I have a new customer experience pet peeve: being bullied into using online help.
How many of you have experienced the following: you have called a company’s 800 customer support line only to be on hold for…well, practically forever…and between the nondescript elevator music, you are told that you can get support on the company web site. The implication I get from this is, “you moron, there are answers there, and, besides, we don’t want to talk to you.” I admit, my strong negative reaction is probably because I’m in some sort of customer crisis and am feeling negatively about the company anyway.
This message is particularly annoying when you’re calling your ISP because your internet access isn’t working well, or your calling a merchant because its etailing site isn’t responding. Speaking with other customers, they have the same reaction. “How the heck can I go online to get help when my problem is I can’t get to your site?”
JUST THE FAQS. Similarly, I recently had an experience with kbgdeals, a daily deal company with whom I’m done a few online deals in the past. I was having a problem redeeming a deal (conflicting info about the shipping price), and I just wanted quick assurance that the promoted price would be honored. I looked throughout the site for a customer service line—it would be easier for me to explain my concern verbally than in writing—but there was only an option to send an email. So I sent the following:
|Customer By Web Form (Ronni Marshak)||10/15/2012 02:36 PM|
in the deal, it says "Shipping cost is additional $4.95 flat rate." But when I went to purchase it, shipping was $7.76. What gives?
And the How Can We Help You doesn't have a topic that covers this, so I had to guess. That's bad customer service. You shouldn't require that to be filled in unless there is an Other category!
I received the following auto response:
|Auto-Response||10/15/2012 02:36 PM|
Thank you for your email.
Your question has been submitted and your reference number is 121015-002095. Your query is important to us. Please allow up to 2 business days for us to respond.
The following answers might help you immediately. (Answers open in a separate window.)
I clicked on the second answer link: that I would like to get in touch with the customer care team, hoping that a phone number or chat line would magically appear. But instead I got the same email form. So I waited for a response. And one came the next morning:
|Response Via Email (Jennifer)||10/16/2012 09:33 AM|
Thank you for your email.
We're sorry for the inconvenience.
Please note that you have to register/sign in to the merchant's web site and change the currency to dollar.
You can do this by clicking the "Dollar" at the upper right corner of the merchant's web site.
When customers signs up and sets an account address to United States it will then convert the price for postage to the Standard USA shipping prices.
Should you require anything further, please don't hesitate to email us back.
I had already done what they said to do, and the shipping was still incorrect. So I flamed back a new message:
|Customer By Web Form (Ronni Marshak)||10/16/2012 09:46 AM|
I did the instructions correctly. The shipping price of $7.76 IS IN US DOLLARS!!!!! What do I do now? Call the merchant? Maybe they will give me better customer service!
PLEASE HAVE SOMEONE CALL ME. THIS IS RIDICULOUS NOT TO GET PERSONAL SERVICE!
Again I got an auto acknowledgement with links to the online FAQs. Then I was told that, “Yes, you may contact the merchant for assistance.” Not particularly helpful. So I sent another email:
|Customer By Web Form (Ronni Marshak)||10/16/2012 03:55 PM|
I have to say that I’m not impressed with your customer service. I have been offered the same FAQs many times now. I’m not stupid. If the answer were there, I’d have found it!!!!
Why don’t you have a phone number or are your customers just not important to you?
I got the same acknowledgement with the FAQs links, and then the same response that I had gotten earlier.
I did contact the merchant, and the matter was cleared up. But I’m very unhappy with kgbdeals and have been deleting their daily deals for a week now. I’ll probably look at them again after a while, but there might have been a deal or two that I’m passing on because of my annoyance.
LET ME GET HELP WHEN AND HOW I WANT IT! The moral of the story, when a customer is seeking help, she is probably upset. If help isn’t immediately available through whatever channel the customer chose, an annoyance can escalate to a perceived crisis.
Yes, it is much easier and cheaper for your company to have customers avail themselves of online help. And a gentle reminder (one gentle reminder) isn’t off limits. But too often the specific answer being looked for isn’t necessarily available online. Further, customers want reassurance and handholding when they are confused, frustrated, or upset. Pushing them off their preferred method for customer contact just adds fuel to the fire. And continually bombarding customers (at least that’s how it sometimes feels) with messages to go online for help is just alienating and rude.
Helping an unhappy customer is often your best chance to create or reinforce a great customer relationship. Don’t squander this opportunity in order to save a nickel.