Recently, I saw a forum discussion on how difficult Paypal was to work with, and I was very surprised. I've done tens of thousands of dollars worth of business through Paypal, and I've never had a problem.
But did you catch what I just said? I almost didn't.
It seemed to me that Paypal couldn't be more user friendly. It was easy to get someone on the phone, and to talk to the same person more than once. Phone calls were returned; emails were answered promptly, and in such a way that it was obvious that they'd been read by a real human being.
That contrasted sharply with my experience of some other online businesses. Amazon.com, in particular, served as a counterpoint to Paypal in my mind. About a year ago, I purchased eight books all at once through Amazon. For reasons I still haven't been able to sort out, seven of those books were correctly billed to my current debit card and the eighth charged to a checking account I'd closed several months earlier. The ensuing nightmare still hasn't been fully resolved, and I'm an attorney with a background in consumer protection work--I can't begin to imagine what dealing with Amazon is like for the average person.
First, because I lived in the modern-day, real-world equivalent of Mayberry, the bank paid the charge despite the fact that the account had been closed for several months. However, the bank also sent notice to Amazon that the account was closed. So Amazon sent the charge on to Certegy for collection.
When I got a collection letter from Certegy (requesting, of course, my original $9 plus a $25 charge), I called them and pointed out that the charge had been paid, and that I had documentation from the bank to prove it. They told me I'd have to take that up with Amazon, because they got their information from Amazon.
Except when I called Amazon, they told me that it was "out of their hands" and I'd have to resolve it with Certegy. They seemed entirely oblivious to (or more likely, impervious to) their potential liability for passing along false information to Certegy and then refusing to correct it. All together, I spent more than four hours on the telephone with Amazon and Certegy. Amazon never budged an inch. No one at either company was interested in seeing my proof that the charge had been paid. Certegy, at least, was a bit more sensitive to the legal ramifications of trying to collect a debt that had never existed, and they went away.
Well, for the moment. I did hear from them again a few months later with a required disclosure letter letting me know that they'd had some sort of breach and personal data had been disclosed (good thing for me this all related to an account that had, by that point, been closed for more than a year, hm?)
So I was loving Paypal. I was STUNNED to hear someone describe something very similar to my story above. Why didn't they just call Jen? She was always such a help. It sounded like we were dealing with two different companies.
And then it hit me.
I might never have caught it were it not for my experience with Dell. A few years ago, I ordered a computer from Dell, and then just a few months later, my mother ordered a similar computer. There was only one significant difference: I purchased my computer through a corporate discount program offered by a multi-national corporation, and my mother ordered hers all by herself. MY computer was listed under the name of a company with hundreds of locations around the world, and it rapidly became clear that when I called customer service or tech support for issues relating to my computer, I was routed to an entirely different department than when I called about those same issues relating to my mother's computer.
Perhaps "I've done tens of thousands of dollars of business through Paypal and I've never had a problem" isn't evidence at all. Perhaps it's an explanation. And I'm not okay with that.
That doesn't mean that I think your biggest and highest-paying customers shouldn't get special perks. That's only good business. If you want to have a gold circle support team that assists the major accounts, that's fine with me. If you want to send them little gifts at Christmas time and offer small services for free that others might have to pay for, it's all good. But that all assumes a basic level of competent, well-intentioned customer service for everyone. We don't seem to be in a place anymore where the general public gets the basic service and the big spenders get perks--we seem to be in a place where the general public can't get service at all, and the big spenders get what used to be perceived as the basics.
I have a growing list in my head of what I think those bottom line offerings should be, but this post is already so long that it's in danger of being mistaken for an e-book, so I'll save that for another day. Suggestions are welcome.