This holiday season has been one of the most interesting when it comes to retailer email. I have received more email in the past 30 days before Christmas than any prior year. I have also ordered all of my holiday presents online and therefore had some questions and issues with products I bought or was about to buy. I had two interesting experiences this past week, one with a question I emailed and one with a help desk issue. Both companies appear to be using either auto-responders or canned answers and it is damaging their reputation.
Here is the Big Problem
The problem with using an auto-responder with the same answer to every question or canned answers that do not answer the question, or even come close, is that it completely defeats the purpose. The reason you or any company uses such a system is to decrease your overall operating costs of dealing with inquires. However you do not want to do that at the expense of having an upset, unhappy customer. Now you have not fixed the problem, made the customer mad, and they have to call to get the right answer. This is not what the system is intended to do so use it properly. Here are my two examples.
Example 1 : Question to Dish Network
I could not find the information on the Dish site about their connectivity, nor in their FAQs so I followed their contact us link. There were two options, one to call or one to email. It was after hours so I emailed. My question was whether or not a particular receiver had an HDMI port. I was very clear in my question so I could receive a simple yes or no answer. What I got in return was a canned response that did not answer my question at all and simply said “thanks for the email call us at this number”. If you are going to send that out to all the emails you get please do not provide an email address. That is horrible use of an automated system.
Example 2 : Question to Flip Video
This was much more frustrating than the Dish issue. I received my Flip Video and took some video. Then when I plugged it into my Mac (I also tried a Windows and a Linux machined) the Flip was not recognized, could not see it as a drive and therefore could not get the video off.
So I opened a help desk ticket.
Having dealt with many help desk systems I know that their knee jerk reaction is to respond with questions such as: what model number, what serial number, what color is it, is raining outside, etc., the questions they (not Flip per say but anyone you contact via email) always first ask in order to not answer your question and push it off onto you. So I took the time to send all that info, the model number, the software version, a screen shot and I explained I also updated the software to their latest etc. I was actually painfully clear because I really wanted to avoid that first knee jerk reaction. No dice ! – they sent it anyway, they sent the canned email asking all those questions.
I politely let them know that I already answered all the questions as can be seen in the thread. However I went ahead and answered them again one by one. They knew I already updated the software, which was stated in my first email. Their response was a canned response telling me to update the software. I did it anyway and have replied again. I have not yet gotten the next canned answer.
Customer service is obviously important, but the real issue here is that someone recommended these systems to two companies and neither of them are using them properly. Dish decided to make their email completely useless, might as well remove it. Flip decided to not even read the customer inquires and just click and send canned answers. I like automation, I like saving in operating costs, I love increasing profits, but please use the systems properly and do not alienate your customers.