ACS Fails Service Test

The following incident (with ACS) from a reader highlights the good problems with front and back office design and putting agents on the phone that can not help customers in any way.  I love the IVR, which of course only adds to the frustration of the call.  The amount of failure demand driven in from such interactions far outweighs the short-term benefits perceived by “dumbing down” the agent.

“I have a great one for you.

Just called ACS/Mellon (my HSA) because by recurring payments to dentist have not been working.  I’m going to try to recreate my experience for your reading pleasure.

I initiated the call at 8:20pm and went through the regular 3 minutes of options before I could get to an option to speak to someone.  Once I got through, of course all representatives were busy, and I was told my wait time would be greater than 5 minutes.  During my 20 minute wait on hold, I was told 33 times by an automated female voice and 8 times by a male voice that “my call was important” and to “stay on the line and someone would be with me shortly.”  In one instance, the female voice even interrupted the male voice.  I finally got through to a representative who of course asked me for the same information I had already keyed into the phone.  I was finally ready to address my issue.

The issue:  I had set up $160.00 monthly recurring payments to my dentist for my daughter’s braces.  I set this up last year, and everything worked fine for October, November, and December of 2011.  I assumed everything was going according to plan, so when I checked my account sometime in March of 2012, I was surprised to see that no payments had been made to the dentist in 2012 and the recurring payment was gone.  Thinking it was probably a new year thing, I went ahead and paid the dentist the two missing payments with my flex spending debit card, and set up a new recurring payment beginning with the April payment.  I could then see payments queued for 3/30, 5/1, and 6/1, so I thought all was well.  The week of April 9th, I went back in to check the account and saw that all three payments (including the 3/30 payment) were still in a pending status.  Having exhausted what I could find on the website, I made the call.

The representative proceeded to tell me that she saw a pending payment from 3/30 to the dentist, that had not been issued.  Duh!  Wasn’t that why I was calling?  She asked me to hold while she “checked the database.”  She came back to me with the suggestion that I delete the transaction and re-enter it to see if it would go through.  When I said I didn’t think that was the solution, and that I wanted to find out the problem (whether it be on my end or theirs), she said she could open a research request for her back office to look at it.  It would take 3-5 days for a reply, and I could call back and get the results the the inquiry.  When I questioned why I was calling them instead of them calling me when I didn’t even know when they would have an answer, she proceeded to repeat that it would be 3-5 days.  She did say that she would make a note on the request for them to call when they had resolution (I’m not holding my breath.  I don’t think she even asked for my phone number.)  I then put my 95 Method hat on and got her to admit that she couldn’t see anything more on her end than I could see on my online application.  Of course, at the end of the conversation, she asked if there was any else she could help me with (she hadn’t helped me with anything.)  She then asked me if I would be willing to take a survey.  My answer was, “Oh, yes!”  When she tried to transfer me, she must have hit an invalid code, and I went into an infinite loop telling me that the code I entered was incorrect and to re-enter it.  Needless to say, I didn’t get to the survey.  How convenient!

Do I feel like my call was very important to them?  YOU BETCHA!”

Apparently, my reader isn’t the only one with problems attributed to ACS – see Consumer Affairs website.  ACS needs to discover the counter-intuitive truth that good service costs less.  Remember, don’t blame the agent!  The system designed by ACS management is the issue as they designed the system.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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