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Automation of Customer Service Gone Bad

Finance | Consumer Issues

Summary. Automation is increasingly replacing human contact in business. Here’s a verified first-hand account of an automated customer service system gone bad.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

I noticed a $50 charge on my credit card statement with no indication of who had charged the fee other than the words Membership Fee.

So, I wrote to my credit card company, “I notice a membership fee of $50 on my statement this month. Is that an annual fee for this card?”

I received an automated message back stating the following, “We strive to provide you world class customer service and … 24-hour customer service. To offset the costs associated with maintaining your account, we charge a nominal annual membership fee. Your account is not eligible for a credit of the annual membership fee. As stated in the Card Agreement, this fee is non-refundable unless you notify us to cancel your account within 30 days from the mailing or delivery date of the billing statement on which the fee is billed. Thank you for using our website.”

I’d not asked for a refund, but simply wanted clarification of who the charge was from. I wrote them again, “Friends, I’m surprised by your automated message. I was not asking for a refund to my account for the $50 membership fee. If any human being would have read my original message, I was just simply asking what the $50 fee was. There was an inadequate description on my statement. It didn’t say who the charge was from. I couldn’t tell what merchant the fee was from. So, that’s why I was asking. However, your automated computerized response now has me wondering why I really am paying $50 per year. Your email states that I’m getting, ‘world class customer service’ and ’24-hour customer service.’ Yet, an automated incorrect response suggests that I’m indeed NOT getting world-class customer service. Why would you allow this to happen?”

In response to my second email, I received the same impersonal automated response. It seems that more and more companies are charging fees, claiming it is to offset the delivery of personalized customer service, but instead they are offering automated impersonal service.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com