3259487071 cfa98beed6 n How Online Customer Service Can HurtAs an online shopping aficionado, I consider myself well versed in all that is email customer service. I know how to contact a company, what details to include, and how to receive shipping refunds when a package is more than a few days late. In the same sense, because there are so many companies that have it together (Amazon, iTunes, etc.), I’m equally appalled by those who, well, don’t. Rude emails, late responses, and no option of a survey are all signs of amateur sites … and I’m willing to bet their sales are a clear reflection.

Who wants to buy from a company who belittles, ignores, or just simply tells you you’re wrong? Not this online shopper, especially when the same items can be found on hundreds of other sites. When competition has never been higher, customer service is one of the few details that helps put you over the edge.

Automated Responses Behaving Badly

Whether or not it’s true, the-customer-is-always-right mantra is a good rule of thumb. Even when said customers are clearly wrong, type gingerly and offer positive suggestions. It is not customer service’s job to assign levels of stupidity, only to help fix the issue so future shopping can commence. Oftentimes, however, the former is the case.

Failure example one: When purchasing a customized item online, a company’s photo uploaded failed to work. I restarted my computer, borrowed a friend’s (a PC vs. my Mac), read the FAQs and instructions, then emailed customer service.

Although prompt, their response consisted only of copy and pasted sections from their FAQ page … even though I had outlined my issue, which was not listed in their answers, and stated I had read them.

Email two suggested that I check with Microsoft, a multi-billion dollar company that creates software, not computers. It was also software that, owning a Mac, I didn’t have. To boot, their response was rude, short, and in no way resolved an issue – a combination that landed them on my do-not-shop list.

Screen shot 2012 08 13 at 2.15.03 PM How Online Customer Service Can Hurt
Failure example two:
After receiving a gift card and cashing in, I was forced to enter payment information, even though the card covered the purchase. Next, the gift card wasn’t even touched, and I was charged the purchase’s entirety. To remedy the bill, I emailed the company with my issue, only to receive a robot response three weeks later due to the “sheer volume” of emails they receive. By this time, the order had been delivered and was non-refundable, they said.

Would you shop from them again? Me either.

Unfortunately, these are only two examples of customer service failures I’ve experienced this year. Tens of other companies have followed suit, being rude, short, and just plain unhelpful. Businesses cite too many emails, customer negligence, or even “it got lost in the spam folder” as excuses to avoid helping customers. Not only are these emails unacceptable and a tad rude, they force shoppers to spend their money elsewhere … from someone with a cordial and timely customer service section.

Screen shot taken 8-13-12
Take a number photo courtesy of Andres Rudas