The Anatomy of a Terrible Support Experience


Every so often, a support scenario is so embarrassingly bad that it violates every tenet of the customer experience. The support journey I’m about to break down is not just objectively poor, but is the kind of scene that often plays out without companies really noticing.

The information you can’t (or don’t) capture hurts you and your customer. Everyone loses!

When the support process fails

The best customer support delivers the right service to the right person at the right time.

Poor customer support does the exact opposite, often infuriatingly piece by piece.  Meanwhile, the little inconveniences that may be flying entirely under your radar actually add up to an awfully high-burden customer experience.

This is exactly what happened when my friend and I made a weekend trip from London to Amsterdam. Right away when we landed, she went to the ATM to draw euros from her cash passport card.

The card company has one primary job: to enable customers use their money abroad. Let’s look how they failed us at every step of our support journey.

Hassle #1: You’re not available on the first channel they expect to reach you on

The back of my friend’s traveler’s card was stamped with a 24/7 hotline number. Naturally the first thing she did was call it — after all, this was the expectation the company set. But that wasn’t helpful!

The call was stuck in the queue for the next half hour (incurring roaming charges) until the machine hung up.


Hassle #2: You’re not making it easy for them to identify or validate themselves

When we finally got a support rep on the phone, he asked for a name and account number. She had the name, but not the account number.

She would have been able to verify anything else — social security, home address or even answer a secret question. She would have even been able to log into her email and confirm her identity through there. The account number is something she just didn’t have on her. While we were scrambling to figure something out, the rep asked if he could end the call because he couldn’t hear us well. He said he had her number and would call right back.

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Hassle #3: They’re calling back for the 2nd or 3rd time

He never called back. We waited and waited, and finally we decided to call back ourselves…and landed right back in the queue.


Hassle #4: You’re hearing from them the first time but they’ve been on an epic journey

When the phone didn’t work, I headed to Twitter for help. Did three exclamation marks make a dent anywhere? Nope.

To the social media manager who responded two days later (!!!), this sort of message must have seemed out of the blue. They may have been hearing about this for the first time, but from the tone of my message it should have been clear that we were having great difficulty.

Hassle #5: It’s hard for them to cancel/downgrade their account

The trip ended – the company didn’t get back to her in time. Days after the trip ended, my friend was still wrangling with the company, and they never resolved the initial issue. They were offering to send her a new card, but what she really wanted was to shut down her account. But they weren’t making that easy either.

Dead inside


Let’s just think about this for a second…

What happened here? Every support channel she tried failed her, and worse, no red flags went up at the company.

Perhaps the support rep she reached on the phone ended his shift and figured someone else would handle it. Maybe the social media manager figured that two days later the problem must have been resolved, and that all that was left to do was follow up.

Being stuck in foreign countries with a blocked card is a common scenario – it’s not too much for customers to expect a company to have a process for fixing this run-of-the-mill problem quickly.

I’m surprised that when the phone rep couldn’t connect with us by phone, he didn’t look for other ways to help. Our support rep didn’t send an email or text. No one alerted the support team to our distress signals on social media.  It seems like disconnected support kept this company from being able to piece together the total picture.

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The takeaway

If you’re looking at your customer’s support journey from one angle, beat it out of your system.

If you’re going to offer support on multiple channels, you need to have a plan for unifying them.  All frontline reps – and anyone responsible for quickly helping customers – should have easy access to customer profiles and be able to collaborate with other customer facing teams.

What are your customers’ needs? What are their limitations when they’re using your product? Find and eliminate them. Whatever you do, don’t make the customer do the work.

it’s the sum of the parts that determines whether that customer cancels your relationship, so the onus is on you to have a single view of the customer. You need to keep all your customer interactions in one place so that all the moving parts at your company are synced up and ready to go when the calls roll in.

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