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slow.pngSpeed is the name of the game online. We expect fast access to information, news, and answers. Yet, many big companies take as long as four months to respond to customer email – if they respond at all.
According to the Angie’s List website, more than 650,000 consumers use it to find high quality contractors, service companies and health care providers. Yet, on two different occasions, it took them as long as six business days to respond to an email asking a question. Both times, the email from them began “Thanks for writing in. I’m sorry it took me so long to reply.”
The social bookmarking site Delicious, owned by Yahoo!, has more than five million members, who have bookmarked more than 150 million URLs. They send an email that says “PS- Don’t reply to this email, for I am a robot and cannot respond. For any questions, contact our humans at”
Just try to get a human to answer an email when you can’t access your Delicious bookmarks! It took more than a dozen requests to finally get a response when I couldn’t log in for several weeks, despite having the right password.
Then there’s MediaBistro, whose so-called member services department has taken up to three months to respond to email about problems with their site, and another three months to solve the problem. The emails begin with excuses of course.
This is not to mention the many sites that provide absolutely no way for you to contact them at all. Instead they refer you to a forum where you could search for an answer if you knew how to frame the question, or what in hell you’re supposed to put in the search box. Take your pick on this kind of “service”: Google, Yahoo!, and a host of technology companies take this maddening approach.
The situation is so bad there’s even a new company that plans to help consumers get responses from companies.
The ridiculous email responses we get from many big companies are the result of efforts at customer service automation. For example: “Your comments or questions are very important to us. Please allow two business days to receive an e-mailed response.”
What do companies need to do?
o Make website design intuitive and easy to use (see the last 13 years of Alertbox)
o Check frequently to be sure all areas of the site are working.
o Have groups of non-techies people who are totally unfamiliar with your company interact with the site to see where the usability issues are.
o Pledge to respond to all customer emails within 3 hours – preferably within one hour – 24/7. Then deliver.
Don’t whine about how expensive it is to hire humans to answer customer emails. If it weren’t for customers, you wouldn’t need to come to work.
Bring back the human beings! There simply is no excuse for not answering customer service email. And those freaking contact forms and “support forums” must die. Posted by B.L. Ochman