04. 22. 2009
Customer service via IM: good idea?
On Monday, I was thinking of buying a new cell phone. Actually, I'd been thinking about it for a while: I don't even have Internet access on my phone - in fact, I've never even Twittered from it! - which considering how much time I spend writing about technology (and on the Internet) each week, is more than a little shameful. But I was holding out for the right phone, the right deal - and finally, I thought I'd found it.
But even though the deal I liked looked good, I still had a couple of questions about it. The thought of calling the customer care center filled me with dread, though: I always seem to be hanging on the line for hours and they always try to give me the hard sell. So should I just take the gamble and click on "buy" or wait until I could trudge into town and ask a cashier for more details? I was mulling this over when I saw something flashing in the corner of the screen: an invitation to chat in real time with a customer services rep. Over an instant-messaging system built into the functionality of the site.
I wasn't sure if I liked the idea at first, but it seemed like an easy way to get my questions answered, so I clicked on the flashing link.
Within two minutes, I was connected with someone who answered my questions and reassured me enough that I felt comfortable in going ahead with my purchase - plus, as a thank you for using the service, I got a code for a coupon which will give me a $40 discount on accessories when my phone arrives. Whoop.
I had been worried that IM-ing with a stranger would feel oddly intimate and awkward, but it actually turned out to be rather fun. Although the rep I conversed with was obviously taking some of his answers from a script, this seemed more appropriate in a written conversation than it would over the phone. He also wanted to push me towards final purchase - but I was able to fill in a short survey about the service afterwards in which I expressed this. Plus, I knew that if I felt really uncomfortable at any time, I could click "goodbye" and not be bothered again. But the main advantage was that I could get on with other things while I waited for his answers - and that it took less than a couple of minutes to get the conversation started. It was just like IM-ing with someone I already knew, except a bit more formal.
I'd recommend using the IM customer service to other people, but does it appeal to you? Why/why not? We'd love to know.