Customers? We're Supposed To Talk To Them?

from the listening-to-who-now? dept

We’ve had numerous stories about how bad many companies are at returning customer support emails, but it seems that things don’t get much better once you get on the phone. The NY Times is running a story about just how hard it is to reach people on the phone at many companies. Apparently, quite a few companies take their customer service strategies from satirical posters from Despair, Inc. This doesn’t mean that automation is always a bad thing — sometimes people don’t need to talk to a human. However, when they do need to, it shouldn’t be so hard to reach one. Still, as the article points out, perhaps an even better strategy is to improve the products enough that your customers don’t need to call you so often.

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Comments on “Customers? We're Supposed To Talk To Them?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

every time I call 911, it takes “forever” to get through to a live operator… and after being on hold, waiting for up to 20 minutes, on my cell phone, just to speak to a live operator (about a major accident that has just happened on a freeway / or car across the way being broken into, etc) I stopped calling them now. Their customer service really bites. I now just ignore that the whole incident ever happened. Gawd, I need to move out from Los Angeles.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Problem is not 911 in LA, the problem is with all the stupid people that live there, that call 911 for less than emergency reasons.

I’ve also worked Tech Support, and believe me, the average caller should not be calling. 80% of all calls should be to a computer school to learn how to use their own computers, and not to a technical support dept.

hautedawg says:

it's hit and miss

Believe it or not, there are CSRs out there that do give a rats patootie. I for one work in a call center, which is indeed a hideous job, but at the same time a chance to take the responsiblity for consumers issues. While there are some true problems for consumers, there are also consumers who are never happy no matter what. Consumers who have old and out of warranty products they want fixed free, the consumers who screw the pooch on their systems and want free service and then those who are just ass hats and want to belittle someone to make themselves feel better. If the customer service lines were just for consumers with legitimate complaints, it would go faster, happier and easier for everyone involved. Next time you start to use your vocabulary on some poor CSR, remember that person is who you are asking for help.

Dan says:

No Subject Given

One day my long distance service, provided by Sprint, wasn’t working even though I never miss a bill or pay late. I knew if I were to call support I’d spend at least an hour of my time on hold. So I just called up MCI and switch to them. Since I was asking for a new service, I got put to real person right away — companies only put existing customers on hold, they don’t put potential new customers on hold.

Now I’m not advocating MCI. I’m sure they suck as much as Sprint. The point is that if a service doesn’t work, cancel it right away and get a replacement service — I know that doesn’t work for monopolies like the cable company (unless you can get DirectTV), but it works in 90% of the situations.

Also, if a product is satisfactory, return it right away. Don’t call tech support to debug the problem. I don’t care how trivial the problem is, I don’t get tech support the chance to fix it because my time is valuable. If it doesn’t work as advertised upon delivery, it doesn’t work. Give me my refund or I’ll have my credit card company issue a charge back, which increases the credit card processing fees of the merchants and they don’t like that.

The fact is that it is easier and faster to switch to a competing product or service than it is to deal with web or phone based support. The people running most companies believe that their existing customers are locked in and will not switch to a competitor because of the hassle. That is why they don’t care about good customer/tech support.

The best option the customer has is to walk away. If enough customers do this, the companies will change. If not, at least you didn’t waste any of your finite time on Earth dealing with those scumbags.

melissa clark says:

broken link on article

Dear TechDirt

I recently discovered your “Customers? We’re Supposed To Talk To Them?” article here:

I wanted to let you know that the Bringo link points to a website that is no longer working.

Would you please consider replacing it with a link to my site  It provides almost the same service as Bringo did.  It contains toll free phone numbers for many different companies. Also, the numbers are accompanied by written transcriptions of the company phone menus (interactive voice response) so that users can find the help they need quickly. 

Here is an example:

Id be happy to make a donation to your website via PayPal for your time…

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Melissa Clark

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