Good support is in the timing and quality, not the medium

In “Complaints greet Google Nexus One phone,” the BBC says “Many people are unhappy with Google only responding to questions by e-mail and are calling for it to set up phone-based support.”

I’ve been the victim of bad customer service and the beneficiary of excellent customer service. I also happen to do customer service for a living (not for a corporation but for a school). Whether I’m getting customer support or giving it, I know good customer service isn’t any better on the phone. In fact, most of the bad customer service I’ve gotten has been over the phone. You know why? Because, although “your call may be recorded for quality control purposes,” it’s recorded by the company giving the support, not by you. You don’t have access to that recording. And chances are, unless you’re extremely diligent, you’ve totally forgotten the name of the customer service representative who “helped” you.

Many times I’ve received “help” over the phone and nothing was actually done. Something was supposed to be fixed, canceled, or sent, and it never was. The phone call leaves no accountability.

Phone support may seem immediate and “better” because you’re talking to a “live” person. Ultimately, though, I don’t want to be put on hold for a half hour or 45 minutes and be constantly told that my call is important to this company putting me on hold. I want answers, and I want them now.

You know the best customer service I’ve gotten? ICDSoft, my web host. Answers within minutes… usually one minute. And by email. It doesn’t matter what kind of silly question I ask, the expert support staff at ICDSoft gets back to me within minutes.

So don’t tell me customer service is better over the phone. Customer service is better—phone or email—when your question or problem gets answered or solved quickly. That’s the bottom line. The bonus with email is that you have a written record of the exchange.

Google, if you want to make your customers happy, give timely and effective support. Call centers have nothing to do with it.

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2 Comments

  1. Agreed! I’d much rather have to explain a problem to a tech support person in an email, where I have the time & ability to (literally) spell the problem out and add supporting information. And I know that he isn’t depending on *his* memory of what was said — It’s right there in black & white.

    And should I be so arrogant as to think that the tech support person can come up with the solution “off the top of his head” while we’re on the phone? If it were that easy, then I’d probably be able to figure it out myself, too. Sometimes the tech support person needs to go research the problem… then get back to me with a well-thought-out solution.

    I’d also like to receive instructions to “make it right” in an email, which I can refer to — especially when I need to “try it again”, or I need a file I’m missing, or the steps are lengthy or complicated.

    Maybe you can get patronized in an email, but at least you have further access to the person in that case!

  2. I have to say that I myself prefer “written support” as well because it gives you something to go back to.

    When I changed web hosts last year, the current host’s support guy was able to walk me though a lot of stuff over Yahoo Messenger. And I always had the chance to review the steps that I need to take before actually doing anything. I imagine that saved me from a lot of trouble.

    The company has over-the-phone support too but that would have been costly as there would have been long-distance charges applied.

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