The new economy requires businesses to have both excellent customer service and flexible practices. I’ll talk about companies which are failing in both and what they should instead to succeed.
Business Fail: The Cricket cell phone company uses a complicated and inflexible automated phone system which is does not provide an adequate level of customer service.
Everyone loves to hate their cell phone provider and I’ve certainly had my share of customer service disappointments having used Cingular, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile over the years. Recently after signing up for yet another new plan with Cricket, I experienced the most ridiculous run-around I’ve ever been through with a cell phone provider.
It started with a several simple problems with my account and broken text messaging, but after 3+ hours on the phone and getting told every possible excuse, I finally canceled the service.
Here’s my synopsis:
I ordered a new Cricket phone and service package online and it arrived yesterday morning with a easy instruction card telling me that I only had to dial *228 and the phone would self-activate and I would be ready to go. Instead, after dialing the special code, I got a message saying that my account could not be activated and I would have to go to a local Cricket store (which is 30 minutes from me) to get it working. I tried calling the customer service who said that they couldn’t find my account and they would have to create it. After nearly an hour of going back and forth with the CSR, finally it was working. Fortunately, I had no idea the nightmare I would be in for the following day.
During my lunch break, I took out the phone to write a quick text message to my roommate. I was quickly greeted with the response “Message sending failed.” Thinking that perhaps the service wasn’t good where I was at, I tried again later in Nashville to a different number and got the same response. Surely a quick call to the customer support line would solve this problem.
1:45 pm: I called and pressed option 3 to get to technical support. After asking me to enter my number, I was told that it was invalid. I checked and reentered the number a second time. Then the friendly male voice on the phone system told me that the number was still invalid and to “try again later” at which point I was disconnected.
Calls made at 1:48, 1:50, 1:52 got me the same response. It turns out that you can’t get to any portion of Cricket service without having a “valid” telephone number as determined by their computer. In my case, the computer didn’t like my number and wouldn’t let me talk to anyone!!! (Cricket, why don’t you have an option to let me get past this point even if my number is “invalid”?)
1:54 pm: I finally was able to get to a live person by going through the new phone activation options and pretending that I was a new customer (that takes about 5 minutes to get through!). The rep told me that my text messaging should be working fine and after 30 minutes of debating her on the issue, she suggested that I call a local Cricket store and see if they could help.
2:20pm: The local Cricket store directly me to call 1-800-CRICKET for support. They can’t help me with this problem.
2:22pm: After 10 minutes to get back into the system, the new CSR told me the reason my text messaging didn’t work is because I didn’t have any money in my FlexBucket account. I explained to him that I didn’t want to put money in my FlexBucket account and instead just wanted to have the “unlimited text” I was supposed to be getting with my package. He insisted that there was no other option so I just ended the conversation after nearly 20 more minutes.
6:43 pm: After work, I hooked up a cell phone tap to record the increasing ridiculous conversations with technical support. Here is the first call to a CSR named Linda. I’ve cut all the wait times out of the recording, but imagine waiting for 5-10 minutes before each call. Linda tells me that I have pic and video messaging, but not text messaging? Huh? She later corrects herself and tells me that my service should be working fine. Yeah. Right. Then she transfers me to tech support so they can figure out what’s wrong. Moments after the tech answers, the phone connection disconnects for no reason.
7:03 pm: Kathryn tried next to help me next. She tells me that my information was not in the system and thinks this may be the problem. After verifying a few things, she tells me she is going to get a supervisor. The person who finally picked up (Irene) didn’t seem like she knew anything about my case and we went through the whole routine again. Irene tells me everything is setup fine on their end, but she just needs to refresh the system and my text messaging will work fine. Yeah. Right. Needless to say, the text messaging still doesn’t work.
7:29 pm: I called back and tried again with a new CSR. She transfers me to another tech support person to help me. I explain the problem again to the tech support guy who tells me to call someone so that my phone will be “registered” in the system. Does calling 1-800-CRICKET not qualify to “register” it? He then tells me that my account won’t be added to the system for 72 hours and tells me that 1-800-CRICKET won’t work for at least 72 hours! (Cricket, aren’t the first 72 hours the time most support calls would come in anyways?)
7:58pm: After trying the last advise, I find that text messaging still doesn’t work and call back again and try to cancel my service. The new CSR tells me that the $35/month plan doesn’t include text messaging and wants to charge me $3/month extra to add it! I refuse and point him to my confirmation email and their website which shows under my zip code that unlimited text messaging IS included. He them tried to tell me the website is incorrect and that I have to pay the additional $3/month for text messaging. After a transfer to his supervisor, she tells me that the CSR is incorrect and my service should work just fine. She does however cancel my service for me after some prodding. Finally, 3+ hours later, it’s over.
8:47 pm: I call to get a Return Authorization number so I can return the phone for a refund and the return department can’t find my account either so they said someone will have to call me back within “3-5 days.”
If you hadn’t had the misfortune of having to talk to a cell phone CSR recently, then it’s hard to imagine how frustrating it is to be transferred around many times over and waiting on hold for 5 minutes at a time. I’ve cut all of these waits out of my recordings, but it’s still a very long experience.
Hopefully, by the beginning of next week, this will all be over and I can start looking for another phone plan again. Does anyone know another provider who offers unlimited talk and text for a decent rate? I really wish Cricket had worked out for me…
Business Solution: Cricket needs to improve their automated phone system so that it is not so difficult to reach an CSR. A method to reach the same CSR when calling back would save a tremendous amount of time instead of having to explain the problem repeatedly when calling back.