American Express: A story of customer service gone bad

As a frequent credit card user, I find the ease and security of paying with plastic convenient, and also believe in fully paying off the card every month. Recently I had an experience that showed both why credit cards are beneficial, and yet also why botched customer service can ruin an experience.

I was recently traveling in Bogota, Colombia and received a curious email from American Express which stated that there were some questionable activities on my card. Obviously, I assumed that this was due to charges on my corporate card, and called AmEx to confirm the transactions. However, the American Express representative stated that the charges were placed on my personal card which was troubling since I had never used it in Colombia. I have no idea how someone got my card information but was thankful that AmEx flagged the charges instantly. Naturally, I reviewed the situation with the operator and she suggested that we cancel the card and overnight a new one to my house to arrive on Friday. (This was Thursday) This worked well since I was leaving Friday night for the weekend. I hung up from the call feeling very positive about American Express and their customer service. Unfortunately, the experience rapidly went downhill.

Friday was a busy travel day and so I did not have a chance to check on the delivery status until late in the day. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the card and so I promptly called American Express. The representative indicated that a replacement had not been ordered on Thursday as promised, but instead was requested on Friday for a Saturday delivery. This statement conflicted with the previous conversation. When I raised the issue on the phone, the response was, “I have no idea what they promised you, but this is what the computer says.” Gee, thank you for the insightful and helpful reply! My frustration was rapidly growing, but I maintained my patience. However, the situation would get worse.

As previously stated, a Saturday delivery would not work due to my travel plans for the weekend. When I mentioned this to the AmEx representative, she was perplexed and indicated that we needed to engage a card replacement specialist. Once the specialist joined the line, I explained the situation and she suggested canceling the card that was to be delivered Saturday and issuing a new one to arrive on Tuesday. I wanted to put the situation behind me and so immediately agreed. Well, guess what? Today is Tuesday and still no card. The AmEx representative I spoke with this evening said that their computer had no record of a conversation on Friday and that none of the promised actions had taken place. She was offered more apologies and to overnight yet another card for Thursday arrival. I cannot believe that AmEx has messed up two simple card deliver requests. How hard can this be? As a customer, I am extremely frustrated with the situation.

American Express did a fantastic job identifying potential card fraud using automated software and their instant notification was impressive. Unfortunately, the performance by their human support team paled in comparison. American Express’s continued inability to deliver on a simple card replacement request is shocking. I am fortunate that this was not an urgent situation; what would have happened if my wallet had been stolen and I needed an emergency replacement? AmEx’s human customer service team has neither been pro-active nor supportive and instead seem to prefer hollow excuses and weak apologies. I am extremely dissatisfied with this situation and am beginning to question AmEx’s entire organization. Is this the level of customer service that the company deems appropriate? At this point, I have no idea and am seriously considering closing my account.

Update: I tweeted about this blog post late in the evening and included @AmericanExpress and @AskAmex.  @AmericanExpress provided a canned and decidedly unuseful response.  @AskAmex replied in the morning and was much more helpful and pro-active.  Rachel from AskAmex took control of the situation and addressed my concerns.  She is currently researching why these issues arose in the first place and is getting me a new card in the timeframe I require.  In short, she has done a great job!

However, the situation does leave you wondering why it took a blog post and multiple tweets to get this attention.  How would a non-techie get treated in a similar situation?

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3 thoughts on “American Express: A story of customer service gone bad”

  1. Don’t close the card (that can hurt your credit). Just don’t use it. Unless you pay a yearly fee. In that case, close it. I get OUTSTANDING service from all my credit card companies.

    1. Jim,

      Thank you for your comment. I have not closed the account, but also have not submitted a third replacement request. Your point is a good one about not closing it and so the right question is whether to use the card. Prior to this debacle, the card was my primary one and after this experience, I am wondering whether I should use a card with better service.

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