This is one in a series of short articles describing real-world examples
of poor service. I hope to stimulate interest; to help you recognise poor
service when you see it; and to evangelise a bit about complaining.
"Matchmakers" is an online dating service. You can access their
online member directory and interact with members in a variety of ways
for a monthly fee. My fee was deducted automatically from my Visa card
each month, until I lost the card. I got a new one, but cancellation of
the old one inadvertently caused my monthly payment to fail. Matchmakers
locked the account, which is reasonable, since payment was not made.
This article shows what happened trying to get it activated again.
We pick up the story following several unproductive attempts to
resolve my problem via the Matchmaker internal mail system.
I have still not renewed my membership, so I no longer have access to
those messages. If I sound somewhat feisty coming out of the blocks, bare
in mind that I've been pushing this tedious crud for some time already.
Here is the email dialogue which followed.
Sent: 26 December 2001. To: Matchmaker
I'm very fed up with you!
I have had to tell you several times that I unable to renew my
Please review mail from me carefully, understand the problem, then
help me to solve it.
Please bare in mind that my ability to connect to the site and
review mail (possibly mail from you) expires very soon.
If necessary, you can email me on [my email address].
Sent: 27 December 2001. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit
Please give us a call at 650-428-5106
As you will know (or can easily find out), I am in the UK.
I do not want to be sat in an international hold queue or to pay
for an international call for what should be a very simple thing
to sort out by email.
You can call me if you wish on [my phone number]
| Sent: 28 December 2001. To: Chris. Subject: Re:
Is it possible to use another CC because the one you are using
is not going through properly.
Anthony has not correclty found the problem, so I explain it for
him. Hey - I have nothing better to do.
It's not going through because it has been replaced with a new
This is why payment failed & why you suspended my membership.
When I try to give new details at the site, it tells me I've had
credit card problems at the site
before, and it doesn't allow me to enter new card details.
I don't want to be rude, but...
If you - or any of the previous Matchmakers and customer support
people - had read my emails, you would know this several times over
When I finally got back in to my account, I found the matchmaker
had been sending me messages within the site, which I couldn't get
into because my account had expired.
This is more than a little foolish.
I've also been ignored a good deal.
And you've asked me to call you in America to sort it out. Not
very customer focussed.
And now, I'm being forced to repeat myself again.
Can you see why I'm a bit fed up?!
Please tell me who is in charge of customer services, and how I
might email them.
Then, please tell me how we can quickly and painlessly sort this
I suggest you re-set the "problem with card" flag on
my database entry, which would then presumably allow me to re-register
my card details via your secure server.
Sent: 28 December 2001. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit
Give it a try now....I'm removed the restriction
True to form, you have ignored quite a bit of my email.
Please read it again, more carefully, and provide the missing elements.
Sent: 30 December 2001. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit
There was a restriction due to the problem with your CC...I have
taken off the restriction...you should be able to charge it now
You're still not giving me responses to the things I am asking
for, so at this point, I am going to give up on you, except to ask
you this question:
PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO CONTACT YOUR SUPERVISOR.
Sent: 31 December 2001 18:35. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional
You CC did not charge correctly and therefore I have adjusted your
account so you can re-enter another CC. I'm not sure what other
question you have.
PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO CONTACT YOUR SUPERVISOR.
Well, the last one worked. Happy Holidays, Anthony.
But Becky comes right out of the blocks on the wrong foot.
My entire dialogue with Anthony was present for her to review,
yet - rather than acquaint herself with this situation which caused
a paying customer to escalate a complaint to her, she takes the
zero-effort route, and asks me for my name.
Did she ever speak to Anthony about it? Did my name come up at
all?? Who knows.
So - following misery at the website's internal mail system, and
misery with Anthony, we're off for round 3 with Supervisor Becky.
Sent: 02 January 2002. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit
What is your username, so I can look into the situation for you
My user name is [my member name], but the situation is contained
in the dialogue below this email.
Please tell me what your position is within Matchmakers.
Are you Anthony's supervisor?
Thanks & Regards,
Sent: 04 January 2002. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit
I am the Matchmaker of London. I monitored this situation and would
like to help you out. Originally on 11-29, your credit card was
flagged because the credit card was denied by your cc company.
Automatically, Matchmaker flags the card as 'bad', as to avoid
further charges, or issues with the account. I apologize if this
was a mistake. This restriction is removed, I just confirmed it
as of today. Jan. 4, 02.
We have given you promotional time to go into the account and manually
process the card again. I would suggest logging on and manually
processing the card one more time, as it should work, as I trust
the card is valid.
Again, I apologize for any inconvenience, or confusion this has
Please be sure to contact me with any additional issues, as I would
like to help you as best I can.
Have a great weekend :)
You are still missing the substance of my complaint.
Have you read the email dialogue below?
If so, I'm at a loss to understand how.
If not, I'm at a loss to understand why.
Please help me to understand.
Please let me have a progress update.
Please also give me the name of the manager of services at Matchmaker.
Becky is about to deliver a Support Classic.
She invites me to "submit a formal complaint". Then
she'll be glad to look into it.
Often people will only accept these in writing. I sometimes invite
people to print my email .
What does she imagine the preceeding messages are - if not a complaint?
And where is the additional benefit in formalising it?
She says "any correspondence" should go to her manager's
address - but she doesn't say who her manager is, or how I should
address correspondence to them.
Sent: 08 January 2002. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit
If you would like to send me a formal complaint I will be glad
to look into the situation.
We have added free time to your account to compensate for the
misunderstanding, as I do apologize the system had an error. Would
you like me to have billing process your card?
Would you like me to cancel your account? Please let me know and
I will be happy to forward your message to my Manager. Any correspondence
should go to this address.
You have already looked into this for me, but I have been very un-satisfied
with the way you did it.
You ignored the email dialogue I sent you.
When I pointed that out, you ignored me entirely, until I reminded
Now, you are ignoring my request for the name of the manager of customer
I would like to complain to the person who is in total charge of customer
service at Matchmaker.
Please tell me who that is, and their email address, so that I can
write to them directly with my complaint.
Sent: 10 January 2002. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit
There was a very small error with our billing system, which I have
expressed sincere apoligizes for any inconvenience for, that did
not read your card correctly. I have given you a FREE month of time
to go into the system, and charge your card manually, so the autorenewal
feature will be in effect the next time your account expires. There
are NO restrictions on your account, it expired because you used
the free time I gave you and did not manually renew the card. I
have given you one more day to go in and renew.
Tell me what you would like me to do and I will be glad to do it
for you. If you want an active account, just log on and use your
credit card. Otherwise, please let me know how I may help you. Like
I said, I run the London site, so any formal complaints may come
to me and I will
handle them for you. I know this situation, I am just confused because
I have explained the error to you, but I am unclear of what you
expect of Matchmaker.
Do you want me to have our billing department manually renew for
will have them do that with your confirmation. Do you want me to
your account? Please let me know so we can remedy this situation.
Like Anthony before her, Becky seems to be clinging to the problem;
beavering away with repetition about the technical problem, and
ignoring my request for her managers contact details entirely.
Please give me the name and email address of the person you report
Sent 11/01/01. To: Chris. Subject: Promotional Credit
You can write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please let me know if there is anything else I may do for you.
great weekend! :)
Copy: Anthony, Becky
Find below a lengthy and tedious email dialogue via which I believe
received poor service from all staff involved.
I invite your response.
I have written an article outlining this episode which you can also
to if you wish.
I will include any of your responses at the end of the article.
You can find the article here:
Sent: 18 January 2002 15:36, To: Chris, Subject:
I appreciate your escalating this situation to me, and I'm sorry
are unhappy with the service you received from Becky and Anthony.
Unlike most Internet customer service departments who use auto-responders
to bulk reply to customer concerns, Matchmaker customer service
representatives read and personally reply to over 400 inquiries
Sometimes, this means that your inquiry can not be answered within
hours, and occasionally, human error results in an inappropriate
(for example, Anthony probably should have realized you were from
and not assumed you would be willing to make an international phone
That said, most customers appreciate the personalized service they
from Matchmaker.com, and are patient in waiting for our response.
emails to us were rather cryptic, and it is difficult to determine
what you were asking for after your initial problem was fixed.
We gave you
a total of eight days of free time over the course of this discussion
that you could log into your account and update your credit card
information. We also sent you several emails with instructions
to do this.
You have been a member of the Matchmaker London community for almost
months now, and we appreciate your patronage. I have added an additional
one month of free time to your membership, which I'm hoping you'll
as compensation for the frustrations you feel we have caused you
past month. Please let me know if you require anything further.
Customer Service Manager, Matchmaker.com
|Hello Jennifer, and thanks for your response.
I agree that you provide personal, and rapid responses to customers.
As you say, this is unusual in an Internet company, and is very
But - although I sent one reminder to an email which was unanswered
for a few days -
the thrust of my complaint is not about this at all, and I wonder
why you mention it.
My complaint is about the fact that your service people seem to
spend very little time reading and understanding my emails.
They seem more interested in providing a radid response than a
This means they consistently failed to understand my situation.
Several of your initial responses were sent to my closed account,
where I could not read them! This has lead to frustration as I have
had to repeat myself a great deal. As, in fact, I'm doing right
now, with you. (it's all in the article I pointed to via the link
in my previou email).
As time wore on, I became very frustrated - and more interested
in making a service complaint than in solving the problem. Both
Anthony and Becky seemed to have huge problems in understanding
this shift in emphasis.
I accept that you gave me credit to update my account, and that
you have now awarded a further month. This is very generous, and
I thank you. But I this was not my motivation.
I would far rather have your understanding than a freebie.
I think the summary is that your people have not spent enough time
reading my emails, and so have wasted a lot of time and caused frustration.
I feel I still have not succeeded in conveying my thoughts to Becky
to Anthony or to you, but I'm out of ideas. Perhaps 400 emails a
day will blunt anyone's attention after a while!
I can see that you have all been trying hard, and I appreciate
In the end, I don't think I got anywhere. I don't
think Jennifer understands why I got fed up, and I don't think she
sees how her team can improve. Or perhaps she sees everything, but
is one of those people for whom acknowledging a problem is unthinable.
I don't know the people involved. I'm sure they think they did their
best, and that I was a difficult and unpleasant person to deal with. There
may be extenuating circumstances which I'm not aware of.
I don't enjoy these things. I don't like to be unpleasant or high-handed
with people whose job it is to provide service. I think there can be real
nobility in the provision of service to others, and I am clear on the
fact that providing service has nothing to do with being servile. If you're
rude to a waiter - you should be asked to leave and to not come back.
Some will observe that I could have made it all go away when Anthony
tweaked the database to allow me to go back in and enter new card details.
This is undeniably true.
So - was I being "bloody-minded". No. I followed this up because
I am heartily sick of complacent mediocrity. And it's everywhere I look.
I want to change things for the better.
Every time we "let it go" we are "letting it go
on". And on, and on, and on.
If I just re-entered new card details and shambled on, I would be acknowledging
that my treatment was acceptable. Not worthy of anyone's attention. Not
worth "making a fuss about". And this is why we are where we
find ourselves. Businesses can operate this way, and do very nicely thankyou.
That's the cycle I want to break with Let's Fix Britain.
This is a distinction which many people are unclear on. This lack of
clarity prevents people from complaining, because they want to be nice
If you look at my emails, I hope you will agree on the following:
You do see:
- Candid expressions of dissatisfaction
- Direct references to what has gone wrong - summarised where useful
- Tenacity - sticking to my guns about what I would like to happen in
the face of attempts to divert me
But you do not see is:
- Personal attacks
- Name calling
I confess that very occasionally it all gets to be too much, and I am
aggressive too. This is never justified. It is always wrong. And, by the
way - it is VERY counterproductive. But it is human. I try not to do it,
and I'm getting better as I get older. Hoever, no aggression on this one.
Complaining Vs Personal Hatred
This is another common confusion. We're angry at poor service, and there's
this service professional opposite us. It's easy to personalise things
The prospect of personal conflict or damage - keeps many of us from complaining
about the things we really don't like.
I do believe that both Anthony and Becky provided poor service
on this occasion. But I do not believe they are bad people.
I'm 42, with a life's experience of customer service. Perhaps Anthony
is young, rushed off his feet, paid a pittance, and really only interested
in mountain climbing. He'll have to find his way in life. Meanwhile, he
really is delivering poor service to this customer. And this customer
doesn't like it.
I hope that Becky and Anthony gain some benefit from reading this article.
I hope Matchmakers can see some incentive in orchestrating better customer
service in future. I will invite them - along with Becky's boss - to review
this article, and I will publish any comments they may provide, right
Poor service is all around. If you point it out, you're likely to be
met with complacency and hostility. It's no fun, it's hard work, it's
stressful and time-consuming, with little prospect of an outcome that
So - do it anyway!
Because we can afford it once in a while, and because we all want things
to be better.
Let's Fix Britain!