Complaining about complaints systems
March 6, 2007
By Georgie Binks
When Toronto writer Carol Purpura called her phone company several months ago to resolve a billing issue, she found herself tackling another concern as well.
"When I said I felt the information the customer service rep had about my bill was incorrect, she became quite abusive with me," Purpura recalls. "I spoke to the supervisor and told that person to listen to the tape-recorded call. They did and my issue was dealt with in five minutes."
Purpura isn't alone in her complaints about the complaint system at technology-based companies.
The Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus (CCBBB) says four of the top ten industry complaints for 2006 involved internet services, internet shopping, cell phone and phone companies. In 2005, the situation was the same.
"It's safe to assume complaints about these products are increasing just because these sectors are growing," says Doug Simpson, CCBBB president. "There are a huge number of businesses on the internet, as well as telephone services and the two are often converging."
Although the CCBBB has not compiled statistics on the difficulties people encounter when attempting to complain, Anne Hart, dispute resolution supervisor for the BBB of mid-western and central Ontario, says it's a big issue. Customers often have to navigate complicated answering systems and then deal with customer service reps who aren't knowledgeable.
"It's often hard to get a hold of someone who knows what they're talking about and also do something for you," Hart says. "You're going to be on the phone forever. We get a lot of complaints about that. We know who to contact, so we call the right person and they will look into the problem."
Hart says a lot of companies get so busy with the offers they have made they don't have the staff to take care of the volume of customers they've attracted. "That's not the customer's fault. If companies are busy they need to hire more staff," she says.
Purpura complains that these companies "have all this technology at their disposal but they're reluctant to use it. When I call them for service I have to go through 15 minutes of 'push 1, push 2, push 7, hold on,' music on, music off and when I get a real live person they don't know what to do.
"If I were running the phone company," she says, "I would not want an automated system taking care of my business. Look at the four-person office and see if you can draw a direct link between customer service and solving a problem."
When people finally talk to a customer rep, complaints are varied.
As far as cell phones go, people often don't understand the package they've purchased or how to work the phone. Hart knows of one family who purchased a cell phone and then used it to access the internet. When they received their first bill totalling more than $3,000, they were told it was because they were accessing the internet so much.
"Do your research," Hart warns. "Look at all the different companies and see if one company offers something better than another."
Telephone complaints usually involve billing issues. When it comes to internet shopping services, people are not sure who they're dealing with and sometimes receive goods too late or not at all.
Hart says that at the moment there is not much legislation to help consumers, although if the BBB gets a complaint about fraud, it sends it to the internet fraud department.
Regarding internet services, complaints involve confusion about bundling services.
With the use of tech toys by younger kids, there are additional issues.
"I don't know how well we as a society have done in teaching young people how to properly conduct the purchase of a long-term service contract," Simpson says. "This is why there's such an interest in short-term telephone cards: You spend your dollars, you get it. Once you get into contracts people have a difficult time understanding them."
Another problem is that younger people use technology differently.
"Teenagers regard these things in more of a throwaway way than you or I would," Simpson says "Often, irate parents are on the phone trying to solve issues around wet or lost cell phones, damaged MP3 players and so on."
Technology companies have a big task ahead of them, but it seems the problem is more than just solving people's complaints — it's also solving the complaint process.
"If you frustrate a customer in dealing with a problem you are going to lose that customer and there's a great deal of competition out there," Simpson warns. "It's in the company's interest to try to deal with it."
- Green machines
- Disk drive: Companies struggle with surge in demand for storage
- Open season: Will court decision spur Linux adoption?
- Analogue TV
- Video games: Holiday season
- Video games: Going pro
- Guitar Hero
- Parents' guide to cheap software
- Working online
- Laptop computers for students
- Technology offers charities new ways to attract donations
- The invisible middleman of the game industry
- Data mining
- Two against one
- The days of the single-core desktop chip are numbered
- Home offices
- Cyber crime: Identity crisis in cyberspace
- Yellow Pages - paper or web?
- Robotics features
- iPhone FAQ
- Business follows youth to new online world
- A question of authority
- Our increasing reliance on Wikipedia changes the pursuit of knowledge
- Photo printers
- Rare earths
- Widgets and gadgets
- Surround Sound
- Microsoft's Shadowrun game
- Dell's move to embrace retail
- The Facebook generation: Changing the meaning of privacy
- Digital cameras
- Are cellphones and the internet rewiring our brains?
- Intel's new chips
- Apple faces security threat with iPhone
- Industrial revolution
- Web developers set to stake claim on computer desktop with new tools
- Digital photography
- Traditional film is still in the picture
- HD Video
- Affordable new cameras take high-definition mainstream
- GPS: Where are we?
- Quantum computing
- What it is, how it works and the promise it holds
- Playing the digital-video game
- Microsoft's forthcoming Xbox 360 Elite console points to entertainment push
- Online crime
- Botnets: The end of the web as we know it?
- Is Canada losing fight against online thieves?
- Malware evolution
- Money now the driving force behind internet threats: experts
- Adopting Ubuntu
- Linux switch can be painless, free
- Sci-fi projections
- Systems create images on glass, in thin air
- Power play
- Young people shaping cellphone landscape
- Digital cameras
- Cellphone number portability
- Barriers to change
- Desktop to internet
- Future of online software unclear: experts
- Complaining about complaints systems
- Canadian schools
- Multimedia meets multi-literacy age
- Console showdown
- Comparing Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 networks
- Social connections
- Online networking: What's your niche?
- Virtual family dinners
- Xbox 360 console game
- Vista and digital rights
- Child safety
- Perils and progress in fight against online child abuse
- Biometric ID
- Moving to a Mac
- Supply & demand
- Why Canada misses out on big gadget launches
- Windows Vista
- Computers designed for digital lifestyle
- Windows Vista
- What's in the new consumer versions
- Cutting the cord
- Powering up without wires
- GPS and privacy
- Digital deluge
- Consumer Electronics Show
- Working online
- Web Boom 2.0 (Part II)
- GPS surveillance
- Hits and misses: Best and worst consumer technologies of 2006
- Mars Rovers
- Voice over IP
- Web Boom 2.0
- Technology gift pitfalls to avoid
- Classroom Ethics
- Rise of the cybercheat
- Private Eyes
- Are videophones turning us into Big Brother?
- Windows Vista
- Cyber Security
- Video games: Canadian connections to the console war
- Satellite radio
- Portable media
- Video games
- Plasma and LCD
- Video screens get bigger, better, cheaper
- Video games:
- New hardware heats up console battle
- High-tech kitchens
- Microsoft-Novell deal
- Lumalive textiles
- Music to go
- Alternate reality
- Women and gadgets
- High-tech realtors
- The itv promise
- Student laptops
- Family ties
- End of Windows 98
- Browser wars
- Exploding laptop
- The pirate bay
- Stupid mac tricks
- Keeping the net neutral
- PS3 and WII at E3
- Sex on the net
- Calendars, online and on paper
- Google, ipod and more
- Viral video
- Unlocking the USB key
- Free your ipod
- In search of
- Sony and the rootkit
- Internet summit
- Electronic surveillance