Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two tales of customer service

This is a tale of two customer service experiences from this past week. I'll start with the good news:

My mom bought my dad a Keurig coffee machine for Christmas, one of those fancy units where you can brew one cup at a time. You put one of those little coffee pods (called "K Cups") in the machine, press "start", and seconds later, you've got one cup of piping hot java. Anyway, I was talking to my mom last week and she was about to order a supply of pods from Keurig. I told her not to order anything, knowing that somewhere online, i'd be able to find a better price than what the manufacturer was offering. A quick Google search landed me on, a Philadelphia-based company that sells dozens of brand-name coffee pods for about half the price my mom was about to spend.

So after browsing through their vast inventory, I put two boxes (each containing 12 pods) into my shopping cart. After entering my credit card number and selecting "Complete Sale", I got my order confirmation. Oops! My parents only drink decaf, and somehow, I had ordered one box of 'regular' coffee. So I immediately called the toll-free number on the company website. "We usually can't change an order once it's placed online," said the pleasant young man, "but hold on a minute and let me see what I can do." He came back on the phone about 30 seconds later and said that he'd be happy to switch the box of regular I ordered with a box of decaf. Excellent!

Two days later, I got an e-mail from, confirming that my order had been shipped to my parent's house: one box of decaf and one box of regular coffee! So I called the company's toll-free number again, and this time, spoke to a nice young woman. She looked up my order and confirmed that the switch I'd requested hadn't make it into the books. And after apologizing, she said wanted to investigate further, so she confirmed my phone number and e-mail address, and promised to get back to me.

Yesterday, I got this e-mail from

Dear Mike: In regards to your order number XXXXX, your request to have the Donut Shop replaced with Wolfgang Puck Decaf has been actioned and this new order has been shipped. Your original order has already been shipped with tracking number  XXXXX. If you have received the Donut Shop item by error, you are welcome to keep this box at no cost to you.

With that simple e-mail and the gift of a free box of coffee, this company has earned a new, very satisfied customer. If you're looking for a place to buy coffee pods, and want great selection, discount prices, quick shipping, and excellent customer service, look no further than

On the other hand...

When we moved into our apartment two years ago, I was the one who called RCN to purchase a bundled package for our telephone, internet, and cable TV services. So naturally, the account was established in my name. We recently learned that when Peter, who runs a business out of our home, was making phone calls, it was my name, not his, that was showing up on people's caller ID screen. So he asked if I'd call RCN and have them switch the name on caller ID. No big deal, right?

I called RCN on my way home from work. After navigating through their automated phone system ("Press 1 for this, 2 for that..."), I finally got through to a service representative. After I explained what I wanted to do, he told me that this was a billing issue, and that the billing department was closed (it was 5:30 pm), and that I'd have to call back the next day.

So the next day, I called 800-RING-RCN and once again, waded through the web of pressing this and that, in search of a living, breathing human. I'll cut to the chase here, but 45 minutes later, and five representatives (no kidding) later, the name on our caller ID was successfully changed.

Here's the kicker about RCN: every person I talked to was consistently inconsistent. They each told me a different story. I'd have to cancel the entire account and re-open it in Peter's name. Or they'd have to mail me a form, which once I filled out and returned, would take 2-3 weeks to process. Or they could make the switch immediately, but it would mean we'd be without phone, cable, or internet service for a "short time".

I talked to two folks in customer service, two folks in billing before being kicked up to something called the "Customer Care Unit" (or some ridiculous name like that; at that point, i was barely listening). In the end, for a $3 fee (really, RCN? This transition costs you $3 to process?), the change was made. What a waste of my time and RCN resources. 

It seems we hear about -- and experience -- so much bad customer service these days. Do you have a good customer service story to share? Grab a cup of coffee and tell me about it!


  1. Why are cable providers consistently crap with service? Its amazing an entire industry is so incompetent.

  2. Can you really compare the two services? Cable/Internet companies are EVIL.

    If there was a good switch for TWC, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Seriously thinking of ATT for the Universe...or whatever it's called.

  3. Wow, impressed by the coffee people, I am going to check them out!

    As for the cable people, here in Canada we seem to have it better; are not great, not terrible. The cell phone companies, on the other hand, are stupid rude and incompetent. Aaargh!

  4. alas, I don't have a good customer service memory.
    I am first to say 'good customer service' is NOT always getting things my way, but how things are handled.

  5. Ever since I learned the three steps of service

    1. A warm welcome
    2. Anticipation and compliance with customer needs.
    3. A fond farewell

    It's rare that I spot it.

  6. Tornwordo, I think the three(3) steps that you've enlisted on spotting a good customer service are for the perfect ones. I agree that they are really hard to find especially nowadays. But I, will be forever hoping that I could be able to spot them too.


    Order taking service



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