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Customer Service – what to do, and what not to do

I received an e-mail from a frustrated Setanta Sports subscriber a few weeks ago. The e-mail went as follows:

I have sent 5 mails to Setanta Ireland customer service over the last month. Other than the ‘autoresponder’ mails promising a response within 5 working days, I have only received one actual mail from Setanta apologising that my query had not being responded to and asking me to forward on the query again. Immediately upon receipt of this mail, I mailed them with a full outline of my query.

I have yet to receive a response to this mail.

I would be grateful for any assistance valueireland.com can provide in inducing a response from Setanta.

The gist of the problem as explained in the e-mails that were sent to Setanta Sports was as follows:

Hello. I recently subscribed to setanta sports. As I had never subscribed to sky before, I didnt have a sky box – so I bought a second hand box and card.
I now understand that over the coming weeks, sky intend to roll out a Card Change – replacing ALL current cards. I won’t receive this card from sky.

The only way I can continue as a subscriber to Setanta is if Setanta themselves can supply me with a replacement card.

In the absence of this or another suggested solution from yourselves, I have no choice but to cancel my subscription. Please advise by return mail.  If I don’t hear from you within the next 7 days, I will assume that you have no solution to this issue and will proceed to cancel.

And here was my response:

Not being fully familiar with the in’s and out’s of Sky or Setanta subscriptions, my comments below would be based on generalities.

Given the detail provided below, I don’t believe that Setanta Sports can, or should, do anything for you. You have a contract with them to provide you with a sports package, and they are doing that.

What would be in your terms and conditions of that contract with regards to how you access their package?

Given the manner in which you’re accessing their package through the 2nd hand Sky box, I don’t believe that it would be the responsibility of Setanta to facilitate you continuing this arrangement following the changes made by Sky.

It is more than likely outside of the bounds of any Setanta customer service responsibilities to provide replacement Sky cards – surely this is only a Sky function. Is it likely that the fact that Sky are rolling out new cards is actually because of people accessing their service in the manner in which you have?

I’m sorry I can’t be any more positive, but as I said, on the basis of the information you’ve provided, this is how I would see things. The only issue you could feasibly have with Setanta Sports is the fact that they haven’t had the courtesy to respond to tell you that this isn’t their problem – you are their customer after all.

So, here we have an example of a customer who is enormously frustrated with the service provided by a company they’re paying money to.

However, in this scenario I think that the customer here had unrealistic expectations of what Setanta Sports could actually do for them.

Obviously, since this was a non-standard question for the customer service people at Setanta Sports, there was no standard scripted response – even to the point of being able to identify it as something that they couldn’t actually help with and allow a PFO response to be sent out immediately.

It’s worth remembering when dealing with customer service people – if it’s a standard question you’re asking, you’re most likely to get a fast and quick response to your satisfaction. But if you’re going outside the script, you may have to be a little more patient to allow them work out what to do – and potentially escalate to a supervisor or manager.

5 comments On Customer Service – what to do, and what not to do

  • The contract used to, at least, state a Sky Viewing Card was required (i.e. that’s your business).

    However, if pushed, Setanta can issue a generic viewing card for a fee, and I’ve heard (but not officially) that this will continue when the new cards are issued.

    I say “if pushed” because it does take a lot of wrestling with CSRs on the phone and having to talk to supervisors.

  • Hi VI,
    I’m disappointed in your approach.
    Firstly the complaint was that he did not get a reply. You totally ignored this issue. As a customer he has perfect right to ask a question. He has a right to ask a stupid question. He has a right to not have to send 5 emails to get a reply.

    “I don’t believe that Setanta Sports can, or should, do anything for you. You have a contract with them to provide you with a sports package, and they are doing that.”

    You are talking like a lawyer. You keep harping back to contracts. You sound like the CAI…thats a real insult.

    Smart companies are in the business of making customers happy. They know that happy customer come back for more and spread good vibes about the brand.

    Crappy companies are in the business of quoting contracts and pissing off customers.

    I would have thought VI would be promoting smart companies not the section 45 subset c 2 quoting idiots.

    Time for change..

  • @cgarvey – thanks for the extra information. Useful for people to know.

    @Paddy9 – I take your point on contracts, but unfortunately in the world of today, people not spending the time necessary to review what they’re signing up to is causing huge problems.

    Smart companies, and smart clients, are protected if they’re both aware of the contracts that they’re signing up to.

    Unless you’re calling for contracts to be removed from the customer-business interaction, I don’t see how we can get around this scenario.

    So what I’m trying to highlight here is that, despite people not being lawyers, they do need to read the small print before signing up for anything.

    And to paraphrase a little of what you’ve said, can I suggest that crappy idiot customers will expect more from their suppliers than their suppliers actually provide, and will then get pissed off when that unrealistic expectation isn’t met.

    It’s unfair, I think, to expect that a business be expected to such meet unrealistic expectations.

    But as you point out, its also not right that Setanta didn’t respond appropriately. I did address this point in a subsequent post – http://www.valueireland.com/2009/05/customer-service-what-to-do-and-what-not-to-do-some-more-thoughts/ – though I think now that I did get their order of publication wrong.

  • “So what I’m trying to highlight here is that, despite people not being lawyers, they do need to read the small print before signing up for anything.”

    If a customer is not a lawyer how exactly do you review a contract. How do they interpret the legal language that most contracts are written in?

    Take for example a basic contract like this at Meteor.

    This contract has 12 pages 19 paragraphs, over 5,000 words.

    It contains such gems as “Call Content must not be exploited commercially to the detriment of Meteor or any Third Party and must not be used to provide any other on-line or information service.”

    Are you seriously holding that every customer should sit and interpret this? 4 years studying law and I wouldn’t be sure what exactly I’m agreeing to.

    Contract are written by suppliers, for the benefit of suppliers. They are written by lawyers to confuse and mystify the common man.

    I think that the only thing that keeps suppliers honest is
    1. Competition…the ability to walk away.
    2. Bad publicity.
    3. The customers ability to haggle.
    4. The threat to go to law.

    Once a customer starts arguing the terms of a contarct with a supplier she is on a looser. The supplier will know the contract and will interpret the contract to suit him.

    What we need is suppliers dedicated to meeting customer reasonable needs. Most customers are reasonable. They may be confused, may not very bright and ask a lot. But they are the customer and smart companies learn how to manage them without going legal.

    This cannot be said for many companies who hide by T & C’s.
    They are happy to promote happy PR images but want to weasel out of reasonable obligations.

    Time for, particularly Irish companies, to learn that they need to start focusing on meeting customer needs and stopping trying to turn the country it a crowd of contract reading lawyers.

  • @Paddy9 – I appreciate everything that you’re saying, and I can’t argue with the sentiment that contracts are primarily used by businesses to beat up on their customers whenever it suits them.

    On the other hand though, I don’t know what valid alternative there is out there.

    Without contracts, what could be implemented that would suitably protect the consumer – never mind the supplier?

    You do seem to be railing against contracts and terms and conditions, but then use “The threat to go to law” as a way of keeping suppliers honest.

    How else could a consumer threaten to go to law if there is no contract in place stating the terms and conditions that both parties agreed to?

    Then again, I suppose also that Terms and Conditions are as much there for the benefit of consumers as they are for suppliers.

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