What's actually annoying about bad customer service?

Jane Galt posts her thoughts on Sony Vaio customer service. I bought a Sony Vaio a few months ago, at the recommendation of a friend. Fortunately [it now seems] it arrived at the Best Buy with a broken drive and I never had the chance to lay my hands on it. It was only last week that they gave me my money back. Best Buy wouldn’t give me the computer, and Sony wouldn’t accept the damage claim from Best Buy rather than from the customer.

I see two especially frustrating elements in bad customer service. First, the reward/pleasure centers of the brain are already turned on, anticipating that a longstanding problem – lack of a computer – was going to be solved. The resulting disappointment is especially acute, much worse than before you try to fix the problem.

Second, we don’t like the tension of not knowing when the problem will be solved, or when being put on hold will end. Going to the dentist with certainty stresses me less than some chance I might have to go.

I try to manage the former problem by not getting excited until the product has been working for at least a day. That means I remain a bit emotionally flat in some spheres of commercial life and I don’t go out shopping enough or with enough gusto. I try to manage the second problem by mentally capitalizing the worst case customer service outcome I can imagine. That means when something goes wrong I toss in the towel too quickly. Sometimes I just buy a new item rather than solving the problem with the old one, or working to get a refund.

On this matter, Natasha believes I am crazy, yet I persist in my ways.


What’s actually annoying about bad customer service?