I'm up to my eyeballs with frustration at the direction many companies are taking with "e-mail only" customer service. It has reached the point where I will no longer do business with companies that won't talk with their paying customers.
If these companies want my money but won't talk with me, I will simply find a different provider for that product or service.
Since these "e-mail only" companies treated my inquiries like dirt, I think it's fair to talk about my experiences. Whether or not you choose to do business with them is up to you. First there's Grisoft, the makers of AVG, an antivirus software. Then there's PayPal. And Xulon Press pulled some shenanigans, too.
I think I'll pick on Grisoft.
Our small business server at the office was running AVG. When an upgrade wouldn't install and our server was at serious risk, we went to their web site to look for a phone number. You guessed it, no such luck. The problem was urgent enough that we searched for a physical address on the Grisoft web site and then called 411 information in that town, trying to reach somebody at Grisoft - anybody - who could help us out.
Again, no such luck. Grisoft doesn't even list its phone number in their local directory.
So we "played their game." We sent an urgent e-mail to their tech support. So you know, to do that one has to navigate through page after page filled with walls of text that start with words such as:
"We recommend that you check the FAQ section prior to contacting AVG Support, as you will often find that your question has already been addressed."
Somewhere on each succeeding non-user-friendly page one can find another link that reads "contact technical support." But alas, when the next page opens, it looks like a duplicate of the page you were just on, and you continue to play "find waldo" (aka the next link for "contact technical support").
Somewhere on what seems like page 666 you will find the following:
We recommend that you check the popular topics below prior to contacting Technical Support. If you could not find your desired answer, please contact our Technical Support team and we will do our best to help you as soon as possible.
Finally! But no, not yet. Now we had to find sales receipts and enter a bunch of information to prove we'd purchased the product.
Now before I give the zinger, allow me to call your attention again to their wording, "We will do our best to help you as soon as possible."
Are you ready? "As soon as possible" for our urgent situation was seven days.
I don't know about you, but I don't have time to read page after page of tech-speak trying to find an answer to my question. Besides, if I had wanted to become an expert in AVG, I would have gone to school for it. But apparently I made a mistake. It seems I'm not only supposed to be an expert in my own profession, I now have to read up and become an expert in anti-virus software, too.
In considering this lunacy, I wondered what it would look like if I did customer service the same way as these companies do.
Let's say a software company buys my online learning modules for "the Manager as Trainer." Someone has a question about how to apply the material. They go to my website but find no phone number, only page after page of text describing hundreds of scenarios in which the training might apply. At the top of each page it says,
"We recommend that you check the FAQ section prior to contacting Training Support, as you will often find that your question has already been addressed."
After spending hours sifting through my well-thought out scenarios, they finally give up and send an e-mail. About a week later, I send them a generic message saying I've received their inquiry, and I'll get back to them soon.
How long do you think I'd stay in business?
So why do we keep tolerating this low level of service from others? Well, like I said, no longer will I do so. From this point forward, if I cannot reach a vendor or supplier by phone, or if I do not get a solutions-focused, actually helpful response within one business day, I will find another company for that product or service and I will do business with them instead.
It is high time we stop tolerating such poor customer service and start The Great Boycott of e-mail-only customer service.