Years ago (more than 10) I was starting my second business. It was a home improvement referral service. It was a franchise and my first journey into the world of Franchisee to Franchiser relationship.
I learned a lot about what to look for that goes well beyond the business model. The truth is what the franchise sells is the least important of things to consider. But that’s an email for a different day.
I call to start the gas service so I would have heat for the winter. It only took a few minutes and the process was painless.
BUT THEN I GOT MY FIRST BILL.
Because I was a business, they wanted me to put down a $900 deposit in case I defaulted on paying my bills. WHAAAAT?!
To be clear my monthly bill was estimated at being around $30. And I expected to use the heat (and as a result the gas) for no more than 6 months. They were looking for 5 years of gas usage as a deposit.
I’m not going to get into the 2 hour details (included hold time) of the “customer service” call I made to inquire about the excessive deposit.
But here is a quick summary of the conversation between me and the customer service rep (CSR).
ME: This is unreasonable.
CSR: No it’s not. It’s what the computer says.
ME: It’s the equivalent of five years of payments.
CSR: I see you point. But it’s what the computer says.
ME: Clearly you don’t have the authority to fix this. Let me speak to your supervisor.
CSR: The supervisor doesn’t have a phone. Plus they can’t do anything because it’s what the computer says.
ME: How about the Supervisor’s Supervisor?
CSR: Nope. They will tell you the same thing. It’s in the computer.
ME: Is your company run by a computer? (I’m pretty pissed by this point)
CSR: Sir, no need to be rude.
ME: So what you’re telling me is that no one has the authority to fix this issue because the deposit is set by the computer?
ME: How about the President of the corporation?
CSR: Well I guess he could fix it.
ME: Great! Patch me through to him.
CSR: I can’t do that. No one talks to the President.
ME: Why? Is he the Wizard of OZ?
I hung up the phone.
Now I don’t like to be told I can’t do something…
So I look up the President’s name.
Call the company’s main phone number.
And used the look up by name feature and selected the President.
Phone starts to ring and his Executive Assistant (EA) answers…
EA: Hello Mr. President’s office.
ME: I’m calling for Mr. President.
EA: May I tell him whose calling.
ME: Roman Yako
EA: Mr. Yako, The Mr. President is unavailable, is there something I can help you with.
(I explain the problem and what had happened so far)
EA: That doesn’t sound right. Mr. Yako it’s almost 4pm and the Executive resolution desk will stop taking calls. I’d like to personally run this down there but I have to hang up in order to do that. I promise to call you back in 5 minutes.
ME: No problem. Thanks.
(5 minutes later the EA call back)
EA: The executive resolution desk had your issue. They are looking into it as we speak. I will call you back as soon as they resolve the issue. It shouldn’t be more than a hour.
ME: Ok. Thanks again.
(about a half hour later the EA calls back)
EA: Mr. Yako, the executive resolution desk figured out that your office is listed as part of a larger complex with only one official meter. Therefore the deposit was calculated for the entire complex. Of course that makes no sense. They have adjusted your bill according. In addition we will not be requiring any deposit from you. I hope I’ve been able to address your issue?
ME: Yes. Thank you for your help.
EA: I’d also like you know that they will be looking into why the CSR was unable to help you.
ME: That’s great. Thanks again. Have a great day.
To this day, I have no idea why the CSR couldn’t solve the issue 3 hours earlier. I can only guess that the company didn’t trust their CSRs with the authority or she did not think she had the authority. Both explanations are easily solved with training.
I find that most SMB (small and medium sized business) don’t invest in the people that have the most direct and critical contact with their customers.
Do you trust your Customer Service Reps with the authority to solve customer problems?