Groupon. Customer service from hell

Everyone knows Groupon. You pay a 30% or even lower share of the regular price for a service or event admission, the business gets new clientele, Groupon gets its share, and everybody’s happy. Right? Wrong. This week, I had about the worst experience of my life with Groupon’s customer service.

Recently, Groupon introduced a new feature, points, which supposedly make your savings even greater. It works like this: when you buy something on Groupon’s website, you get 10 points for each dollar you spend, and when you’ve accumulated a certain amount, you can redeem them for new purchases. To do this, you must go to the points page and press one of the “Redeem X points for Y dollars off Z dollars purchase” button. After that, when you buy something for Z dollars or more, the “Y dollars off” button turns up automatically during the checkout, you press it, and Bob’s your uncle. The usability of the process leaves something to be desired, but the entire thing seems extremely simple and transparent, right? Wrong.

So, one fine day, about a week ago, I realized that I had accumulated enough points and it’s time to spend them. I had used the points system several times before and didn’t expect any trouble. Just then a nice deal with a ski resort (lift tickets, equipment rentals, that kind of thing) came up, and seeing as my son was going to come and visit me around Christmas, I thought we could have a great time skiing.

So I went to the points page and selected “Redeem 10,000 points for $10 off a purchase of $20 or more”. Then I pressed the Buy button on the deal’s page, was transferred to the checkout… but my discount of $10 was not there, even though I was going to make a purchase that cost more than $20. I tried again… still no success. This is when I contacted Groupon’s customer service, explaining that the points feature didn’t work and asking for help.

Now, this was not the first time I had to deal with Groupon’s customer service. In my previous experience, some representatives may not have been not very knowledgeable, but they were invariably polite, listened to what I had to say, and seemed genuinely interested in remedying my situation. Not anymore!

What do you expect when you tell a customer service employee that their company’s product doesn’t work? Naturally, you expect them to ask you questions about what exactly didn’t work, what exactly were you trying to do, etc. However, this time the first response to my message was a standard greeting followed by a copy-paste of the website page containing instructions on points usage. I admit I blew a gasket just then as I had explained in great detail in my initial message that I knew how points worked, in general, and I have used them in the past successfully. So my response to this was somewhat impatient.

Now – I don’t know whether this was intentional or not – my call was not assigned any ticket or number. So every time I responded to a message from a customer service representative, it got into the queue as a new call and was assigned to a new representative. And all of them responded identically: first a greeting full of cheerful idiocy (“Oh, sorry for your frustration! Now we know what went wrong!”) and then a copy-paste from the website user page containing instructions on using the points system. Every time I responded to such a message, I got a new representative, a new portion of cheerful idiocy, and a new copy-pasted instructions page. In vain had I explained that I KNOW how to use points, that THIS TIME IT DIDN’T WORK and this means that SOMETHING WENT WRONG and they should find out the details from me to learn what exactly happened. This “dialogue ad absurdum” continued, and, as a result, I got four nearly identical and useless messages from four different customer service representatives. NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM asked a single question to find out what happened. (To prove that I am not inventing this, here are their names: Jonnice C, Solomon Sharon, Gokula K, and Mohan Karthik L.)

Now, I have an inkling of what may have been wrong (drawing upon my 20+ years in IT), and I would have shared my insights with anyone from Groupon, had they expressed at least some interest in the matter. However, no such luck.

Honestly, I think that a three-year-old child would have done better than those people. Her technical knowledge would be about at par with theirs, and a three-year-old at least possesses a healthy interest towards what’s going on around her, which these people are utterly devoid of. The only explanation I can think of is that Groupon, caring about its bottom line, got rid of human customer service altogether and replaced it with an app that reacts to certain keywords (in my case, “frustration”, “problem”, and “points”) and just returns a corresponding help entry preceded by a few placating words (also canned).

The overall score:

Me: minus 10,000 points (if you mark them for redemption and don’t use them within a week, they evaporate prematurely), the deal that expired while I was trying to talk to the service-bots, and some negative emotions.

Groupon: minus some lost profit and minus one customer. There are plenty of fish in the ocean and plenty of discount websites out there, such as dealathons.com, wagjag.com, livingsocial.com, etc., where hopefully the customer service is more up to it  (or at least actually present). It looks like it’s time for me to explore new horizons. Bye bye, Groupon!

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