Brands need to improve Customer Service l

To Order a New Service Press 1 – Again and Again

Technology is killing me. If you have a computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone, or GPS – and that’s likely – then you have no doubt experienced menu hell when calling your service provider for help. Technology may be killing you, too.

I just moved from New York to Florida, which necessitated a change in all my providers. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has gone right from the get-go.

Consumer Friendly Brands Will Win

Over the coming years, as technology becomes ever more pervasive in our lives, the brands that excel in customer service will be the winners.

We will see more Gateways (remember how hot that computer company was until its service went to hell in a hand basket?) stumble and become a footnote. Their products and customer service just weren’t up to par before being acquired by Taiwan-based Acer.

Even Apple, that paragon of customer service, is putting up barriers before you can book an appointment at the Genius bar for tech support. Now you’ve got to through a series of potential fixes before you’re allowed to visit with a live person.

What Could Go Wrong Did Go Wrong

Comcast, my new Internet provider, bounced me off the web so often I was getting a headache. Everything you’ve read about their terrible service is true.

When I called about the issue, I heard the message…

To order a new service, press 1
If you are a current customer or have recently placed an order, press 2

If you are interested in finding out about current promotions in your area, press 3

…over and over again on a continuous loop. Pressing buttons did nothing. Eeek!

So I decided to switch to Verizon for my Internet service. The sales rep sweet-talked me into taking a package that included Direct TV.

Of course, when the technician showed up, my building manager kindly told him we don’t allow Direct TV. Isn’t that something they should have checked?

Speaking of Verizon, I’m not going into detail about the tangled web I’m trying to escape. Suffice to say that if you call my old New York number instead of being forwarded to my new phone number you get the message, “The user hasn’t set up her voice mail.”

When I call Verizon Wireless for help with this issue, I get the message, “We can’t continue processing your call, please hang up!” Is that nice?

Hurray for Hewlett-Packard

The one silver lining is the sterling support I’ve received from Hewlett-Packard. They’ve had their share of problems, but I am extremely loyal to the brand. I bought my first laser printer in 1988 and never had a minute’s problem with it.

I only bought a new one after eight years because the memory in printers back in the “olden days” was limited and wouldn’t accommodate big print jobs like PowerPoint presentations. And, subsequently, I’ve replaced my printers with new H-Ps.

For some reason my computer wasn’t talking to my wireless H-P printer. The telephone support technician fixed the problem, and then made an appointment for a few days later so she could follow up to see if everything was working properly.

She called right on time and even showed me how Comcast, the dears, had set up my router incorrectly. So, a gold star for Hewlett-Packard and Rona, in particular.

Service is King

I don’t think I just hit a run of bad luck with my devices. I believe declining customer service is a major issue when customers need help more than ever. Companies do everything they can to discourage you from speaking to a real human being. Robo voices keep referring you to their website, over and over again.

I bought a Garmin GPS and went online to check on an issue I was having. There were three options on their website and one was to call them. So I did. The recorded message tells callers visit their website! Click.

As I discovered, technology really does rule our lives. And when it doesn’t work you can find it almost impossible to get someone at almost any company to help you.

After going through six or seven menu options on one call I screamed into the phone, “Let me speak to a human being, an agent, a customer service representative!!!!”

“Sorry, I didn’t get that. Please press 1 for…”

Leave a Reply


  1. Great column. Hope it goes viral and maybe gets some attention. BTW, I was on the phone last week with Citibank re my card, and the agents identified themselves by name and the name of the city they were located in. And they helped me with the problem. About the tech stuff…so true, and so terrifically annoying/frustrating/irritating. All that wasted emotion, not to mention the hours we’ll never get back.

    • Robert — I’ll never get back the three hours I spent on the phone with Verizon and Comcast today. Don’t even ask — technology is one big headache. Don’t ever move!

  2. Oh I am hurting for you Jeannette. I experienced the same issues in my move to Charleston 3 years ago. When I think about moving again, I realize that it might just be better to die here instead! The most frustrating thing for me is understanding that as a customer, you really have no leverage or power anymore. They simply do not care about you or your business. It’s defeating, really. It will smooth out…mine did. But it takes some time and if you’re like me, you’ll never forget the poor experience. So frustrating!

    • Jacquie — the move, meaning the transition to an entirely different lifestyle, has been easy compared to getting my devices set up. On my fourth or fifth visit to Honda I finally got someone to explain how to sync my iPhone with their bluetooth navigation device. The sales people just want to sell cars.

  3. Hi Jeannette: I feel your pain. Technology kills me, too. and for the most part, I hate the automated systems. That’s why I try to deal locally whenever possible. I purchase virtually all of my computer/technical hardware from the Staples (Business Depot) store in Selkirk, Manitoba, just 20 minutes from where I live. The tech staff there goes out of their way to help me, their prices are always very competitive, and their expertise is reliable. I also deal locally for my landline and internet service and have had good service from those folks as well.

    • Doreen — very wise to deal locally. Today I got in my car and drove to the local Verizon Wireless store. They isolated the problem and gave me the correct number to call for help. Of course, the store is there to sell products not service them, to I was still left to fend for myself.

  4. Jeannette, I feel your pain. It is a rampant phenomenon. This customer service decline has been going on for decades. I can remember the passion in stories from Tom Peters in the 1980s. In addition, I was regularly hired for customer service training across the world.

    I realize you’re encouraging us to consider that technology is the culprit. I’m personally not so sure it is technology because there are companies using technology and in a customer-friendly way. Granted I’d be mentioning local companies for the most part!

    Regardless, it’s so sad where we are headed with lack of caring or compassion or putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes.

    I’ve tried that scream technique and got that SAME message! hahahaha

    • Patricia — One trick I’ve learned and didn’t mention in my post because it would seem like I’m crazy is to speak in gibberish when you get the menu options. The robo voice doesn’t understand and will put you into a customer service rep. It works quite often, so give it a try the next time you’re in menu hell.

  5. What I want to know Jeanette is how’d you get a picture of me to use on your blog? I swear that’s how I look at least twice a day sitting at this computer.

    I hate recorded messages but I despise recorded LONG message. Some customers service messages are so detailed it’s like listening to a documentary. The problem is, usually the voice is monotone and I tune it out. Then I miss the number I needed to press. Usually I just press “0”. I read there’s a website that provides a,”how to”, get through the recorded systems of of major companies. I don’t know it off hand, but I”m sure you can Google it.

    • Pam — I’ve daydreamed while listening to the menu, too, and missed the number I needed to press. Then you have to listen to the menu all over again!

  6. Hi Jeannette,

    I’m sorry to hear that your move has been complicated by dealing with uncaring (and faceless) service providers. I think we have all dealt with the same issues. I’m a long-time customer of Comcast and if there were other viable options, we would not be using them. (I am so tired of over-priced Internet service that I could scream!)

    The image of a Verizon associate showing up at your doorstop to install their service resonated with me. For quite a while, we were being inundated with offers from Verizon to install FIOS. Their marketing department was targeting our area.

    FIOS is not available here. I don’t know why I cared but I became tired of getting their marketing. So, I contacted them and was finally able to convince someone that not only could they not provide FIOS to us, that Direct TV isn’t an option either because we’re surrounded by huge pine trees and can’t get a signal.

    I’m not sure who I finally talked to or how I impressed them to stop mailing me but I don’t get their solicitations any longer.

    I’m glad to hear that HP was able to resolve your Comcast issues. As for me, about 6 months ago, I locked into a 2-year contract with the “beast”. I don’t consider it a total surrender though. I actually was able to lock into a pricing structure that protects me from their relentless pricing increases. (Bottom-line, I am not about to give up my high-speed internet and Voip.)

    Anyways . . . thanks for giving me the opportunity to vent. Enjoy your new home and have a nice weekend. 🙂

    • Sherryl — You’ve obviously been on this horse, too. Well, the Verizon installer didn’t show today. When I called, I discovered they had an “error” in the dispatch and the wrong address! It’s never ending.

  7. Speaking of HP and service, here is one of my new favorite things. The HP ink program for the printer. It is awesome! You pick the plan you want based on how many pages you think you print a month…if you go over its like a penny a page, if you have extra pages left it rolls over into following months. It communicates with HP directly when the printer is running out of ink and before you know it (and before you completely run out of ink) new cartridges show up in the mail! No more running from store to store trying to find ink cartridges to fit your printer, only to come home and they don’t, or go to store after store and they are out of stock etc. hallelujah!! The plans start at appx $4 a month. Can’t tell you how much time and frustrations this has saved me. Now that is service!!

  8. Jeannette, I feel for you. What a nightmare but one everyone can identify with, even when we deal locally. The big problem is that all this customer service stuff is now outsourced and if we are lucky enough to get through we get a) untrained incompetent reps; 2) people who can barely speak English – so we’re no further ahead.
    Even the Staples stores that Doreen mentioned depends on the local manager – I won’t go back to the one in our area because of the extremely poor customer service.
    I love your last line to Patricia – speak gibberish and you will end up with a rep. Course looking at 1 and 2 above that may not help much.
    Here you are with a bank that won’t take money, a cellphone company that screws up the cellphones.
    The only thing we can hope for is that enough people get fed up with the poor service and these companies will slide into oblivion.

    • Lenie — Remember how arrogant Microsoft was when they had a virtual monopoly on software? Well, along came open source code and now Microsoft, while still huge, isn’t the only game in town and is trying to catch up. I’m fearful of all the consolidation in the industry. With few choices, companies will have no incentive to improve service, which is a scary thought.

  9. Jan, You’ve touched a nerve! I’m convinced that the 80 million millennials are running things now; and what people of a certain age need, want or prefer doesn’t matter any longer. Products and services used to be based on what consumers said they wanted. Now tekkies make products they want, flood the marketplace with them, and phase out the ones consumers have gotten used to. The learning curve never ends.

    • Rose — couldn’t agree more. What customers want is to reach a human being and not be shuffled through an endless list of menus. But the techies (youngsters) feel you can solve all your problems by going to their website for unfathomable tutorials.

  10. Sorry to hear about your problems, Jeannette. Am certain you are not the only one going through that kind of difficulties.

    When I was a child my late father was in the US doing business a lot and he always talked about how fantastic the service was. Not sure why, but at some stagea large part of America seems to have decided that service wasn’t the name of the game anymore. Pity, because it definitely is and always will be.

    On a positive note I’m glad to hear about your good experience with Hewlett-Packard.

    • Catarina — Well, your father would be very disappointed with the service in America if were alive today. It’s tortuous to try to find a real human being to talk to and, when you do, they are often untrained and don’t know what they’re doing. I found that out.

  11. I can relate to your frustration. Last summer when I moved (within the same city) and went through the process of changing addresses at various places, I encountered some terribly frustrating automated phone systems (or web sites) and one where I could do almost anything but change my address! I like your advice to Patricia about talking gibberish to get transferred to a customer service rep.

    • Donna — Just try changing your email. It’s almost impossible with stores smf utilities. They give you the option of unsubscribing but you have to be a detective to find out where to change your email address.

  12. Oh my I’m so sorry to hear about your challenges Jeannette! I mean we all go through these things from time to time but moving is a whole different ballgame. I can still vividly remember the culture shock when we moved from California to Hawaii! Hopefully the dust will settle soon and you’ll be able to get back to normal – whatever that is. 🙂

    • Marquita — maybe the aggravation of dealing with big companies is the new normal. I hope not, because it sure is stressful.

  13. It all comes down to when companies think they have you over a barrel. Once they have you, they do not care about you. You become another number, or statistic to them. I really do appreciate a company that tries to win over my loyalty with customer service.

    • William — you’re quite right. In most markets you only have the choice of one cable provider. I’ve got to use Comcast in my building for TV but I’m switching to Verizon for high-speed internet and hope they will be better.

  14. I’ve been changing all of my accounts too due to my recent name change, and I concur that customer service has really gone downhill. Menu number pressing is indeed a circuitous headache from the seventh level of hell, but what frustrates me the most is when I get to speak to a real person and they can’t adapt from the script they’re reading and have a human response.

    • Jeri — I agree about menu hell and you’re so right. The agents can’t deviate from the script. Often this is an agent with a strong accent. I will apologize, but will ask for an American speaking agent because I can’t understand them. Often you will get the supervisor. Worth a try.