Old Guy New Trick

An old guys journey to learn how to code.

Bad CS vs Good CS

Author: John on March 04, 2014

Why is bad customer service still an issue in the present day?  I realize we had to put up with it in the past whether it was due to lack of competition, or a lack of a way to widely communicate our experience.  But in the age of the Internet, and lightspeed communications, what the hell?

I know this isn't about programming, but every once in a while I will chat about general topics.  This past week I got to experience both bad and good customer service.  I was shocked actually becuase the bad service was from American Express.  I've never had an issue with them until this past week.  I've been an American Express member for over 20 years.  Last year and the year before I used my card for purchases in excess, well let's just say greater than $20k each year.  I make my payments online via the American Express website.  This past time I made an error.  I didn't catch that I used my business account instead of my personal account.  When Amex went to transfer the money, there wasn't enough in the business account.  They emailed me a the next day.  A day after that I got a letter from my credit union letting me know that Amex tried to transfer money and since I didn't have enough, they hit me with a fee. 

So I called Amex.  First person said, "...sorry, nothing I can do.  We will keep trying to hit that account up to three times."  Oh and they will charge me a fee each time it fails.  And, my bank will charge me a fee each time it fails.  Now I realize I made a mistake.  But seriously, Amex couldn't cancel the transaction?  I escalated to a supervisor and got the same response.  I told the supervisor that I wanted to file a formal complaint.  Their response - "...noted, but there is nothing we can do."  ARGH!  

So I called my credit union (bank) to see if I would have better luck.  They were a little confused at first because they thought I didn't want to pay.  I did want to pay, but I needed to use the right account and I didn't want to keep getting dinged by both sides.  The Vystar rep helped me out and provided a solution.  1.)  File a stop payment to block the Amex transaction.  2.) Helped me transfer the money Amex was trying to get from my personal account to business account.  The reason being was in case the block didn't take affect quick enough, there would be money for Amex to get and no more penalty fees.  In addition, the Vystar rep reversed the charges/fees that occurred from their end.  Now that is Customer Service!

But wait, there is more!  After providing a solution, the rep said "...you know we have a promo now for our bank card.  Would you like to get one?"  And I did.  All future transactions where I used to use my Amex will now be done with my Vystar Card.

What I find worse than bad customer service, is customer service that just ignores you.  Before I began my journey with Ruby and Rails, I was trying to build upon my knowledge of PHP.  I purchased a book, <em>"Easy PHP Websites with The Zend Framework,"</em> by W. Jason Gilmore.  I found this book not very good - a little better than the phpCake one I had tried, but not worthy of the money I had spent.  I reached out on several occasions to get a refund.  I was ignored.  Contrast that horrible experience to a good one that happened this week.  I had heard about the book <em>Geocoding on Rails</em> by the folks at Thoughtbot.  I was very excited because from what I had heard, this book might help with a hurdle I had been trying to leap in my own app.  I got the book and tried to follow.  Had some trouble.  Tried again a few other times when I thought I was more alert.  Still didn't help.  Then I came to realize that I had made a mistake - I thought the book would take the reader from start to finish of a Geolocation Rails app.  But the book is geared more so to explain the different concepts and ways to approach Geolocation in a Rails app.  In other words - it was above my level, above my pay grade.

I reached out to Thoughtbot and asked for a refund.  Not only did they promptly refund my money, but they encouraged me to revisit once I get a bit further along in my Ruby studies.  I'm sure the book, and some others they offer, will be of better value to me once I gain more knowledge.

Customer Service need not be hard.  I'm not saying the customer is always right.  But the customer pays the bills.  In the case of Amex, I would have been ok if all they had said was: "...no problem, I'll stop that transaction for you."  Reversing the penalty would have been a bonus, but I'd be ok with them just stopping the offending transaction.

Amex, you've lost a long time customer.

Last Edited by: John on November 11, 2015