CBC Marketplace Follows the Underdogs: Do I Cancel The Toronto Star?

CBC Marketplace: Underdogs:
"Underdogs: Putting a bite into customer service
Broadcast: January 8, 2006

Who hasn't felt completely alone and outgunned when you've tried to get some satisfaction from a store or company?"
I had to watch this episode. The Toronto Star delivery has been annoying me for a VERY long time, and recently I've hit my limit. I wanted to see if Marketplace had any nuggets of advice that I could use to get a fairly simple problem resolved. Nope. But a marketing and business professor at SFU and a customer relationship expert talked about how companies' intransigence and stupidity in this area are changing customers into litigious and vengeful enemies of the company. The worst of it is that most of the problems seem to be fairly easy to fix fast, but the companies' drag-it-out and blame the customer response blows them up so badly that they become almost unfixable.

This morning, I grinned when Roger on the RRM show on CHUM FM said that 2006 is the year of the customer, that companies will improve customer service this year. Maybe they will because where once consumers would trust what the customer service people would say and keep phoning -- as one customer on Marketplace put it, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, as he called Bell Canada for the upteenth time -- now they are taking the BS with a grain of salt and turning to blogs, courts, and word of mouth. Companies are creating hostile customers. What idiots. Do companies really think hostile customers are going to lead to increased sales? Do they really think individuals have zero impact on future customers, that we all live in a vacuum and don't talk to each other, whether in person at home and at work, or on the Internet? Do they really think that by stinting on the customer service part and pissing off repeat customers -- the best kind to get -- that that will improve their bottom line? Maybe in the short term, but in the long term, they're biting the hand that feeds them, and this hand has had enough with The Star.

I have figured out that complaints fall into different categories:
  • Wet and missed papers get a voice mail option; the nice auto-lady gives you a choice of a credit or a later in the day replacement. I find it interesting they have voice mail options for these. And I wonder how I would know if I got a credit as the amount on my credit card is never the same from month to month anyway.
  • Papers at the end of your walk, not at your door, get a sympathetic response and usually start appearing at your door permanently, or after a couple more calls.
  • Papers assaulting your front door get a sympathetic response and an immediate improvement that never lasts, necessitating repeat calls ad nauseum.
  • Papers not put together, that is the sections are just piled on top of each other and shoved in the plastic sleeve or are put in upside down into the main section or the main section is buried under the other sections meaning I get to see ads first or the top Life story, get a sympathetic response and rarely no change, necessitating repeat calls ad nauseum. And so unlike the customer who gets his paper from The Star box or newstand, I can't just flip through the paper quickly. I either have to put the paper together, or treat it as two separate papers, or when one section is inserted upside down and the others are piled on top of each other, turn it around and try to unravel it until I can finally find the main story and/or the section I'm looking for. This is what I want to do every Saturday morning when I'm half-asleep and just want to relax over a cup of cofffee?! Since when is wrestling with the ginormous Saturday Star relaxing, never mind trying to read the "new and improved" comics section?
  • All serious calls forwarded to management or the head of the carriers never get returned. I think this is SOP for all companies these days. Didn't used to be.
Does the Star think a sympathetic response is sufficient to make me happy? Does it think that sympathy alone will make me OK with the problems staying unfixed? Does it hope that a nice voice at the other end will make me go away?

Lior Arussy said on Marketplace, "Customer service is perceived to be a post-sale activity that is merely the cost of doing business.” The cost for The Star of not fixing these simple problems, all of which stem from underpaid, overworked carriers who try to cut corners and get away with it, is one pissed off long long-term customer who has changed the tune from this is a great paper to bugger them.

I have two choices:
  • Cancel the Star,
  • Put up with the annoying delivery service.
What would you do?

When I was watching Marketplace and the story on John Furch's battle with Bell Canada, I wondered why he didn't cancel his Bell ExpressVu service and get cable. (Apropos of hearing another story on Bell's abysmal customer service, I just read The Fixer column: Paolo Pasquini, a Bell spokesperson said, with a straight face one presumes, "Customer service is Bell's highest priority." Only if you're in the media.) The interesting thing about his story was that it was such a simple problem to fix -- a well-trained customer service rep could've explained and fixed it permanently in the future in the first phone call, but all he got was rudeness and hang ups, enraging him. Yet he took this and having his service cut off several times for about 3 months and never cancelled his service. So I guess companies figure they can put up with the high turnover of cheap labour in their customer service department (humans can only take so much of floundering around because of inadequate training and getting yelled at) because no matter how angry they make their customers, the customers will stick around.

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Classic said…
_Well, I didn't find this past Saturday's copy "relaxing". I didn't even have any umbrage left for noting its upside down sections. But it is a cheap subscription (I don't have to worry about a soaked copy either).
talk talk talk said…
I noticed! I had missed the problems you pointed out on your blog, but then I was too huffed and out of time from wrestling with the paper to read much of it or to read it properly.

i had thought the upside down sections were just because of my carrier. Obviously the Star hasn't told any of its carriers the secret to stacking properly put-together papers so that the stack is level. After all how does the Star manage to get them to the newsstand without spilling their innards.