Anyone who has dealt with the affairs of a deceased family member will know that there is a huge amount to do and a huge number of people & businesses who need to be contacted. There are of course funeral directors, family members, the people at tax offices, pension companies, utility companies, mobile phone companies, banks, building societies, estate agents, removal companies, insurance companies etc etc. At the same time as this, you are dealing with emotions and the stress of dealing with all these companies can be overwhelming for many. When my Dad died in March, it was up to me to deal with all of these people & I have to say I have been overwhelmed by the level of service & genuine compassion I received from most of these companies. For example, the staff in HSBC were superb. Their staff were only too happy to say 'Let me take care of that'. With so much to do, those words sounded like music to my ears. I heard these words or words to that effect from almost everyone else I spoke with. Even Government call centres for council tax and the pensions department were uncharacteristically helpful. However, I then had to deal with the people at PayPal & Ebay who provided a masterclass in how not to deal with the relatives of their deceased customers. My Dad bought and sold rare & vintage car components on Ebay. It was a hobby he took up in retirement and he had become quite an expert. He always told me how much he disliked dealing on Ebay but it was a necessary evil for those looking for specialist buyers from the world.
When things go right, Ebay are fine but they seemed unable to deal with any query which didn't fit neatly into their process box. In the week prior to my Dad passing, he had sold some items on Ebay. I contacted Ebay to say that due to the volume of my Dad's collection, I was unable to find these very specific items & asked if they could close his account, inform the buyers and refund their money where appropriate. It's now over 5 month's since my Dad passed and they still haven't done this. My father's email account was full of people complaining that they hadn't received the item and threatening all sorts. Of course, you can't blame these individuals. As far as they were concerned, they'd paid their hard earned money for items which hadn't arrived and the seller couldn't even be bothered to respond to them. I contacted Ebay so many times and I have still failed to receive a resolution to my issue.
So what exactly is the problem with Ebay and why are they the epitome of bad customer service. Firstly, they choose poor quality offshore vendors. Those of you who read my blog will know that I'm not anti-offshore but it must be done correctly. In the countless interviews I've done with people about offshore call centres, one of the biggest issue is that the post-call action doesn't match what was agreed on the call. You can't blame the agents for this. Ebay set ridiculous KPIs regarding things such as length of call which most customer-service orientated companies gave up a long time ago. If the agent can't deal with the issue, they give the impression they can simply to get you off the phone. Ebay are well-known for being among the lowest payers of clients of outsourced call centres and as the saying goes 'If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys'. Having spoken with former staff of Ebay's offshore call centres, I can tell you that the attrition rates they have are absolutely astronomical to the point where Ebay refuse to pay for new-hires. That may work for Ebay but the result is a huge number of very new, inexperienced and to be quite frank poor quality staff.
The other big problem is the over-processisation (yes I made up that word) in the way they operate. All good customer service needs processes but the processes must work and if they don't work, there must be a mechanism to deal with this. Within Ebay, there clearly isn't in cases such as my own.
Of course, this unusual rant within my blog isn't just aimed at Ebay. It's aimed at all companies who choose poor quality outsourced call centres and fail to put the customer at the heart of the process. There is actually 1 other company who have also offered terrible service and ironically, it's Ebay's sister company Paypal. Like Ebay, they choose poor quality outsourced call centres (often the same ones as Ebay) and have processes which fail to address customer needs.
Over the weekend, my wife's friends came to visit. She's a lawyer specialising in probate. She asked how I'd got on with the legal affairs of my father. I told her that almost all had been dealt with but there were 2 companies which were being difficult. Her response was 'Don't tell me! Ebay and Paypal'. She then proceeded to tell me that it was well known amongst her colleagues that these 2 particular companies were the hardest to deal with. Whilst I felt slightly reassured that I was not alone in my anguish with these companies, her observations made it quite clear that I was in for a tough battle to ever get my issues resolved. Ebay and Paypal may have a monopoly in their respective sectors and so they may feel that they can offer as poor customer service as they wish.