This is also posted as a comment over at Ellen Roseman's blog. It is a fairly long letter I wrote to Kevin Crull, who is currently the VP in charge of Residential Customers at Bell Canada, and posted via Canada Post on the 14th of August, 2007. To date, I have received no response. Thank you very much Bell, you provided exactly what I paid for (most of the time), and not a penny more. Maybe I won't get any better service elsewhere, but I'm certainly willing to try. At least the begging / whining telephone calls from Bell wondering how they can get my business back have stopped.
The letter begins:
For reference, my telephone number is currently 519-xxx-xxxx, which is the same number we held with Bell since we opened our initial account in June, 2001. Please note that I do not wish to be contacted by anybody from Bell with reference to this letter except for the person to whom this letter is addressed: Mr. Kevin Crull. I understand that Mr. Crull is very likely a very busy man, but it is his name on the card to which I am responding, so I feel entitled to demand his attention. While consulting Google in an (unsuccessful) attempt to find a mailing address to which I could send this letter, I found a weblog posting by Ellen Roseman that you replied to personally, Mr. Crull, so I have taken the liberty of Cc:'ing her as well, in the hopes that she will find this letter of interest.
I am in receipt of your card, which was undated (and lacking a return address), but was postmarked 07 August of this year. In it you invited me to contact a member of your team at 1-877-449-0774. However, I do not want to speak with a member of your team in order to discuss anything at all, as there is very little discussion to be had. I merely wish your company to know why it lost me as a customer, or at least, why I am extremely unsympathetic to displays like this card.
Firstly, the card was addressed to me as I have addressed my letter to you: first initial last name. I know your full name is Kevin, you signed it to your letter, just as I know Bell knows my full name. The fact that my name was used precisely as it appears in the telephone book tells me that Bell doesn't care to find out my full name. Furthermore, while the note itself was obviously professionally printed on fairly nice cardstock, and the envelope was also of fairly decent quality, my address was obviously printed on a cheap inkjet printer that needed its heads cleaned. To be perfectly frank, this was not a great impression to give, as a company which has taken approximately \$7,000 from me in the last six years.
Secondly, I had to dig around to find your mailing address. Ultimately I found it it in a copy of the Yellow Pages; I think it's quite telling that the only mailing address obvious on Bell Canada's website is one for investor relations. The address was not included in the note with your name signed to it; only a telephone number was given. I know why that is, it's so that if I want to tell Bell something like what I'm describing in this letter, I have to give a customer service representative a chance to try to win me back. Your company must give its customers a full range of options to use in order to contact it, and one of those options ought to be regular old land mail. Quite frankly, I'm not interested in having to justify myself to somebody I've never met why it is I've chosen to switch to Rogers Home Phone for my service.
There is not one single reason why I chose to terminate my account with Bell, although it's mostly because we were spending more money than we had to. Living in an apartment building, our telephone lines aren't the greatest and there's nothing we can do about it, so we were paying for Bell HSE services that we were unable to use: our maximum throughput was limited to about what we get paying half as much to Rogers for their cable modem Lite package, because of the excessive amounts of noise on our line. Additionally, every time it rained outside, our HSE service would be interrupted for anywhere from 30 seconds to five or ten minutes. I realise that these issues are beyond Bell's control, but they're also beyond mine.
Finally, I will illustrate why I do not believe Bell customer service to be so much as a shade better than any other large business in the world, and worse than many, with a personal anecdote. The sort of note I received today would have been much better received about two years ago, when our land line service with Bell stopped working abruptly. When I called that evening to complain, I had to navigate a menu in order to get in contact with a customer service rep, who promptly put me on hold, even after I told him I was calling from a pay as you go cell phone - because, of course, my land line was non-functional.
When the CSR returned about five minutes later, he told me that he could see nothing wrong from Bell's end, and that was it. He could schedule a service call for me, but warned me in no uncertain terms that if the field technician found nothing wrong either, I would be billed for the service call. After telling him that yes, I was sure I wanted somebody to come visit, he scheduled an appointment for me the Friday of that week (I had called on a Wednesday) for some time "between 8am and 5pm." Nonplused, I asked for a more precise time frame, as I was going to have to take time off work, and was told that was as precise as it got. I took a full vacation day to stay home, and no technician had shown up by 6pm.
Calling customer service again, I was told that no, the rep had no idea why nobody had shown up, and was promised a service call Saturday, although at least the timeframe (early afternoon) was more precise. Ultimately, however, it didn't matter, as again nobody showed up.
I called a third time to register my displeasure - again, keep in mind, this was on a pay as you go cell phone from Fido - and was again told that another service call could be scheduled, but if nothing was wrong in the eyes of the field technician, I would be billed. I scheduled a call for Monday, but my phone was again mysteriously working by Saturday evening. I must say, I was sorely tempted to let the technician show up (or not) Monday, and then to contest the charge with Bell and the CRTC when I was billed for it, but I didn't want to waste a technician's time for the fault of the company for which he or she worked.
I also seriously considered submitting my own bill for a customer satisfaction survey to your customer service department at my standard rate of \$500 an hour for the approximate length of time we were without telephone service (approximately 65 hours, or \$32,500 plus tax, as well as the one hour of Fido time at 25 cents a minute). I chose not to do so as I felt it would not get paid anyway, and no tax benefit would accrue to me for keeping a bad debt on the books as it might have if I was still running a business for myself.
No apology was extended by the customer service representative when I called in to cancel my appointment, nor was an offer of pro-rating my service for that month extended. No mention of my wasted day and a half was made. In fact, I felt that the representative thought I had been lying all along, and it was clear to me that he wanted nothing more than to get me off the line. To further add to the insult I felt, I spoke with a different representative each time I called, and had to re-explain the full situation - including previous interactions - each time. During these explanations, I could hear the representative typing away. Since I cannot believe that actual notes were being taken regarding my case, I had to wonder what they were, in fact, typing. All in all, these interactions left me feeling incredibly insulted and dismissed.
In short, our major reason for staying with Bell after this event was largely inertia and the desire to keep our internet and telephone services bundled. Our major reason for switching was financial, but the reason why I am extremely unlikely to ever again pay Bell for service is because I do not frankly believe that Bell service is worth very much money at all. It seems to me that Bell's attitude towards customer service can be summed up by the infamous VMS "see figure one document" (for instance, see Netfunny's posting), and the only reason why it has chosen to send out note cards to customers who finally dump your company is what some would call a naive (and what others might call a cynical) attempt to try to convince those customers that Bell really cares about them. I do not believe that Bell - any moreso t
han most other large businesses - really cares about me, but rather about the income that I represent. Given that, I don't think Bell can blame me if I jump ship the instant it makes financial sense for me to do so.
Incidentally, I am told that given that I live in an apartment building where the demarcation point is not accessible by me personally, it is against CRTC regulations to levy such charges as I was threatened with against one's customers. I don't know for sure if this is true or not and won't waste my time looking it up, but if I am ever in that situation again, please be assured that I will make it my business to find out. In any
event, I do not appreciate being threatened by a company to which I have paid a great deal of money for a service that is not working.
I realise that this is an extremely long letter, so as thanks for your perhaps reading this far, I will offer a (free) bit of unsolicited advice: give your customer service representatives much more latitude in being able to offer customers service, rather than causing the customer to have to demand it. Give them the ability to offer a free month or two of services when they encounter customers in a situation like mine. Your call centre managers should all read books on customer service and business by people like Seth Godin, and encourage their employees to do the same. I assert and believe that this sort of service and education would more than pay for itself in the long run. I see from your Bell web page that you hold an MBA degree and an otherwise impressive resume, so hopefully this sort of advice is not entirely new to you, but I would like to impress upon you that if I felt that Bell had such a commitment to customer service, I might never have left in the first place and would be more sympathetic to pleas to return. However, should I change my mind, I assume that the offer of waiving my reconnection fee has no expiry date, and so I will hold on to my copy of this card as binding proof of this offer.