That’s normally how it starts. With these two words: “Any update?”
I don’t mind the abruptness. After all, by the time someone has written those words, they’ve gone through the customer support machine, which can take weeks, and come out the other end with nothing to show for it.
Then, after collecting a paper trail and sending it to our advocacy team, I ask them to wait another two weeks.
And to be fair, I invite these readers to follow up with me. So “Any update?” is a fair question.
But then the question marks start to add up.
The number of question marks normally corresponds to the number of weeks someone has to wait:
“Any update??” — three weeks
“Any update???” — one month
“ANY UPDATE????” — five weeks
That’s just the beginning. There are actually five unique stages of consumer rejection I’ve identified, with apologies to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
This takes place long before we’ve heard from a customer. They simply can’t believe a company would ignore them — or send them a form rejection to a reasonable complaint. This denial propels them to our site in an effort to get a response, if not a resolution.
Those are the question marks, piling up in an email. They are followed by even angrier emails. “You call yourself a consumer advocate? You’re useless.” Or, “Why don’t you try flipping burgers instead?” Again, I understand their rage, and I don’t take it personally. When you’re not getting what you think you deserve, you lash out. My advocacy team just happens to be a convenient target, even if it’s the wrong one.
The fury is followed by a period of negotiation. “Can you contact the company again?” (Often, our advocates do.) “Can’t you say something?” (We try.) “What are my other options?” Too often, aggrieved consumers believe they can talk their way out of a case. But too often, they can’t, no matter how good their rhetorical skills.
Normally, this depression is accompanied by gratuitous posts on social media that attempt to shame the company into compliance. But it’s pretty obvious the customer is unhappy. Deeply unhappy.
When every option has been exhausted, we reach the final stage. Customer service is not what it used to be. Even if our advocacy team supports you and agrees that you have a case, there’s only so much we can do. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: Even we have a hard time taking “no” for an answer. It takes a long, long time before we reach the “acceptance” stage.
None of these stages should be necessary. You should get the service you deserve the first time. But that’s why this site is here. We never want to get to Stage 5, but if we do, we’ll be there together with the consumer, having exhausted every last option.