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Service Failure:


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 membership.

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].

Thanks, Chris

Sent: 27 December 2001. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit


Please give us a call at 650-428-5106
Happy Holidays!

The Matchmaker


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: Promotional Credit


Is it possible to use another CC because the one you are using is not going through properly.

Happy Holidays!
The Matchmaker


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 one.

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 by now.

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 out?

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

Happy Holidays!


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

Happy Holidays!


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:



Sent: 31 December 2001 18:35. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit


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.

Happy Holidays!







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. What fun!

Sent: 02 January 2002. To: Chris. Subject: Re: Promotional Credit


What is your username, so I can look into the situation for you immediately.

The Matchmaker


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 caused.

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 :)


Sent: 4/1/2


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.


Sent: 8/1/2

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 you yesterday.

Now, you are ignoring my request for the name of the manager of customer service.

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 you? I
will have them do that with your confirmation. Do you want me to cancel
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 to.


Sent 11/01/01. To: Chris. Subject: Promotional Credit

You can write to matchmaker@london.matchmaker.com

Attn: Jen

Please let me know if there is anything else I may do for you. Have a
great weekend! :)

Attn: Jenn
Copy: Anthony, Becky

Hi Folks,

Find below a lengthy and tedious email dialogue via which I believe I
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:

Dear Chris,

I appreciate your escalating this situation to me, and I'm sorry that you
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 daily.
Sometimes, this means that your inquiry can not be answered within 24
hours, and occasionally, human error results in an inappropriate response
(for example, Anthony probably should have realized you were from abroad
and not assumed you would be willing to make an international phone call).

That said, most customers appreciate the personalized service they receive
from Matchmaker.com, and are patient in waiting for our response. Your
emails to us were rather cryptic, and it is difficult to determine exactly
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 so
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 seven
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 accept
as compensation for the frustrations you feel we have caused you over the
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 much appreciated.
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 quality one.

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 that.

Best Wishes,

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. Who knows.

Bloody Minded?

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.

Assertive Vs Agressive

This is a distinction which many people are unclear on. This lack of clarity prevents people from complaining, because they want to be nice people.

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:

  • Ranting
  • Personal attacks
  • Name calling
  • Swearing

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 unnecessarily.

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 here.


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 feels good.

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!

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