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The trouble with secretive corporations

April 30, 2009

Its rant time. Let me ask you a question.

Can you tell me the corporate phone number of your cellphone operator? No I don’t mean their 1-800 number. That’s their call center. The place where agents can lose their jobs for passing the call to their supervisor. I mean their corporate office number where you can request to be passed to their General Manager if you have an exceptional complaint to make.

Don’t have it? Now, try their website and see if you can find it. Still can’t see it? Okay, now try the yellow pages.

No luck eh?

Now, try the same for your package delivery company (or courier company if you call it that). Again, I don’t want their toll-free number. I want their corporate office number.

You will find that almost all the time, these numbers are unlisted in their website. All public communications – via phone or email – end at the call center. So what happens if the people running their call center can’t solve your prohblem and you want to speak to a manager? Well, you’re outta luck pal. Short of driving your car out to their corporate office, if you know where that is, you ain’t goin’ no further than the sweet gal on the phone.

I admit I find this strange – to deny customers access to the very people responsible for managing a service that had failed you. In one short year, as a paying customer, I found that apart from carefully managed public appearances, the GMs, VPs and CEOs here are completely locked away from their customers . I can’t call up their call center, demand to speak to the General Manager of Customer Service, and tell him or her I was pissed off at something that happened.

Almost consistently, the call center agent would say, “I’m sorry sir, but that number is confidential. We cannot release it to the public. And we are not allowed to pass your call to him either.”

Once, I did try to get around that by faxing a letter of complaint directly to the GM of Customer Service. Waited 3 days, got no reply. Then I tried the VP. Same thing. Then I tried the CEO office. Again, no reply.

When I finally got the corporate number through a friend of a friend, I managed to speak to the secretaries of all three top officers. Every single one of them said the same thing, “Sorry, we have no record of any fax from you. But if you have a complaint, you can call our call center.”

And to have a call center that consistently loses its trouble tickets or ask you to relate your story from beginning to end for the nth time and then not have the problem go away is just frustrating to say the least.

I admit, this strange reluctance of senior officers to speak to customers who’s paying their salary mystifies me. These are large public-listed companies mind you. They seem bent on frustrating the hell out of the customer. Maybe they prefer to manage the problem through press statements after the customer had gone to the newspapers with the complaint.

If it was up to me, any member of senior management in charge of Customer Service who refuses to speak to a customer is not doing what he/she is paid to do and ought to be replaced.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. LC Teh permalink
    April 30, 2009 10:28 am

    Hey… Even the topmost guy in the corporation has to answer to someone. That includes the share-holders. Sometimes even the government. They have enough on their plates as it is. (That’s why the balls get smaller…. they can only play golf, not football, not basketball). I don’t think they want their blood-pressure boosted by ‘pesky’ customers. Let the folks way down the line handle all that flak. Press statements are easy. Just let the PR guys write the bl**dy thing….hahaha.

    I think that’s the reality.

    Yup, that’s using the collective machinery of the bureaucracy to stonewall one client. We’ve also seen a few sad endings with that, like the fall of the last Russian king. Its a crap shoot. Sometimes a tiny hole in the dyke heals by itself. Sometimes it sinks the entire country.

  2. April 30, 2009 11:29 am

    hehe yeah i agree with LC Teh…

    i think if i am at a top level, i would wanna focus my time on building the company, getting results than wasting the precious 20 minutes talking to customers

    too tiring 🙂

    Yup, its easy to get away with it in the old pre-social network days. Today, a customer might just say, “Ok, see ya on Twitter.” Not a pretty picture if he happens to have a few thousand followers. So unless you control an unassailable monopoly, the “reap what we sow” thing could crop up at the most inconvenient times.

  3. May 1, 2009 12:39 am

    yea, they’re too busy to be bothered by you – the customer. 😛 well, some customers are okay because they provide constructive feedback but there are also customers who will abuse that “contact”. i dont think they have the time to entertain everyone.

    mm, also, sometimes these ‘bosses’ will just tell the secretaries to block off all the customer complaints. and these secretaries have to do their jobs, blocking off ALL of them….be it big or small, important or not.

    aiya, at least this is customer service. you know i went thru so much trouble just to get a contact number for Honda Malaysia? and it’s not even customer service! it’s a sales office number. =_=
    there’s no customer service number whatsoever. gosh.

    Its that old puzzle again. People hate the brand yet they wait in queue to buy it (and its not like there aren’t any alternatives.) Its like some South American regime. Everyone hates the dictator but when its voting time, they all vote for him! Hahaha.

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