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Hey USCIS, Does Homeland Security Mean Bad Customer Service?

By Chris Martello

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of going to an appointment at the
USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), formally
known as the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services), office on
Jefferson Avenue in downtown Detroit.

Knowing this is a government run
organization, you can expect some processes and procedures in order to
ensure the proper filing of any paperwork or request.   It is rife with
red tape and bureaucracy which provides for a very negative customer
experience, even if it goes well. In the event that your paperwork is
not 100% complete or if you failed to read the fine print and the
extra-fine fine print with disclaimers, you may be asked to provide the
proper papers, or worse yet, make another appointment. I witnessed such
an example for some poor guy and his family that was trying to get some
paperwork processed. 

So, the USCIS sends out an official appointment notice, basically a
meeting pass that allows you to walk into the front door of the office,
only to be scrutinized and searched by security.  OK, so security is a
good thing in these offices, but the big guy won’t let you past his
metal detector without an appointment letter. That doesn’t really give
me a warm fuzzy feeling, you know? I have one of these letters, and I
get into the first waiting room, enough seats for about 30 people.
After sitting there for five minutes, a customer service agent comes
out from behind the counter and proclaims, “Anyone here for the
naturalization of a child, please follow me.”  So I think we are right
on time, and we walk back down a hallway with about another 10 folks,
only to sit in another waiting room with seats for 50.

This wait is a little longer, as several customer service agents begin shuffling paper, walking back and forth across the room, and grumbling to themselves about how many people there are for this “appointment.”  One of the attendants stands in front of the room and instructs people to come to the table they have set up at the far end of the room when their name is called.  She also states, “I don’t know how long this is going to take, because I wasn’t supposed to be doing this today.”  Oh, she’s *real* happy to be there too, judging by the expression on her face. 

Names are being yelled from the far end of the room, about every three minutes.  People file over to the table.  Another attendant comes to the front of the room and asks, “Is Mr. so-and-so here?”  and completely butchers his name.  A gentleman stands up with 5 other members of his family seated with him and indicates that he is ‘Mr. so-and-so’.  The customer service agent indicates that there is a problem with his document and that he will have to come back in two days.  “The letter is dated for ‘Tuesday July 26th’ and today is ‘Tuesday July 24th’. I don’t have your paperwork ready.  You’ll have to come back on Thursday.”  The service agent did not offer any apology for the office’s typographical error, did not apologize for the inconvenience that was just caused to him and his entire family to make this appointment. No, she chose to make an example out of him and quite simply humiliate him in front of 50 other waiting people.

At that moment, I felt so sorry for the gentleman and his family that they had just wasted an hour of their time for a typo on the appointment letter written by the USCIS. Never mind the time wasted in traveling to such an inconvenient location. They filed out of the room with a defeated look, not able to argue with the service agent who simply dismissed them to the door.  I know there were a million different ways for the service agent to handle this and I believe she chose the poorest one. No offer to help, no offer to take care of the error, AND she did it in front of the entire group of folks in the office.  How disheartening that even common courtesy wasn’t even considered for this situation.  This was perhaps the poorest customer service example that I have witnessed; the service agent didn’t even TRY to help the man, nor apologize for the mistake caused by the office.  She just stood by her red tape and guidelines and enforced the rules and regulations.   

Excellent customer service is one of the cornerstones of our company and our philosophies.  It’s an ISM, it can be found in several ISM’s and you can find it in each and every one of our team members.  There isn’t a day that goes by that we are not treating our clients to the best service, the extra little things that make a difference.  It’s these interactions with our clients that make people say “Wow” when they work with us.  Our internal clients are just as important as our external clients.  Don’t forget that the person you help today on your team, or another team, will always remember that you helped them in their time of need.

So to finish up my ‘first rate’ experience at the USCIS, my turn was next. My family’s name eventually gets called, and we walk up to the table, provide our credentials, answer ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ to a few questions and the service agent behind the table files through some papers, hands me an envelope, and says, “Congratulations.”  This takes all about two minutes at the table with a gentleman in a uniform with a badge. That’s it. We waited over an hour for that?

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Comments

  1. I really don’t understand why or how people with bad attitudes can become involved with customer service. And it seems as though the more beauracratic an organization…the worse the attitude.

    Posted by: Jen R | August 9, 2007
  2. Bureaucracy = bad attitude. That’s why we try to avoid it at all costs. Oh, and let’s not confuse *process* with bureaucracy, please! Process helps, bureaucracy hurts. Everyone. ;-)

    Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2007
  3. Its so hard today to even expect civility out of people in customer service. I think the world may be better off replacing all these nasty creatures with Robots. I think their attitude might even be better!

    Posted by: Kriste | August 13, 2007
  4. Hi. My husband and I were lucky we took the route of using a Visa lawyer. An even with these very professional and caring firm to act as a buffer between us and the USCIS, we are still getting stressed out. I am an alien and my husband and I were married on a trip to Vegas. We hired the lawyer, who went us all the forms and guided us through the process. We packaged everything and sent it, with the money order to the lawyer and he sent it to the USCIS. After A MONTH they return the package to our lawyer – why? BECAUSE THE DATE ON THE CHECK LOOKED LIKE 2002 INSTEAD OF 2007 -apparently my husband’s ’7′ was too curved. So we write another check and mail it to the USCIS with our package. After 2 weeks the package is returned by FEDEX. Apparently the delivery man could find no one to accept it on a MONDAY MORNING. By this time the fees have been increased and we are required to pay an additional $700.00. So we write another check and the and our lawyer mails everything AGAIN to the USCIS.
    Just when u think everything is smooth now – they wanted the extra money and they got it – they pull another wacky stunt. Today the lawyer called me and told me that the package was returned AGAIN – WHY? This time the check is too much!! Apparently, we did not have to add $700.00 but only $300.00!! So Again my husband has to write another check to send it off to them!!
    The USCIS is petty and very ridiculous. If my husband and I are getting frustrated even with a very good and caring law firm behind us, I can imagine what others who are trying to complete the process alone are going through:(.
    Sad, one day justice must be served.

    Posted by: Pookie | September 18, 2007

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Monday, August 21, 2017