Friday, June 27, 2008

And the Award goes to

Columbia Gas - for easily hands down the absolute worse customer service on the planet. While they may say this about themselves:

Columbia Gas of Ohio Background

Columbia Gas of Ohio, headquartered in Columbus, is an investor-owned public utility that sells natural gas and provides gas transportation services to customers in Ohio. The company serves 1.3 million of Ohio's approximately three million natural gas customers. Columbia is the state's largest natural gas utility, serving more than 1,000 communities in 64 of Ohio's 88 counties with a service territory covering approximately 25,400 square miles. The primary Ohio metropolitan areas served include Columbus, Toledo, Parma, Mansfield and Springfield.

I say they are failing miserably. They have positively horrible customer commitment - on a service level. While I know many people complain - I have actual and factual proof to back it up.

This post then is an open letter to Combulia Gas's President Jack Partridge.

Dear Jack,

While it is true that I have absolutely no choice when it comes to who supplies my Natural Gas - I mean you have that wacky pick your supplier program, so I guess I can by my gas from whomever I please - but I am still stuck with your company delivering it to me and acting as agent in terms of payment arrangements and the like. I am still stuck with you and your company providing me with an absolutely unacceptable level of service.

Sure when I turn on the oven or the furnace it is working and directly so because of the product I am purchasing from you - but SERVICE - CUSTOMER SERVICE is also part of the equation and I gotta tell ya Jack - in that arena - you fall very short from the mark.

Even though you are the only game in town - there is absolutely no reason to flaunt that fact and treat your customers in a shabby manner. There is value in service and humility. There is value in acknowledging that your customers are very busy people with lives and that as a service to your customers you will leverage technology and the very least be polite.

I will now share with you two examples of your complete failing to be a forward thinking customer focused organization. It is your choice - be the only game in town and KNOW that your customers would rather get struck repeatedly by a semi truck than deal with your Company OR Be the only game in town and BE SEEN AS A TRUSTED PARTNER. Sadly I gotta tell you - YOU ARE Light YEARS AWAY FROM THE LATTER!

I volunteer for my church and we own a rental house. It needs an automated meter reading device. This makes our life easier and YOUR life easier. (Ah, once again the opportunity to partner! Which your company fails miserably at by the way.) I arrange payment for the device, I attempt to set up a time to have it installed. The house is vacant. An all day window is not doable for me - as I have family responsibilities and a LIFE, Jack, so I ask for a call ahead. Begrudgingly I am told they will call me 30 minutes ahead.

Because of a bad traffic accident I miss the first appointment. I tried to call and let the service tech know this - but I was told by customer service - "Too Bad - I would have to reschedule." I did so. They claimed to A) not know who was going to be at the house and B) nor could they contact anyone via phone or otherwise.

Next time around. Again the call comes, I drag my daughter, who is ill and my sleepy toddler across town - only to sit at the property for over an hour and no tech arrives. I call. I get told too bad so sad not our problem and hung up on. (I am paraphrasing but let me just say helping me was not this woman's job apparently.) I call again and get a very nice young lady - who tried to find the tech via dispatch. She tries and it does not seem to work and well I needed to be at the doctors at this point and so I bagged it.

So let's review some random facts:

It is 2008. Everyone - including my 11 year old neighbor has a cell phone. How hard would it be to issue all service techs - a 2 way cell or something - so that they may be contacted at a moments notice. MMMM. Not hard I should think. AEP does it. WOW Cable does it. Sears appliance repair does it. If the techs have phones or radio - everyone should be able to stay in touch. You should be able as CEO and the BIG GUY IN CHARGE - reach out to anyone in the field at any time!

You have a very poor automated phone service that calls when they are on their way - WOW cable - has a live person - who thanked me for my business when they called today to say the tech was on his way. MMMM - seems like a touch point and an opportunity to service me well.

After my 2 horrible experiences with your company - and the lack of service I request a supervisor - and well she was young and sweet and totally not helpful. Not interested in my feedback in the least.

I fail to see why we cannot schedule service in 2 hour windows and I understand that if there is an emergency I will get bumped - but I deserve a phone call. I am the paying customer - I DESERVE service. I DESERVE TO BE TREATED WITH RESPECT. A dog generally even politely sniffs the fire hydrant before it takes care of business - YOUR company - yeah not so much.

Let me ask you JACK how you would feel being in a restaurant, and the server can come and take your order between the hours of 8am and 6 pm or they can fail to show up at all or they can tell you they will be there in 30 minutes and well 4 hours later they finally arrive. I would image that you would not be satisfied with this level of service. Nor should you be.

How about at the doctors - you show up at 8 am and wait in the little room all day - only to be told by a Medical Assistant that the doctor was called away to an emergency and well you will have to reschedule and be prepared to waste another day, she is very sorry but that is the way it is. I think the doctor would loose alot of patients.

But you Jack do not have those worries as a businessman, now do you? No as the only game in town, you feel you can mistreat those who butter your bread. My thought is that plan may work for a time - but in the end - bad business always fails.

My challenge to you - is to give this some thought. My brother and his roommate still have no gas in their apartment after 10 days. I plan to be there on the 2nd of July - the earliest time apparently in your Company's very busy social schedule - in which you can provide them service - to wait on a tech. My hope is they show up - an even better touch - maybe you can show up and we can have coffee. As a professional writer - I am good with words and well I have a few more choice ones for you - all constructive mind you. I only want to see that YOU take a step forward.

I do so hope Jack that you will come to see that - there is the right way to run a business and there is the wrong way. It is as easy choice - if one truly values their customers.

All the Best to You!

Thoughts from the Edge

No comments: