She came back on the line and thanked me for calling Amazon. I didn’t point out that Amazon called me.
I opened the email she’d sent and clicked the magical link. Immediately, I was hurtling again to the chatbot. I conceded defeat.
Four hours later, I received notification that my review was accepted. I checked it and found they had corrected a typo I’d noticed too late in the headline. I can only assume that fixing ‘hte’ to ‘the’ took four and a half days.
Book Review: Thank God for Mississippi, by Tara Cowan
The title of this book immediately grabbed me because I have friends from West Virginia and South Carolina who I have heard utter this phrase! Although there is reference to it used in the manner my friends use it, it is more directly aimed at the main character and story narrator, Miss Mississippi Whitson of Hammondsville, Tennessee. (No, Mississippi does not thank God for herself! You’ll have to read the book to understand the title, and I very much recommend you read the book!)
Mississippi abandoned her pursuit of a career in fashion design when her father died and she had to leave school to help her mother. She landed a job as the personal assistant to district attorney Henry Cane, and over time, she lost sight of the things she used to care about – she essentially put her ambitions…well, and basically her whole life, on hold. Then, Henry Cane dies, and the town leadership finagles things to give the job to his grandson from New York City.
Said grandson, Joseph Cane-Steinem, rides into town in his Jeep Wrangler with all eyes on him – including Mississippi’s. (Queue the sparks.) Mississippi’s game plan at this point is to go wait tables in a gulf coast resort town to make quick money to go back to school. Joseph talks her into staying around to help him navigate the cultural divide between his big city life experience and how things are done in the small-town South.
Throw in a murder, comic relief in the form of two over-protective German shepherds and matchmaking relatives, small-town gossip, and Mississippi’s reawakening to her true self, and you have a light, entertaining read that pushes all the buttons!
Short Story: Mom Knows All
First thing Saturday morning, Maureen was at the paint store trying to decide upon paint colors and wallpaper to redo her guest bedroom. She was the only customer in the store, and the young man at the register left her alone after greeting her. She was flipping through the wallpaper idea book when she heard someone else at the register.
“Hey, dude, thanks for covering for me.”
“No worries. You look like shit.”
“Open crib at my boy Jimmy’s. I think I’m still buzzed.”
Both guys laughed, and Maureen smiled to herself remembering similar work mornings from her youth. She continued with her browsing, trying to decide between blues and something bolder, and for the most part, didn’t hear the rest of the boys’ conversation.
Then, she heard the buzzed one say, “Remember that guy was with me when you bought us beer that one time?”
The other guy replied slowly, “Yeah. . .Dirk. ..”
“Yeah. Well, he brought this kid from his travel team. Thomas, but we called him Tommy Boy all night. That kid was turnt! We talked him into doing a keg stand – he couldn’t even walk, but he goes up to the keg, grabs a hold like this. Then he starts yelling, ‘I got it, I got it, give me the beer!’ He’d like stick one leg in the air. We just soaked him in beer. It was funny AF!”
The guys laughed and talked about how good they were at keg stands, and then the buzzed one said, “When I woke up this morning, Tommy Boy was passed out on the deck – no shirt, with some chick’s bra wrapped around his head. Can’t wait to hear the story on that!”
Maureen took her paint swatches and headed for the door, turning to wave the swatches at the two young men before leaving.
Later, she and her husband Mike were sitting in the kitchen when their oldest child came quietly through the back door. He stopped in the doorway when he saw his parents sitting at the kitchen table.
Mike said, “Good afternoon, son. Have a seat.”
“I’m wiped, Dad. We were up all night –“
Maureen interrupted him, “I bet you were. Have a seat.”
The boy pulled a chair about three feet from the table and sat down.
Mike turned to Maureen and said, “He doesn’t smell too bad.”
She nodded and replied, “Yeah, he’s showered, and those are not his beer-soaked clothes. Those are definitely not the $150 shoes we bought him last month.”
Mike turned to the boy and asked, “Where are your shoes, son?”
The kid smiled nervously and said, “I didn’t want to get them dirty while we were camping, and so I borrowed an old pair of Dirk’s.”
Maureen nodded and said nonchalantly, “Quick thinking. Where’s your bra?”
“My what? You’re losing it, Mom!” he replied laughing.
Mike smiled and said, “Your bra. The prize you won for. . .something. . .last night. Tommy Boy. Wanna tell us how you won that prize?”
Thomas froze, his mouth open.
Mike prompted, “Go ahead and tell us what the prize was for, Tommy Boy.”
“Well,” Maureen said. “We know it wasn’t for keg stands. Hopefully, there’s no video of that epic fail.”
“Listen,” Thomas began in a pleading tone.
“Keys,” barked his father. Thomas dug his car keys out of his pocket and handed them to his father.
“Phone,” his mother said more calmly.
“C’mon,” Thomas said. “I need my phone.”
“Don’t worry,” Maureen said cheerfully. “You’ll get it back for emergency use when you’re not at home.”
“Which won’t be for much for the next two weeks,” Mike added.
“Well,” Maureen said. “It would be two weeks – for getting ‘turnt.’ But, there’s the little matter of lying to us about where you were going last night, Tommy Boy.”
“Oh, yeah, thanks for reminding me, honey,” Mike said. “Three weeks.”
“Three weeks?” Thomas yelled.
In unison, his parents said, “Wanna make it four?”
Thomas quickly shook his head. “Can I go now?” he asked sullenly.
Mike said, “No, Tommy Boy, you can’t. There’s still the matter of the $150 sneakers you ruined last night. You’ll be working those off, starting right now.”
Maureen suddenly said, “Don’t you roll your eyes!”
“I didn’t roll my eyes!”
“You were going to. You just don’t get it yet, do you? We know all. Everything you’ve done, and everything you’re going to do. You think you’re so smart saying you’re going camplng overnight with Dirk? I invented ‘staying overnight at a friend’s house.’ Anything you think you’re going to sneak off and do, your father and I have done it and done it better than you could ever even imagine. You think you’re going to get over on us? Think again. We know all.”
“Well,” Mike said smiling. “Your mother knows all, and she clues me in.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, honey,” she replied. “You were the school keg stand champion two years running!”
“That’s right,” Mike said proudly. “And you, Tommy Boy, besmirched my good name last night with your lame antics at the keg. We’ll talk about that another time. For now, go put on some work clothes, ‘cause you’re digging up that old stump out back.”
Thomas made a belligerent face, but before he could speak, Maureen said, “Or, we could talk about your prize and how you won it. Your father and I have a little experience in that, too, don’t we, honey bunny?”
“Indeed, we do, sugartits. C’mon, Tommy Boy, you tell us about yours and we’ll tell you about ours!”
“Okay,” Thomas yelled. “I’m gonna go dig up the stump!”
His parents laughed as he walked away. Then they high-fived, and Mike said, “We’ve got this parenting thing down to a science.”
“Yes, we do,” Maureen agreed. “’Sugartits’ may’ve been a bit much, though.”