I’m sure the old white hairs who pull the strings at Big Business sit back in the leather chairs of the country club, and fondly remember the pre-internet days. Back then, customers had no easy access to information about companies their practices, and they sure could not publish their pesky complaints to a place where millions read them.

That has changed, as covered in the March 2007 Wired Issue on Companies who embrace (or abhor) “Radical Transparency”.

But still, and I doubt I am the only one, when trying to address a customer service issue with a company, you can feel like their entire structure is meant to frustrate you into just giving up.

Of course, this post is headed down the road of my own petty complaint (hey, that’s what blogs are for, right?), a mere molecule dropped into the ocean of customers.

I have a mobile phone. In fact, according to the company (which actually is about the third that took over the original provider), I have been with them since 1998, something they read to me from the script on the screen when I call. With a recent month of heavy overage charges for minutes beyond my plan (ouch, take it and smile!), my wide and I are looking at combining to a family plan.

So the question is– am I out of my contract?

A simple question. It ought to be available in their ajaxed-out customer portal, I use it to do most of my account duties (paying) or checking statements online. Don’t you think in the web site I usually have to not only identify myself with my password, I actually have to give a second password PIN) to even get to me information? It sure seems secure. After looking through every tab of account info, profile, plan details, I could not locate this information. I went to the FAQ. It was not F or A or even Q I guess. Finally did a search on “contract expire” and found the answer buried elsewhere in their docs.

To get this information, I had to call them and request it.

Huh?

WTF?

It took 15 minutes to even get this bit, talk about the big drop in Chutes and Ladders.

So this morning I called.

it is not an option anywhere in their “automated” phone menu (phone menus are evil. phone menus are evil, repeat after me, phone menus are….). In fact, it took several traverses up and down the menu to find the one I could press to speak to a person (actually, hitting “0” about 10 times eventually does it, and it kind of feels good).

Now I was getting somewhere.

Hold music and cheesy talk ads for more services. I would like to strap their CEO to a chair in a dark, humid room, and force him/her to listen to this phone tree torture for 12 hours.

Finally, after 17 minutes on hold, I got my answer.

My contract with them is up.

Can you imagine the jubilation at getting the answer?

So I am free, yet worn out after trying to get at a piece of information about my account that is so brain dead obvious ought to be up on their “customer service” web portal.

it almost makes you consider conspiracy theories as to why this information is obscured.

I am tired now.

And no, I am not getting an iPhone. That is not the reason,

But wake up companies- your days of hiding behind the veils of structures that impeded or diminish customers are numbered, and you can bet more and more of us pesky individuals will take the time to shine some light your way.

The post "Someone Was Out Sick the Week They Covered User Experience Design at Business School" was originally slapped on the butt by a cigar smoking doctor yelling "It's a post!" at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2007/07/user-experience-7734/) on July 3, 2007.

1 Comment

  • Meg

    In my experience I have found two extremes about company websites. To one side are the companies that offer very efficient and customer-friendly websites. These companies seem to want to do business with us and provide us with the information that we need to do so. On the other hand, are the companies that use their websites to deter customers from gathering information. These are the companies that I won’t patronize. At least, not until they get their act together.

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