Got a kick out of Andy MacAfee's recent blog post detailing a recent terrible customer service experience with AMEX. I've written about terrible customer service before (heck, I've written about downright ripoffs from the likes of the Wall Street Journal and Hilton Hotels) but the irony built into this paragraph bore repeating:
I did respond to their misplaced customer phone survey, though (I had no choice), I did give them lousy ratings, and I have to believe that those ratings are summarized and reported somewhere. So the second possibility is that Amex's leaders are aware of their customer service issues, but not terribly bothered by them. But again, how could they not be? They run a customer service business it's all they do and they just released a study showing that, as their headline put it, "AMERICANS WILL SPEND 9% MORE WITH COMPANIES THAT PROVIDE EXCELLENT SERVICE." Even if you take a pretty cynical view of large corporations and believe that they don't care that much about their employees, you have to admit that they probably care a lot about their customers, especially in industries like travel with lots of competition and low switching costs.
MacAfee -- one of the preeminent thinkers on the next generation of the large enterprise ("Enterprise 2.0") seems somewhat dumbfounded by this question:
"How can it still be the case, in 2010, that really well-understood technologies (telephony, voice prompts, etc.) are still detracting from customer service, rather than improving it, at some of the largest companies in the world?"
Besides telling a funny story, MacAfee asks a good question. However, it's an easy one to answer, especially if you -- like I -- have experience with just how uncoordinated and disconnected such huge, brand-name companies can often look from the inside.