Why do we tolerate poor service?

An unhappy customer hits backYesterday was a difficult day in the south of England if you were attempting to use the internet.

I was working in Computer Precision’s offices where I was updating the website and writing a blog. This turned into a harder than expected experience when Plusnet suddenly went offline.

Later, back home, I attempted to pay some bills online. My bank is First Direct which was, for a while, unable to transmit my payments. My wife, Sally, works in a large local secondary school which was also experiencing difficulties when its 3G service went down.

These things happen from time to time. If things can go wrong, they will go wrong.

But what interests me is why we put up with persistent poor customer service. Plusnet is owned by BT, so it hardly lacks resources. But a cursory look at people’s posts on www.broadband-guide.org.uk suggests that all except one of its customers are not happy.

Here’s a fairly typical post by someone called Miles:

“3 weeks ago our line speed dropped from 3MB to 100KB. 3 weeks later, after ringing them up every single day, a BT engineer is finally booked to come and see us. Nothing you say to them makes any difference. We tried logic. We tried ‘pathetic customer service’. We tried ‘even talk talk in India are better’. We tried shouting. My partner even tried crying. Our lives are now utter hell as not only does my partner work permanently from home, I have a broken rib and am also currently, trying to work from home. They are the most obstructive, illogical, uninterested, arrogant, rude, disorganised organisation I have ever encountered. AVOID AT ALL COSTS OR YOUR LIFE WILL BE HELL.”

Another customer, Paul, wrote:

“Have been with Plusnet since before BT acquired them. Their service used to be excellent and customer support good. Over past year or so, speed has slowed but most frustrating there is an outage every couple of weeks. The service doesn’t go down for just 10 or 15 mins but for hours on end – latest such episode was yesterday evening when half way through sending some photos to friends. Think it is really past time I switched ISP.”

My broadband provider is Easyspace. I never think about the company because nothing ever goes wrong, so there’s no issue to get my attention.

But the internet itself easily unites people with shared problems which, when aggregated, could seriously affect a company’s ability to win new customers. It’s very easy to get a view of a company simply by finding out what it’s like to be, for example, a Plusnet customer.

Most net users would rather stick pins in their eyes than to go through the hassle of having to find a new internet service provider.

But it’s much easier for a potential new customer to decide to go elsewhere.

To read the Plusnet customers comments in full, click here.

Finally, I’m off to Turkey on Monday to teach in Istanbul, so my next blog will be to do with my 2010 European Tour.