Online customer service – does it exist?

Chat onlineHow many of you have used some sort chat, social media channel, form or other tool  for online customer service? What are your experiences? Has it been successful? Have you been happy afterwards?

I have used and most of the times it has been a big dissappointment!

And I am not talking about web shops as such – that is totally another topic and I might write about it in the future. But in this case I mean the good, old-fashioned customer service, where you, as a customer, have a problem or a need and on the other side the service provider was supposed to help you. Online! How simple is that?

Unfortunately, it is not so simple as it sounds for companies. It seems to a trend that each company should provide some sort of customer service online. Ways of doing this vary a lot. Some have a contact form for questions. Others encourage the customer to send an email. Some companies answer your question in social media channels. And some – and this seems to be the hottest hot nowadays – have a chat service installed.

Online customer service offlineNo customer service online

However, even though there are various ways for providing customer service online, it just seems to be the pretty front, a facade to make customers think a company really cares for them and wants to make their lives easier.

Usually, when you fill in a form and even tick the alternative: “Contact me via email”, it won’t take long before someone CALLS you from the company.

If you write something to chat and ask for help, there are usually two (2) regular answers. First one, “Please, call our customer service!” and the second one “Please, fill in the form, so someone will contact you!”. So it just makes me wonder, what is this really? A new way to show customer, that s/he is not worth a dime?

My own working hours are so irregular and sometimes really challenging, that I really like to use the online services as much as possible. It usually do not bother anyone in a meeting or while I’m having a class, if an email is sent, BUT it really does annoy people if a phone rings and I start taking care of my own business.

I have also difficulties to understand why companies invest in online customer service in the first place, if they eventually guide the customer to the face to face (or ear to ear) situation?

How I see it, the online customer service should not differ from the customer service in real life. If I ask for help in a chat, I expect to get it at that very moment, not in a telephone call or arranged meeting after I have filled in a form. I also expect to get that customer service right away, not after hours or days.

Bad online customer service

So couple of examples to end this blog. First a bad one!

Last summer I was opening a bank account to my daughter. I filled in a form, but there were couple of points I found quite ambiguous, so first I tried to chat with the bank. After I had waited 15 minutes, I finally got contact, explained my problem and expected the “chatter” to help me. Her answer was “Fill in the form and then someone in your bank will check it and call you!”.

Okay, but I cannot submit the form, since I have these problems, after which I was told to send a message to my bank about this. I did as told, got the answer in 2 days and finished the form. And then I waited a week! No account information appeared. So I sent another message about this and it came out, that there Digipreacher sayswere still problems with the form. Nobody had just bothered to inform me about that.

Because of this, the bank arranged a phone meeting with me without asking about my timetables or anything. They just decided a time that suited them. This time did not suit me at all and I sent a message about the times that suited me. And these times did not suit to the bank. So after A MONTH we found a common time for this phone meeting. It ended to a conclusion that there was nothing wrong with the form I had filled. And finally they promised to open the account.

And again I waited a week for information. Nothing happened. Sent yet another message. I got apologies and a request to send the form either as an pdf attachement or fill the form once again. Luckily, I had saved it as pdf. so I sent it. And, after about 2 months of waiting, the bank opened TWO separate accounts to my daughter, because they had not read the previous messages. A big hustle that could have been avoided by a competent and helpful chat person!

Good customer service online

Then I found iNorwegian Airlines! So here comes the GOOD example!

I was travelling to Torrevieja in Spain in September, and for some reason I ordered the flights via travel agency instead of booking them myself. Which then lead to a situation that I could not make any changes (e.g. book the seats) to my reservation nor could I see the reward points in my account (even though I had informed them to travel agency).

So I chatted with the girl in Norwegian who got it all done in 10 minutes. Even the waiting time for chat was one or two minutes. If I would improve something in this service, I would prolong the opening hours for chat. Since I had to wait over the weekend to get answers 🙂

What do we learn about this?

As I have stated in my previous blogs e.g. about technical issues and about customer experience, it is not just the tools that decide the success of online activities. Especially, when it comes to customer service online, it is more about the attitudes and the organisational culture, that just the tools.

If a company decides to use the online tools for their customer service, they should understand what it means and be prepared to offer service online. This means naturally training the staff and creating a totally new service thinking.

And yes, it is an investment, but it can also save money. If it took me several sentences to tell about the bad experience and also several hours of my and bank’s time, the good version was solved in 10 minutes and couple of lines :D. So think about that! And feel free to tell about your own experiences!

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