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My Journey Through Inconsistency (Part 1)


I’m not sure I’m your typical customer anymore. After being in the customer experience industry for the last 12 years, I’ve become quite attuned to customer service and related issues when I’m out and about.


This week I witnessed a cardinal sin when it comes to customer service – inconsistency across channels and employees. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, but is a great example of keeping your  messaging and service levels consistent.


As you read this, keep in mind that the staff I’ve interacted with didn’t do anything wrong per se – they were all friendly and courteous ,and I believe they helped me in the best way they know how to. However, the information shared with me was inconsistent, causing confusion and hesitation on my part, which hindered my purchasing decisions.


Let me explain….


My daughter’s phone broke a few days ago. No matter where you live, you may have heard her screams of anguish when this happened. Being a teenager who is involved in sports and other activities, as well as having two similarly active siblings who need to get places and a father who travels often, leaving her mom (me) to play taxi and scheduling manager, I really need her to have a phone.


I checked her account online and saw that she wasn’t quite due for an upgrade, but I was. My first call was to my cell phone carrier, asking if it was possible to “give away” my upgrade to my daughter. I was told I could and we were off and running.


Since this company is notorious for having better deals online, that was my first stop. I checked our free options, and even the lower cost options, and didn’t find anything worth looking at. I remembered a friend saying that there were deals at Best Buy recently, so we skipped the web and went shopping.


Best Buy was a bust (I must have missed the deals) so on the way home we stopped at the cell phone carrier’s store. As we were browsing, the very pleasant associate shared that we could upgrade to an iPhone for no cost…..well, no cost until you add in the activation fee that can only be waived online, and the upgrade fee. I asked about the upgrade fee since I was told I could transfer my upgrade to my daughter. She said that was correct, but there was still a fee. I needed to think about this and go back online, so we went home. Already I’ve gotten two different versions of the story, and I needed to figure out which was correct.


Now my daughter has visions of an iPhone in her head, so I’m really in trouble. I go back online and search for this magically free iPhone upgrade that I didn’t see before and I actually find it. SUCCESS! I put it in my cart and it starts walking me through the purchase process. Wait – it’s asking me to choose a new plan, and I don’t see the plan I currently have. And it’s saying I’m going to need to pay an extra $10/month for my current phone since I’m upgrading.


Confused, I go to their chat feature. A nice woman named Jessica is eager to assist. I explain what I’m seeing, and she offers to look at my account. She says it’s all good and she can walk me through the process, but it will cost an additional $10/month. I ask why, as the phone is going to my daughter’s line, which already has that additional cost per month. I wasn’t understanding why my phone would get the additional charge when I wasn’t changing anything. She explained that this extra cost is for all phones activated since 2011. Okay, but mine was activated in 2010, so until I upgrade, it should stay the same, right? She says no, that’s not the case, and if “I like my data” the extra cost is well worth it. I ask if the activation fee is waived and the phone in my cart is really free so there are no more surprises, and she confirms that.


At this point I think I’m frustrating her with my questions, because she asks if she can transfer me to a “web specialist.” Karen comes in the chat and reviews my situation. She says she can help me but asks for a minute to review my information. When she returns, she tells me she is going to transfer me to someone who can help me better. LOL I waited a moment and laughed when I saw Jessica come back  – maybe there are two Jessica’s, but it still made me laugh when i realized they might be passing me around like a hot potato.


Jessica then confirms everything and asks if I want to go ahead with the purchase. I say yes and ask her what I need to do now that the phone is in my cart and I’m ready. She says she needs to send me a link to place this order. She sends it and I click, and interestingly enough it’s the same site I’ve been on. She tries walking me through finding the phone and adding it to my cart, but I explain it’s already there. She says I have to empty the cart and start over, so I do. Keep in mind nothing has changed so far, so I’m not sure why we took the extra step. When it came to the plan selection, she said to leave it because my plan will stay the same. I tell her I cannot go forward without choosing a plan. She reiterates that my plan will stay the same and I should be at the purchasing page. I ask her what to do here, since I can’t go forward without choosing a plan and I don’t see my plan as an option. She says to select a plan and move on. Then she says I have the option of having it shipped or picking it up in a store. I was thrilled that I could pick it up in the store and went for that option. She explained how that worked and was eager to leave me at this point, so I put her out of her misery. Not before confirming that this would all work fine, there would be no additional cost for picking up in store, and I could simply activate the phone on my daughter’s number and all would be well.


After all this, I get to the final page and I’m thinking I’m home free. Wait, what is this? My “free” upgrade somehow lost a discount in this last step, because now I’m not only paying the extra $10/mo, but my “free” upgrade is now costing me $100. Tempted to hunt down Jessica and get some answers, I instead do what all retailers hate: I abandon my cart and close the computer.


Mind you this process has taken a day and a half. At this point I’m frustrated and my daughter is lying in the fetal position going through withdrawal. The second part is not a bad thing really, but this is taking entirely too long.


For my next move, check out the next installment of the story, which is coming soon!