American Express Customer Service Letdown
American Express has been long known as a bank with high-end products designed to deliver a high-end customer experience. Their customers have traditionally been more affluent and cards like the Platinum and Centurion are status symbols for many.
Over the past couple of years American Express also decided to go into the low-end game with products like Bluebird and Serve. This sort of went against their brand image and to this point it doesn’t seem to have worked. Serve, like the company as a whole, is in serious trouble. Recently many people in the Serve division were let go and we are told they will be cutting costs in 2016.
I Actually Like Amex
Personally, I have always liked American Express and they still have a lot going for them. I live in a city with a Centurion Lounge, so I enjoy using it before flights. Their Amex Offers programs has also been very generous and who can argue with that 150K bonus on the Business Platinum last year? On the flip side though is my realization over time that they simply aren’t the company they once were and they are moving in the wrong direction.
A few months ago I covered a chat experience I had where the original question wasn’t captured. Despite their chat agent clearly saying something to my wife in writing, American Express denied that they said it. Then the supervisor said she would see what she could do and call us back. She never did and we got the run around when trying to follow up. In the end we gave up. It was just taking too much time and wasn’t worth the hassle.
Yesterday I covered the highest ever bonuses on the Hilton HHonors Surpass and the Hilton HHonors No Annual Fee Amex. My wife happened to get the Surpass a couple of months ago with an 85,000 bonus, so we naturally tried to get American Express to match her to the current 100K. Historically Amex hasn’t really done this, but I know of a few people who recently had success getting matched to the 35K SPG offers.
Trying to Get the Match
The first avenue my wife tried was chat. After being placed on hold a few times on the chat, the agent said no match would be given. My wife was also connected with a supervisor who said to call in to see if anything could be done. Calling in turned out to be a disaster and it shows what a joke their customer service has become.
My wife called the specific number given by the chat supervisor and was connected with an agent who said she needed the offer code of the 100K offer. My wife tried to explain it was the public offer on their website, but that wasn’t good enough. Finally I found an offer code in the terms, but the agent said she had to transfer my wife and she did.
Agent number two asked my wife to explain what she wanted and then without saying anything the line went dead and a few seconds later my wife was talking to agent three. That is correct. Agent two blindly transferred my wife to agent three in mid-sentence. Of course agent three couldn’t help either so she sent my wife to agent four.
Agent four told my wife that his internet was down, that he couldn’t see the offer and that she should call back in 7-10 days. What?!? My wife was done at this point and just gave up instead of asking to speak to a supervisor. I don’t blame her since she doesn’t love calling companies and this experience was a joke. It is clear that agent four just blew her off and lied to get her off of the phone.
A Corporate Culture in Trouble
I have worked in several large companies and have also worked in call centers as well. Experiences like my wife had yesterday or like what we had with the chat months ago don’t happen by chance. I haven’t even mentioned the other times I have called only to be greeted by a bored and unfriendly agent. A culture grows within any call center and behavioral practices spread from agent to agent. Whoever is in charge of American Express customer service should pull my wife’s call from yesterday and see if that experience is representative of the American Express brand. I sadly think it is.
Will my wife call back and go through even more hassle just to get 15,000 Hilton HHonors points? Probably not. The customer service agents have won. They got her off the line, but the damage has been done. American Express is just a bank and nothing more. Their brand isn’t what it once was and people are catching on. Remember how much I said I love my Platinum card? Well guess what? I love my Prestige even more.
Not only do I think the Prestige is a better card because of its superior benefits, but as a Prestige cardholder I am connected to specialist customer service agents in South Dakota. These people are among the friendliest and most helpful people I have ever dealt with over the phone. Like I said before, it is all in the culture of the call center. Whenever someone at Citi answers the phone and says they are in South Dakota, I know it will be a pleasant experience.
To close, I am not whining or even saying that American Express has to change. Clearly I get great benefit from my relationship with them and I recognize that. They don’t owe me those 15,000 points either. With all of that said, this is a company headed in the wrong direction and I worry about the effect more cost cutting will have. Customer service is important and I think American Express has lost focus on that. No, I know they have.
What do you think? Have you had similar experiences or has American Express lived up to their premium reputation? Let us know in the comments!