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Most people today would likely say that whenever they need to call any kind of customer/technical support, they have a horrid experience, or at least something far less than what is implied by company slogans and mission statements that go on about how important "each and every" customer is to them.

The truth is, most companies don't care about you. They are blatantly lying when they say they do. You are no more than a single entity of a demographic, a sale or a monthly bill to them, and they have discovered an ingenious method for beating you down over everything from product quality to service performance to reliability to getting help when you encounter any of these things. I'll provide a few examples, then I'll let you in on the remedy they have found for dealing with your dissatisfaction.

I go to a McDonald's restaurant, and order a sandwich with no cheese, and the person punches up the sandwich with cheese, then specifies that it should be made without cheese. The problem is, this means I am paying for the cheese, even though I'm not getting it. I tell the person a mistake was made and they need to charge me for the regular sandwich, which costs 30 cents less, not the one with cheese. After what nearly boils over into full scale war, I finally manage to convince this person that there is a button to press for the regular sandwich. This happened so frequently that I just stopped going to that restaurant.
At work one day, someone produced a coupon and suggested we call for a pizza from a particular place. I made the call, and mentioned that I had a coupon. I then asked how much extra toppings would cost, and the young lady said, "I ain't sure." After a pause, I asked if she could find out because I wanted extra toppings, and her exact words were, "I think they're like a dollar and something".
A few years ago, I was checking the Internet for a broadband router (not the power tool), and after I figured out the exact one I wanted, I checked prices at various online and brick-and-mortar merchants. At the end, I decided to check with a merchant that I usually don't use because they pad the shipping costs, which I think is wrong (that's another beat-down). Most other merchants wanted $129, and a few wanted $139 for that router. This particular online store was asking $149, which made no sense, but what was worse, they represented that this was a 44% discount off the "list price" if $289! I was seriously wondering where this list price came from, seeing the manufacturer (Linksys) only wanted $149 for the thing. I suspected this list price was entirely fictitious, so I sent the company an email asking where they got that list price from. In my email, I specified the "Linksys BEFSR41 Cable/DSL Router", which is exactly what it was called on their site. Next day I get a response from a "Jason" who said he could not find the item on the company site, and suggested I contact "Toolcrib of the North", which was the company from which they bought their power tools (power tools?). I went back to their web site, and found the item easily by doing a simple search, and also by clicking on the link for the "electronics" category, where the "Linksys BEFSR41 Cable/DSL Router" was the number 2 best selling item in that category! I responded to Jason saying I didn't understand why he couldn't find the item when I found it so easily. Next day I got a response from a "Sandy" who apologized for the inconvenience, and indicated that they could not offer reduced prices on items unless they had gotten reduced prices from the manufacturers, which they would happily pass on to customers. She also said that, although their prices were sometimes a little higher than other merchants, they believed that their "superior customer service" made it worth it to pay a little more. Unfortunately, she said, at this time they were unable to offer any discounts on the Palm VII (Palm VII?), because there were no discounts from the manufacturer. I responded to that one by upbraiding them for their "superior" customer service, consisting of one guy who couldn't find an exactly specified item on the web site, and this second person who apparently didn't really bother herself to read the message she was responding to. (How do you get from a "Linksys BEFSR41 Cable/DSL Router" to a Palm VII?) Next Day, I got a respnse from a "Margaret" who was listed as a customer service manager. She apologized and admitted that my experience did not portray their great service in a good light. She also happily announced that the "Linksys BEFSR41 Cable/DLS Router" was now priced on the site at $129. I went there immediately, and found that, not only was she correct, but that the suspected fictitious "list price" was gone! I like to think I had something to do with that.

Anyway, the point is, companies beat you down on customer service, and they really don't care too awful much, because they have accidently (maybe) discovered a way to protect themselves against the consequences of poor customer service. It's really a by-product of the corporate mentality that if you can't beat your competition, buy them. This is a pretty good strategy I guess, but since it makes the company (and therefore the customer base) much larger, and since a merged company is likely to have a smaller payroll than two separate ones, there's a great improvement to the bottom line. But the by-product of all that is this: you now have enough customers that, if you lose a few to poor customoer service, it's not going to be much more than a minor ripple. I work for a service company that has 500,000 customers paying monthly bills. Occasionally, customers dissatisfied with the service for whatever reason threaten to cancel. I find myself having to try very hard to let this customer know that I really care that he wants to cancel the service. That same day, I might help 6-8 new customers sign up for new service. I try, I really do, but it's hard to muster enough caring to bend over backwards to retain that one customer, especially if he's ranting and being implacable. Same thing with McDonald's, if I stop going, that store is not going to really miss my 6-7 dollars per visit, even if I was going there every single day. This is how companies insulate themselves against customer dissatisfaction; they just merge into larger and larger entities until even if a few hundred customers hit the road, it's just a ripple in the pond of their revenue.

The question consumers need to ask is, how many of us will have to refuse to support a corporate entity before it actually causes them to make a change? How many customers must a McDonalds lose before they start to REALLY train their people to give great service? How many customers have to stop shopping at a-z.com before they start to insist that each customer is truly handled as if they matter? Consumers have been beat down, because we are slowly learning to accept a pitiful experience when we have to call for support, we accept ratty services and chintzy, overpriced products, and the only people we complain to is our friends and neighbors, who of course can do nothing more to comfort us than to tell us they had an equally bad, or maybe worse, experience.

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