Saturday, June 19, 2010

TTC - A Story of Very Bad Customer Service

A Story of Very Bad Customer Service

Here, is one that will shock you... I hope. It is pretty serious stuff because it is abuse, emotional abuse. The recording will go online soon.

On Thursday night (June 17, 2010) I went to the TTC meeting with all the big wigs, including Adam Giambrone because I had one very strong purpose. It was to stop the verbal abuse that was being enacted on passengers by the customer service rep and their dispatchers. Being from another city, I felt I had nothing to lose if I complain. If they want to cut down my service, or be more nasty to me, let them. I have broad shoulders. I'm more worried about the Toronto passengers who need to depend on their service.

Here is the story:
A Wheel-Trans bus driver no-showed me. I arrived at Union Station 20 minutes early, so I went outside to wait at the appointed stop. I was there for close to hour before I finally got through on the line and was told the driver had no-showed me. The dispatcher said I was obviously in the wrong spot and they would not send me another bus. I couldn't believe it. I can only assume that the bus driver was trying to catch up on his schedule, so he made it look good, and carried on.

Here is the no-show process:

If the driver can't find a passenger, they are to call in to report to the office that they can't find us.

The office is to ask the driver if he has gone to the right place. If he says yes, the office will ask how long he has been there. If he says more than 5 minutes, the is then driver is given permission to post the no-show sticker, and move on. If I say I can't find the no-show sticker, I will be told I must be looking in the wrong spot, because the driver has posted one.

After asking a lot of questions, I have learned that there is no GPS system or any other kind of tracking system to prove that the driver is being truthful. It appears the dispatch office automatically trusts the drivers, and we the passenger, are doubted unless we can prove otherwise.

Anyway, it was apparent that I couldn't physically prove that I was in the right spot, even though I had a witness, so it was word-against-word and I swallowed my pride and asked them to send me another bus.

Well, the dispatcher spent a full 10 minutes trying to discipline me on the art of being responsible, before I could convince her to send me the bus. I don't have a recording of the call, but I have an escort who witnessed my end of the conversation.

Later the same day, I was stood up for a second time. The return bus did not show up in a part of Toronto that is served by non-accessible streetcars. I could not emotionally handle another abusive call to Wheel-Trans, so I called their IVR system, put in my PIN number, and discovered my time and type of vehicle had been changed. A bus, not a taxi, was to pick me up 20 minutes sooner than I had expected. All I could do was assume I had missed the bus, even though I had just been sitting inside the door and was in plain view. I was in no mood to take more abuse from another person at Wheel-Trans, so I looked for the no-show sticker (that I now know will prove I missed a bus), couldn't find one, and moved on. By the time I left, I had been waiting outside for 40 minutes, I was locked outside of the building, and I was in no mood to talk to another person who might belittle me for being irresponsible. My only remaining option was to find the subway or an accessible bus, and move on. I had no idea where I was, so I had to asked several strangers for directions, before I could figure out how to find the station, but I did it. I had to motor something like 5 blocks to the subway, got a little turned around on the system, but found my way, and was safe.

The next day I called long distance to customer service to, not only complain, but to find out where I should wait the next time I need to get a Wheel-Trans bus from Via Rail. I wanted to do what I could to avoid another nightmare experience. What I didn't expect was to get it even worse. The good news is, I recorded the call so there is proof of the verbal abuse. A CD of the recorded call has now been handed to Adam Giambrone... for his listening pleasure.

As for the customer service line, I called back several times, and I kept getting the same abusive woman. According to her, I was supposed to wait at a Wheel-Trans designated sign on Front St., and there isn't one. I now have a video of the entire block to prove it, just in case they decide to stick up a post and call me a liar. I hear it has happened before, so this time I'll be a step ahead of them. The official location to wait for Wheel-Trans at Via Rail, according to a very nice customer service rep, is outside the main doors of Union Station by the Via Rail sign and clock.

The abusive one says there are several clocks so I was probably waiting at the wrong clock. I'm not sure where the designated Wheel-Trans bus stop sign fits in, if the clock is also the right spot to wait, but I guess she thinks she's the expert.

It might not hurt for the employees to visit Union Station to make sure the post exists, before they insist I'm a liar. If I'm on location, talking on a cell phone, and I tell the customer service rep I'm wheeling around trying to find it, and I can't, then surely to goodness they would have had enough training, to know that it is not appropriate to doubt the customer who is so clearly asking for directions to find the right stop so they know where to find it the next time.

The whole time I was on the phone, I was repeatedly giving them the benefit of the doubt by asking more questions; sometimes I was calm, cool, and collected, sometimes with humour. I never once was rude to them, although after 25 minutes of abuse, you could hear in my voice that I was breaking down and coming close to hysterical tears.

By the time this customer service rep was done with me, I was at fault (not really) for the mistaken entry in her computer saying I live in Peterborough, not Kingston, I am to buy a cell phone (I was talking on one), I am foolish for phoning long-distance to complain (I waited a day to cool off before I called back because I refuse to yell back at them), I am to learn the art of patience (she'd been stuck in the traffic on the Don Valley for hours because of a fatality), I am to learn to accept that I am wrong and that the driver is right, and that I'm blind because I couldn't find the no-show sticker on the door of the Via Rail station. Oh yeah, I'm strange because I keep calling back to pursue what is right.

This statement came when I called back to learn the results of the investigation. I had been told to call back 10 days later by the very nice customer service rep, so that is what I was doing. It's just unfortunate that I, once again, got the same abusive woman. The answer I got from this rude rep was, you have launched this complaint twice, that is very unusual. The driver said he was there and you weren't, so that is the end of it. She then hung up on me. I dialed straight into her supervisor and left a message, including a request that they search their recorded phone calls for the one she was just rude with me again on, and let me know why she has still not been checked out.

Nothing came of the message. I called the supervisor back 10 more times and finally he asked someone to call me. I was again told the driver was right and I was wrong. As for pulling the recorded calls, they're not going to do it. They have too many and they don't have enough time to check them.

I thanked her and hung up. On Thursday, I called Dean (the supervisor) directly. I offered to give him a CD with the recorded calls; the ones I was asking him to check. That took him back a little. He paused, looked at his notes (more like stalled for time) then said, oh yeah. I listened to those calls. They weren't rude.

He then turned the table back on me. He said what do you expect from our call-centre employees. I said courtesy, respect, perhaps an investigation to check the facts before you automatically blame me, etc. He said our reps are good. We don't have time to make them perfect.

I said okay, here's another solution: Introduce Doris, the rude customer rep, to Annette, the polite one. Let Annette teach Doris how to be polite by example. He was not impressed. I said fine, I'll send the CD to every media outlet I can find. This scared him and he's now made a second promise to pull, and listen to, the recorded calls. I'm not going to bother following up with him again though. I'll go for the big fish, Adam Giambrone.

The way I got to Dean, the supervisor was, when the good customer service representative listened to me politely and offered to launch a complaint, I was so impressed that I asked for her supervisor. I wanted to give her the appropriate accolades. She thanked me and agreed to transfer the call. The supervisor was nice in accepting the positive feedback, but then he was defensive about the other rep, the one I had reported was rude enough to hang up on me.

Rather than listening to the call to substantiate what I said before he decided how to act, he made the mistake of trying to resolve the problem by reading her notes, and then trying to blame me.

He said it was unusual for someone to take over 25 minutes to report a complaint, or something to that effect. Translation: no one will take the belittling from a customer service rep, and try different tactics to get clarification to be sure they knew where the stop was, for the next time.

Eventually, after a long time arguing with him, he found enough evidence to realize that perhaps I was right after all. He even gave me his direct phone number. I was happy until I did what the one rep told me to do to find out the results of the investigation. I called back .... 10 times, and left messages. Finally another rep called me and told me the driver was right, I was wrong, it is over. In answer to the question about pulling the calls so they could fix the customer service abuse, there was nothing. She couldn't help me, so she told me to call the supervisor. I called him and he said it is over. The abusive one is a seasoned rep and they will not fire her.

He then said to me, what is a good example of customer service? I said the other good rep. I was talking to her at (and I gave him the time). He said he didn't have time to listen to the calls. I said, okay, I will share their content with the media. I recorded every one of them. He back-pedalled a little and said he would check it out. I'm waiting.

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Anonymous said...

u go gurl

Anonymous said...

I was in tears after trying to reschedule a pick up time today. The agent was extremely condescending and rude, first refusing to do it. How are people like that given customer service jobs? They make near $30 an hour to abuse paying customers. This is still happening in 2014.

wheelchairdemon said...

Please phone or, better yet, email customer service and make a formal complaint.

The complaints are forwarded to a supervisor and you will be given a file number to reference for follow up.

Sometimes it requires persistence, but if you can do it, it will lead to change over time.

It's sad that these things are such a challenge, but saying nothing will only allow the problems to persist.

I found that, if I asked for a phone call reply, that helped because there's a chance to better explain the story.

If you're doing a same-day rescheduling, call the priority line and state - something to the effect - I'd rather let you know I need the new time now, rather than say nothing and allow your driver to go to the pick-up site and find I'm not there.

In other words, make it look like you're doing them a favour by calling to ask for the new time... butter them up a little.

I know this sounds weird, but they get so many complaints that, sadly, some have lost the art of being fair, polite, and civilized.

If you come across as being very different from those callers who only call to complain, it seems to help a lot.

I'm sorry this happened to you. I hope some of these tips work.