4.23.2008

to speak to a representative, press nothing, we will not speak to you

Yesterday I had a problem with my US credit card company, Capital One. It wasn't a big deal, but it required a phone call. After several minutes in their automated phone maze, I was able to "press zero to speak to a representative". If I pressed 0 before hearing this option, it was an "invalid entry".

I haven't needed to call Capital One in a long time. The last time I did, you could opt-out of the automated system by pressing 0 immediately. That option no longer exists.

When a rep answered the call - clearly from a South Asian call centre, of course - she was unable to help me. After some frustration, I asked to speak to a supervisor. She told me she had already handled my call satisfactorily, and hung up.

She hung up.

I was amazed. And not too happy.

When I called back, the option to press 0 to reach a representative was no longer there. I thought, is this me? Am I missing something? I asked Allan to try. Nope, it wasn't me. It wasn't there.

Do you only get that option once? And if you have to call back after a unsatisfactory call, does your phone number receive a different menu?

I called from my cell phone, et voilĂ , the press-zero option was back.

Does anyone know anything about this?

About the call itself, the next representative also couldn't help me, but she did let me speak to a supervisor, who of course assured me that you are always entitled to speak to a supervisor, and no representative is ever instructed otherwise. The supervisor worked with me and resolved the issue.

Once upon a time, Capital One had excellent customer service and actually treated me like they valued my business. This experience galled me. I'd love to ditch cancel the card altogether, but as we're still building our credit history in Canada, I need my low-interest, high-credit US Visa card for emergencies or large expenditures that we need to pay off. So I'm stuck just writing a letter of complaint.

But what's the deal with the changing menu on a second call?

19 comments:

West End Bob said...

The good thing about a Capital One card is they are the only one we've found that doesn't charge the 3% surcharge for currency conversions.

We use their card exclusively when traveling outside the US . . . .

L-girl said...

I didn't know that any credit cards charge for currency coversions! (Although I'm not surprised to hear it.) Our TD Canada Trust card also does not.

Capital One has been good to us over the years. Their fraud department is excellent, and they've worked with me on interest rates and balance transfers. In general it's been fine.

But this was maddening! I think their level of service has declined.

James Curran said...

I've been fighting with them for a year now. Try reaching their so-called ombudsman. Non-existant. They are a ridiculous company to deal with. I can't even get them to cancel my card. That's how bad they are!!!

James said...

According to libertarian acquaintances of mine, this simply demonstrates that good customer service is a waste; after all, if it was necessary, the Market would force the company to offer it...

L-girl said...

James Curran, have you tried going to your state or provincial regulator? I had an enormous ongoing fight with Time Warner Cable of NYC, and the NY State agency that oversees them got satisfaction for me. Sounds dreadful - good luck.

James, oh yeah, I forgot. :)

redsock said...

What about L's question?

If a service rep is annoyed at you, can he or she arrange it so that if you call from the number you called from originally, you get routed to a slightly different set of menu options -- a menu that makes reaching customer service 100% impossible?

L called from a 416 number. Gets hung up on. Calls back. The "talk to a human" option is gone. She calls from her cell - a 647 number. The option is "back".

It would be bad publicity if the public learned about this. Any readers here ever do this work? Got any dirt?

L-girl said...

Any readers here ever do this work? Got any dirt?

Or any IP people who may have programmed or supported such a thing?

I'm not thinking the annoyed rep can make this happen, but could the company's system offer a different menu to a phone number that previously has accessed the system in a certain time period?

Meaning, you can't talk to a live person more than once in a (eg) 24-hour period?

Scott M. said...

In short, yes, it can be done. There are a number of companies (esp. in Europe) who have eliminated the ability for lowest-value customers to talk to a rep -- if they can't self-service in the IVR, that's that.

At the company I work for, we have a list of about 100 or so "abusers" who have their call hung up on after being warned in writing about their death threats, abusive language, etc. They don't even get into the IVR, and if they do, they don't get back out.

The process to add a person to that list is very cumbersome though, it's not in anyway automated and has to go through a big process to be put in place.

L-girl said...

The process to add a person to that list is very cumbersome though, it's not in anyway automated and has to go through a big process to be put in place.

Could it be automated though? I understand that at your company (which has excellent customer service) it is not, but could be a simple number recognition/block for a certain length of time?

Scott M. said...

Could it be automated though?

Absolutely, easy as pie. And you could hash it any way you want... you could have it under the control of the CSR, or have it with "x" number of calls per day or month, etc. That kind of thing happens a lot in Europe already, possibly in Asia, and has caught on in the States. Don't know of any Canadian outfits that do it yet.

It's all a part of the customer segmentation game... the "high value" gold/platinum customers (with huge bills) get answered immediately by the most senior agents, whereas the people who provide little or no profit for the company get shoved to the end of the line.

I'm not in favour of Capital One's approach, but it is a bit more forthright than the approach some companies use of putting you into an unstaffed queue. Yep, it happens, intentionally. You can listen to music forever.

L-girl said...

It's not forthright. I was able to get through once, was not helped, then couldn't the second time. Not forthright at all.

Believe it or not, I am not a low-value customer with Capital One. I have a Platinum Plus card, a huge credit line, have been a customer for 18 years without ever missing a payment. Up to now, their service has been good.

Re endless holds, I've been there. I think we all have.

Scott M. said...

Believe it or not, I am not a low-value customer with Capital One.

Unfortunately IT systems can be faulty at times and you may have been caught in a bug.

L-girl said...

you may have been caught in a bug.

Maybe. Kinda hard to buy that, tho, after being hung up on - then this bug hits 4 or 5 consecutive calls.

kim_in_to said...

Despicable. I'd want to take my complaint to the top, although I wonder if they'd listen as carefully to a customer who's living outside the country...

James said...

I am not a low-value customer with Capital One. I have a Platinum Plus card, a huge credit line, have been a customer for 18 years without ever missing a payment.

I dunno about Capital One, but with some financial institutions, paying your bills promptly and in full makes you a low-value customer. If you pay on time, how can they charge you late fees, over-limit fees, and, of course, interest? That's where they make their money.

TD got in trouble a few years back when word got out that they were deliberately giving their most conscientious customers bad service, in hopes of driving them away to other banks.

Maybe. Kinda hard to buy that, tho, after being hung up on - then this bug hits 4 or 5 consecutive calls.

It could have been a bug that incorrectly attached the behaviour to your phone number, or affected everyone for six hours, or some such. It doesn't have to be triggered on a call-by-call basis.

L-girl said...

I dunno about Capital One, but with some financial institutions, paying your bills promptly and in full makes you a low-value customer.

Oh sure.

But who said I pay my bills promptly? :)

L-girl said...

Seriously though, I know from my history with Capital One that I am considered a very good customer. Maybe it was an unintentional issue with the menu, maybe not. I guess there's no way to know. It just seemed very convenient...!

But the representative refusing to let me talk to anyone else, then hanging up on me... argh!

James said...

But who said I pay my bills promptly? :)

You did say you never missed a payment...

But the representative refusing to let me talk to anyone else, then hanging up on me... argh!

I would think that that would be a firing offense -- if anyone responsible actually heard about it. A few like that could cost the call centre company its contract.

L-girl said...

You did say you never missed a payment...

Definitely. I just don't pay the entire bill. I usually have a balance, which of course they like. At times that balance has been bigger than others, and when it's very large, they've increased my credit line... so I know how that works. :)

I would think that that would be a firing offense -- if anyone responsible actually heard about it. A few like that could cost the call centre company its contract.

I am going to complain. Which doesn't mean the complaint will go anywhere, but I must try.