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Opinion Editorials

Customer service on the web is an utter failure

Web apps, and frequently asked question sections rule the day destroying the tenets of great customer service. Customer service now seems to be a four letter word.

First Target Store 1962
The first Target Store

First Target Store 1962

The first Target Store

Customer service online is a failure

Have you called Google lately to discuss your pagerank issues? I guess you didn’t know you’re not a consumer of Google, at least it’s how they justify it. How many times a day are you buried in the frequently asked questions loop to find answers to the problem you’re having? Have you been duped into paying a one-time $99 fee for technical support lately? Well, I think it’s our fault – the consumer. We demand change in the face of reality.

The idea that one can start an online business, skip the customer service, and make money is commonplace now days. There are virtually thousands of brands on the web that don’t even post a phone number, instead you’re met with a “contact us” form that often sends your request into a black hole. We as consumers use Google or Bing Search or ask on Facebook questions that should be answered by the company that has no customer service option – although if you want to buy something, sales departments are typically well represented – their priority is obvious.

The future of customer service seems to be heading in the direction of the brick and mortar, less human touch, less walk-in, and more ‘app.’ Less tangibility or face-to-face, and more apps and order online.

Legacy brands like Time Warner, Constant Contact, and many others continue to hold the line making customer service job one, even if you haven’t bought the product yet, but today’s web businesses save a buck with a support page filled with less how to do something, and more push back.

This can’t be the right direction for business

The more I see web only promos from brands like Target, Best Buy, Fry’s, and others, I picture a future of more empty big boxes, and less focus on service and brand loyalty. Less tangibility, and more guessing and shipping. I’m not so sure this is a good direction for business, the economy, and or the consumer at large. Saving a buck today around the web-only fad (yes, I said fad, because I represent the majority that prefer to shop and buy offline) is a mistake, similar to when we said email marketing was dead – folks, email is hotter than ever. As fast as things die, they’re new again, and my hope is retailers understand tangibility trumps a smart device.

Like I said, it’s our fault as consumers, compounded by the economy, being frugal, finding the cheapest price, busy schedules, and million of other excuses not to support local stores. We even fail local small businesses who stand to gain the most if this trend continues, but will suffer in the short term.

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If we continue to give up liberties, fail to demand service of web based businesses, we’re complicit in the demise of life as we know it for something shiny, even if it’s not good in the long run.

Demand less, get less.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. curlyblur

    January 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Writer is out of touch. Americans have done this to ourselves by continually asking for everything to cost less. Web based sales are a shining example we wanted products to cost less, companies had to save money somewhere and service is where.

    • agbenn

      February 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      I appreciate your comment greatly as you echo exactly what I said in the article.

  2. Kristen Hicks

    March 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    I don’t understand how Time Warner gets a mention for good customer service. I’ve never heard one good thing said about that company by anyone who has ever been their customer.

    • Benn Rosales, Publisher

      March 17, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks @twitter-309302763:disqus . It’s more broad than centralizing one legacy company, imagine a crappy legacy brand dropping phone support all together as some web startups have done? It’s very possible if not appreciated more.

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