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.