Help desks are fast becoming a bigger oxymoron than military intelligence.
“You won’t believe what happened.” Carrie blurted out. Normally level headed and calm, she is irritated no, she is mad.
Carrie had left a message with the “help” desk at Pitney Bowes. She needed their assistance in replacing the ink cartridge in our brand new postage meter machine. She read the manual several times and had been unable to figure out how to do it. (For the record, Carrie is very technical and can usually figure these things out. She is in charge of trying to fix our fax, copier or computers if there is a problem.)
Carrie calls the Help Desk and of course get the automated attendant. Push 1, push 2,…(you know the drill). The first person she calls tells Carrie that she can’t help. She will need to transfer her to the service unit. They don’t handle our lease. She goes through the auto attendant for the 2nd time and is informed that she has the wrong unit. She will need to be transferred to a Supervisor. She finally ends up talking to Ken, a “Senior Associate” with Pitney Bowes who says someone from the “help desk” will call her back.
The Help Desk guy calls her back the next day and informs her that we do not have a maintenance agreement for our machine. He tells her there will be a $50 charge for the information or $160 if we want someone to come out to our office and help her. (Sounds pretty helpful so far)
Carrie can’t believe it. She just wants to know how to replace the ink cartridge. You see, this is a new machine. Our lease just started a two months ago, and this was the first time the cartridge needed to be changed.
Carrie asks him if he thinks it is fair to charge $50 for something that is unclear in a manual. By the way, we are paying about $1,000 per year to lease (not own) this postage machine. He states that “it has been done this way for years. Unless you have a maintenance agreement, you are charged every time you call in for any question, no exceptions.”
Their maintenance agreement costs about $14 per month. Carrie asks to speak to his manager. Mr. Help Desk says, “My manager is just going to tell you the same thing.” How pleasant.
NOTE WELL: When you are a customer don’t you just want someone to HELP? Why do they call it the “help desk” anyway?. Anyway, he tells Carrie to call Phil in “Rapid Response.” Phil does not take incoming phone calls. All Carrie can do is leave him a voice mail. Within the hour Phil returns the call.
After arguing for 10 minutes about the fee, Phil tells her he will speak to his Supervisor. Five minutes later he comes back on the line and agrees to waive the $50 fee. He then tells her the big secret. “Pull the blue lever on the right towards you”. Miraculously, the machine opens and Carrie is able to change the cartridge.
I their instruction manual would have just added: pull the blue lever towards you instead of: pull to the right and up, it would have been clear.
Phil sees Carrie’s point and admits that the manual is unclear in this area. He says the worst thing she was told is “that we’ve done it this way for years.” Phil’s title is “Facilitator.” With the help desk being so unfriendly, he probably has his hands full.
MAJOR QUESTION: How high up in any organization do you have to go before you get someone to help you, much less see your point? At Pitney Bowes it took 5 people. The first 2 were no help. Then a supervisor, then a facilitator (who had to ask his boss).
PAINFUL QUESTION: How many policies do you have that frustrate employees and customers alike?
REAL QUESTION: They should have helped first and THEN informed us about the low cost maintenance agreement, just in case bigger things should happen to go wrong with the machine. We believe in maintenance agreements. We would have bought it on the spot.
MONEY QUESTION: It’s so easy to see this example as how “the other guy mishandled it.” But that’s not the purpose of this message. Call your own company with a problem, and see how you are treated. How are you responding to your customers when they need help? Is it a help desk or a hell desk?
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Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlottebased Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/3331112 or email to email@example.com