Don’t Hold the Customer Hostage

Two years ago someone stole my identity. It gave me a keen insight into how shitty most corporate customer service is. It’s not about solving problems – it’s about limiting liability.

Identify theft sucks. As a consumer, I mean DEFCON 1 level fucked up.

A Consumer or Suspect?

Suddenly, you are suspect. Everywhere.

Call to report it – you’re a suspect.

Call the account-holding institutions – you’re a suspect.

Call the credit bureau to place a freeze – you’re a suspect.

Just to speak with a human, you have to dance with a robot guard dog for half an hour. And then, after they drill you for proof of identity and your shit matches, they get even more suspicious?

OHO! We caught you! If you didn’t open this account, then how come your information matches, criminal?! Huh?!

The entire mess has way too much friction. If you really wanted to solve customers’ problems – you’d cut to the chase.

Are You Putting Customers in Hostage Situations?

Then I had a particularly gnarly run in that made my jaw drop.

I learned one of the accounts that got opened in my name had never been used. Easy fix, right?

So I called to report it as fraud and asked if they would close the account – no way, buster. They treated me like a criminal.

Dead serious. This was an account with a zero balance. It had never been used. But it had my information tied to it –so they refused to close it without speaking to the police.

This is fucking insane.

In this particular scenario, after investigation they said they determined the account was opened according to their protocol. But here I am – an alleged customer, whose identity they’ve verified – begging them to cancel an account that had never been used.

Still, they refused. I was a customer. But they were holding me hostage.

If You Don’t Trust Customers, They Won’t Trust You

Canceling a service should be next to frictionless. But this wasn’t. Their lack of cooperation made me feel suspect of their intentions –

  • Maybe they really don’t give a shit about customer satisfaction.
  • Maybe they hired a bunch of morons who can’t think for themselves.
  • Maybe their protocol is so hierarchical it doesn’t account for this particular situation, so no one knows how to handle it.
  • Maybe reps are incentivized to keep accounts open.
  • Maybe they’re trying to prevent reportable churn so they can keep overstated customer numbers.
  • Maybe they believe by acknowledging my claim and cooperating, they’re opening themselves up to exposure as being complicit in the committed fraud.

Whatever the case, it paints a startling picture of the way some companies view their customers – not as human beings their org is solving problems for, but as inputs.

It’s disgusting. And it serves as a good reminder – the more incumbents act like complete fucks, the more friction they force upon their customers, the more imminent their doom.

If your company behaves this way, I have a message: Go Fuck Yourself.

A better market solution will come to rip market share from your greasy, slimy hands – oh boy will they come.

And I’ll be here applauding.