30 August 2009

When Online Is Better Than Offline?

As many of you know I am a fan of Gerry McGovern's weekly mail.

This is this week's effort


However I think he misses the point here - just because the offline service process and rules are screwed up doesn't mean that this is the wrong way to do it.

Sometimes the process of being bloody minded works just as well. The problem is that you cannot be bloody minded and persuasive with a machine!

On the other hand there are some good tools where the interaction can work. For example customer service chats. This REALLY works well when you have a he said she said kind of issue.

A case in point I had a problem with my cable company. They changed to the all digital format and as a result my old VCR and my new independent DVR didn't work except when wired into the same channel I was watching. Thus depriving me of the ability to time shift.

I tried the call center (yes India again) and got no where. So I went to the chat process and was able to resolve the problem. Further they had to transfer me to another section. The chat formed part of the record and thus there was no misunderstanding and the agent was able to see what we agreed early on without me having to repeat myself (one of the biggest bug bears of customer service today).

Despite having to still do some INANE things like repeat who I was (even though I signed in as the account holder) ... so they don't get it right still!!! ... I managed to get them to do something out of the ordinary and provide me a service. This would have fallen outside of the norm of what you can do in a conventional web form world.

So is there a lesson here?


The web can be a powerful tool as we can both see what has happened and we are dealing with identical information resulting in better customer service.

Of course going back to Gerry's problem - this is unlikely to have helped given that he was at Athens airport and the process of getting online would have been painful and slow at best - unavailable would be the norm. of course the time pressure doesn't apply when dealing with the cable company. When waiting to board a flight - that pressure is really on. (BTW a recent study showed that the airport check-in and boarding process is as stressful as driving a formula 1 car!!!).

So sometimes it just pays to be a pain in the rear....


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