Seth puts together a terrific post today over at his blog.

Speaking about customer service and the dreaded, “we are experiencing higher than normal call volumes”, during this busy holiday season I decided to place an order with Mountain Equipment Coop to purchase a gift for my brother for Christmas.

Halfway through my order I realized that I couldn’t find my membership card and thus couldn’t place an order.

Damn…I am going to have to pick up the phone and call them to get this information. I almost didn’t bother knowing that I’d be on the phone for awhile. But I gave it a shot anyway.

Imagine my surprise when a LIVE PERSON picked up the phone after one ring! I was shocked, and I was off the phone with my registration information in less than 2 minutes, finished up my order and done.

It’s unfortunate, that we are now shocked by great customer service. It is just so rare nowadays that it is a complete oddity when you run into it.

In contrast I had to contact my bank yesterday (Royal Bank). I contacted them for something because they screwed up and there was nothing I could do online to fix it. What do I hit after one ring?

The dreaded “automated voice system” It couldn’t understand a word I said, and I promise I speak plain english. Finally, after several attempts I screamed into the phone,

“I want to F’N talk to somebody!!!”

It worked… then I got the, “we currently experiencing higher than normal call volumes”

Also had to call PayPal today and got the automated voice system. But even worse, in addition to questions and prompts..I also got automated answers that were completely useless to my issue. I needed an agent but I never got the option. After it provided me with an automated suggestion to go to the website, it ended with a thank you for calling paypal and hung up on me.

I called back and magically found a convoluted way to ask for an agent, then I got one and everything was OK.

I realize that Royal Bank and PayPal have many more calls and customers to handle on a daily basis than MEC…but I don’t think MEC is small fries. It’s been around for awhile, is very popular, has great stuff, and clearly great customer support to boot!

In fact, I just called them again, and low and behold, I got a live voice in one ring!

I simply replied, “Merry Christmas”

Worse than having poor customer service is saying you are committed to it. Yet almost every major company will have a page on their website talking about how committed they are to the very best customer service. On the phone they say, “your call is very important to us”

I say why bother? because it’s the standard that’s why. Organizations believe that it’s the right thing to say…but not to do.

I would prefer approaching a website or telephone prompt that said,

“We apologize that our customer service is rather terrible, but the phones are burning up because our product is so awesome!”

At least it’s honest.