I've had it with e-mail only customer service

2007

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.

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?

Exactly.

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.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.

Older Comments

C'mon, it's not just email that sucks. What about all those companies that you CAN call but put you through - after hours on hold - to some clueless idiot in India who can hardly speak English - I'm talking to YOU, DELL Computers. How about boycotting them, too.

Jack

Quick question...are you willing to PAY for this customer service you seek in the price of the product? Most people are not. And until people are willing to pay MUCH more for products...with this cost built in, customer service will not get much better. Some companies start well...but the realities of the cost soon settle in and they scramble, as Dell did to stop the bleeding. Honestly...can you think of one company that offers the customer service you describe? If you can...wait one year...see if they still do. It is easy to do what you do...speaking in ideals, without dealing with reality. Do you REALLY want to be part of the solution? Come up with ways to help companies AFFORDABLY offer the customer service you think should be the norm.

Joe

I'm a software developer in the same situation as AVG. We cut out the frills (like telephone support and a printed manual) and dropped our software price from $495. to $99. with the same overall profitability. Did we make a mistake? We offer a 'no questions asked' full refund if not satisfied. Very few customers take us up on the offer.

Mike Chicago

We offer toll-free support in the US for a $19.95 product. Do I make a lot of money? Not really, but my customers are happier. We also refuse to use IVR-type systems (e.g. 'Click 1 to talk to ..., click 2 to talk to...'). Instead, we have call screeners who pick up the phone and route you to the appropriate person.

But does it matter? I don't know. Some of my competitors are really ruthless with their customers, and frankly probably make more money than I do.

In the end, though, we simply believe that offering this is a better value proposition for our customers, and will keep doing it as long as we can afford it. By the way, it really isn't all that expensive to do.

Alex Eckelberry

If a company is hesitant to put their phone number out in the open, then it's a sign that something is wrong with their product.

Customers don't need a more advanced knowledge base with better search. We don't need an email ticketing system. And we don't need cheap, underpaid, inexperienced drones from another country answering the phones.

We need for them to go back, simplify, and make it so that there's no *need* for people to call them for help (except in cases of extreme emergency (or stupidity).

Don't invest in your help system---invest in the product.

Ben Atlanta

Okay Jack, I'm with you. You hit a nerve there. Dell Computers gets the prize for the worst customer service in the history of customers, for the reasons you mention! I purchased a computer (first mistake) with a service contract for a tech to come to fix my computer at my home if needed. What a farce! Four computers and 8 yrs. later, I have never seen a tech yet! And if by chance they return your call, expect it at midnight or 2am (b/c it's daytime in India!). That's happened more than once. And their 'service contract' actually meant that a person with a thick accent would try to 'talk' me through the repair myself. At 3am my husband came to see why I wasn't in bed yet, and found me on the phone with a Dell rep from India. I was sitting on the floor in my office, with the computer emptied of it's components, mother board on the floor and taken apart, and me in tears. After three hours (I know, I was nuts to put up with that!), I deliriously laughed through my tears, looked around the room and said, 'Oh I get it; where's the camera? I'm on Candid Camera! I know it! How dumb am I?!' Sadly, it was not joke. It was Dell's sad 'service.'

G.C. midwest

Grisoft AVG's distributor in the United States, Walling Data Systems, online at avg-antivirus.net or by phone at 866-833-5727 during business hours does provide unlimited US based phone support when purchases are made with them as well as email and remote support services which are answered promptly (including during holidays, such as this weekend).

More information on the above can be seen here.

So, while you are materially correct in saying that Grisoft direct does not provide phone support - phone support, unlimited & US based, as well as phone ordering is indeed available for AVG products when they are purchased from the Distributor for everyone regardless of their purchase size for home or business use.

Luke Walling

I should also point out, for your UK readers, that phone support is available from AVG UK as well - Grisoft's partner in the UK. See http://www.avguk.com for more information.

Luke Walling

AVG should be honest and clear that clients in North america should not buy direct, but from the american supplier. I used to love the software, but the tech support stinks. And the american distributor will not help because we bought it direct.

Dave Canada

You are correct that Walling Data does not support non-customers, including direct AVG customers, mainly for the simple reason that we cannot access order information for orders not placed with our company, and that as you can imagine, really complicates things for us.

Luke Walling

It gets worse, as a retail consumer, I find it difficult to dig out email adresses. FAQs on internet seldom answer my questions. @#$$%$$##

Hal Wilder

I agree that getting in touch with customer support can often be aggravating, however, I am completely against these futile attempts to tarnish other companies images merely based on the ramblings of one angry event. I noticed the notation of there being a problem with Paypal and Xulon Press, yet no turn of events follows this empty comment. How am I to take this seriously. Better yet, am I, the consumer to just blindly agree with this arbitrary statement without actually searching for the truth myself? Let's face it, this is the 'Year of the Email' and we brought it upon ourselves. We have to come to expect, that yes, for the most part, a living breathing person on the other end of a phone line is almost null and void in this day and age so suck it up like the rest of us average Americans. P.S. Why can I not find a phone number to voice my opinion personally? Ironic...

Citizen of the Web

well i know just how correct u are! I have been on line all day (11am to 6pm) just trying to download it (took 3 hrs) didnt work had 2 do it again and still didnt work so tryed to find a # TO CALL FOR HELP AND THERE IS NONE!

angry girl

To get the full service packet, I had to sign up for 12 months of phone, cable and on-line. 6 months later they finally discovered their original installation was faulty. During those 5 months I made many calls to their tech service. Yes, I could reach them, but I kept a running log of the cumulative time on hold. At last I quit entering in the log when the time passed 14 hours. 14 hours during which I couldn't do anything else really productive. But I recently received a request that I reccommend their FIOS service. I won't print my response. I'm just a little guy, but there must be millioms of us. Let us all rebel!

Hal Wilder Ventura County, CA

Many times, a quick search of a few seach engines, prior to opting for any particular product, will inform you of potential problems concerning that particular product. Unless it is brand new, and therefore, still to be considered 'experimental', there are bound to be blogs and articles about any candiate product's potential, or problems encountered by its users, posted somewhere on the worldwide web. Use this resouce for finding out how to contact them, before urgent situations needing immediate customer support surface, after it is already too late. I am not taking sides with any company, but like that old saying in jolly old England goes, 'Pennywise; pound foolish!'

Another sterling example of internet insecurity? In case you haven't learned already, school is never out. Understanding how your security wall works can prevent repeated problems. You can learn this the hard way, or can act upon this advice, if you survive long enough: A good security consultant ( bonded, of course ), can save you a lot of grief, and you needn't be wasting time writing blogs to complain about bad hand-holding techniques. The market will weed out losing propositions, without you calling for a general strike.

James Portland

I have to agree, Ihad AVG 7.5 on my computer and was notified that I should change to 8.0...so I tried and got an error message saying that it could possibly damage XP so I canceled... but it had already deleted my 7.5 version, no phone number to call and now my laptop is unprotected and 28 hrs later no email response. I found it funny that there were phone numbers for europe but none for the U.S. thanks grisoft (holding up middle finger)

Walter

I understand your frustration as I have been trying to reach someone with AVG since 04/18/2008 (almost a month ago). I try to use the 'contact via email' option from the software but this seems to be one of the items not working on my program. So I keep sending emails directly to AVG customer service, sales staff and tech support. I get an auto reply almost immediately but have not heard from anyone at AVG. I have a prepaid subscription through 2009 (December) or I would have switched already. I will never buy AVG again.

Jim

Are you kidding me? Since when is helping someone figure out why your product does not do what you advertise a frill? I can't believe those of you who say phone service is an extra and we should be satisfied with email and FAQ help. There are still companies who handle phone calls, perform customer service and turn a profit. Let's help the rest go out of business.

Jim Biloxi, MS

I agree so much with this e-mail. I feel like i have been ripped off because i have spent money and can't get any help to use the product. Might as well put it in the garbage, but i won't do that, there is always the option to refuse the credit card charge.

Joan Lottermoser california

As I write this I am ready to explode with utter frustration. I agree with all that has been written. I bought this product recently and it has brought my e-mail sytem to a standstill. I have spent hours trying to sort it out and like you I have no time to waist reading reams of technical jargon. When I found your site I was attempting to find a phone number for AVG. I feel now that I have been mugged and they are going to get away with it! Never again.

Michael U. Kingdom

I am having exactly the same problems. We have major firewall issues with AVG's Internet Security for Windows Server 2003.

We were lucky to have sales rep call us to try and sell us the upgraded package. He said, when asking for a telephone number that they don't have one! even though he called me. I tried to get the number through caller display, but yes! you guessed it 'WITHHELD'

2 days later the firewall starts blocking all incoming and outgoing traffic (No its not set to block all!!)

The only way it works now is allowing everything through. I've tried emailing Grisoft (even as paying customer)..... Check the FAQ!!! God Damm It! nothing in there for servers.

I could go on and on, but have had enough now. I'm unistalling it and trying something else now.

David (UK) UK

First I will say that I have no problem with email only support so long as they are responsive. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with AVG... I recently submitted 2 support tickets to AVG. The first was submitted over 3 weeks ago and the second one a week later. I am STILL awaiting response to the issue! I received immediate confirmation that my requests were properly submitted so I know they received them. This is unacceptable so I felt the need to request for refund from their sales team; again weeks pass and I have still yet to receive a response for that as well!

It seems that every request I've placed has fallen on blind eyes. They have made it clear that they do not care about the customers that have paid for their products. To think that I actually recommended them to my peers is unsettling.

Shame on you AVG. Never again will I buy or recommend your products.

Joe San Diego, CA

AVG is the biggest scam i have ever seen. The box says 24/7 technical quick response support and there support sucks! I have used Panda in the past and had an issue called them and fixed problem within 30 min. I will never use another AVG product and don't recommend it to anyone.

Neal Weatherford, TX

It took some leg work, but I found out how to get a hold of AVG / Grisoft!! The Better Business Bureau's website providese their phone number (321) 274-1888 This number leads to an automated system where sales and support lead no where, but there is a dial by name directory where I found Khalid Sheffield IT/Technical Support AVG Technologies USA, Inc 1901 Summit Tower Blvd. Suite 350 Orlando, Fl 32810 Office: 321-274-1888 ext. 455 Email: [email protected]

I am posting this because I hope this helps others, as I have been disgusted with AVG ever since they went to a paid only product and will never give them a dollar of my money again in the future, bu in the meantime, I have no problems making the lives of their executives & support team a little crazier!

crzyg8r

Please be aware that AVG does display a phone number on its website. They have recently placed this on the website for customer convenience. AVG has always offered telephone support for subscribers to its software.

Please also be aware that AVG does not state you will receive an email reply within 24 hours, it states that they have '24/7 support', you have the ability and option to e-mail the customer service e-mail at any time 24/7, the customer service/technical support offices are open 24/7 (inc weekends) and they reply as soon as possible.

The AVG UK & Ireland number is 0844 894 1000, this is NOT a premium rate number.

N/A

I totally agree with one of the comments below. AVG DOES NOT have a useable telephone number. In other words... BUY the product and leave. I would encourage anyone to NOT do business with such inconsiderate individuals. I am not fond of Macafee or Norton so might try NOD32. I have not yet tried their 800 number but will t ry that this coming week and if they are or appear to be incompetent, then I will try elsewhere.

Norman USA

Thank you so much for the people who included contact info. Pretty sad that the comments section for an article slamming the company is the only place to get contact info.

Teresa

What a great article. Well researched, and I found it enlightening. Don't worry, everyone in business is creeping in this direction. They are sending us a message, but are we listening? 'We want to see your money, not your face!' The banks across America are encourageing more ATM use than customer interaction. One bank told me they would be charging more for folks who come into the bank to talk to a teller. 'Use of the ATM or Window is preferred and won't cost you a dime.' The personality in business is being driven out. Why??? They love our money, they just don't love us anymore. Needless to say, I am no longer with that bank. We will see more and more of this, so hold onto your hats. Speak up at every oppportunity and do not feed into these organizations. These types of companies and banks 'should fail'. Cheers, GR.

grassroots09 U.S.A. Good old Red, White, and Blue

Yes, I know this comment is late, but... Although I agree with the premise of the article. 'Email support only, sucks.' I do not agree with the premise that you need to become an expert in AVG in addition to your expertise in your own profession. Am I an expert in law? No. I go to a lawyer for that. Am I an expert in Dentistry? No. I go to a dentist for that. Am I an expert in carpentry? No. I hire a carpenter for that. Get the point? Hire an expert in computers! Then you don't have to be an expert in that field.

Dan H

I have tried twice to renew my AVG protection. In both cases I wasted my time filling in the web form! It tells me that I am finished & just sits there! There is no download button. There is no phone number to call for help. There is no contact us button. I will never buy a product from AVG again!!!

Frederica Shockley Chico, CA

I also will no longer do business with e-mail only customer service. The war has begone, bullets will fly. AVG palletise your egos bullets are coming your way big time.

Lawrence Fournier

Quite agree - we responded to AVG's notification that our cover was due to expire, purchased the renewal and now I've spent hours trying to get it to work - their renewal section doesnt seem to recognise the licence number they gave us! Tried e-mailing them three times so far to get someone to tell me what to do - our cover has now expired of course. No reply and like you no sign of any telephone number anywhere - somehow I don't think they will change until they either get lots of bad PR or notice a drop in customers renewing!

Denise London

07JUN2009

I work for a tech support company that handles calls from AVG customers. The number currently on AVG's support page will get you to us. I feel quite useless in this role as I am here essentially to tell you that I can't help you. I can point you back to the support page, or show you avg.com/license-retrieval if you've lost your license key. I can't help you with technical issues, give you any money back, send you a CD, or do much of anything. I can redirect you to a number for paid technical support (that is, beyond what you may have already paid for AVG).

If you hope to get live support I must advise you not to use AVG.

Jack Aviado Texas

I know it costs a company to provide customer service but I get it regularly from companies outside the computer field. I can call LLBean or any major catalog sales company and get excellent fast friendly help from someone who speaks english. And this is over a 20 or 30 dollar purchase. It is possible to do better.

Shiloh

I can understand both sides of the story here. Looking at it from an economic perspective; everyone wants to pay the lowest possible price for goods and services. As a result, organizations tend to cut their costs in order to deliver the best pricing possible. Unfortunately, service generally suffers post-sale. I too had a situation where I didn't conduct the necessary research on post-sales support procedures. I certainly have learned my lesson and it sounds like you learned yours as well. Good luck!

Matt North Liberty, IA

I noticed the comment by the software developer who stated that they cut the cost of their product by going the route of email only customer service. He also noted that they offer a 30 day money back guarantee (that very few take them up on). I would probably agree with this in theory, except for the fact that I purchased AVG with the reassurance of a 30 day guarantee as well. Unfortunately, I can't get anyone to assist me in facilitating this - by email or otherwise! After their program created a conflict and lead to a computer crash, I attempt to contact AVG to get them to honor their guarantee and nobody will respond. A guarantee is only as good as the company giving it.

Brian

This standard of email support as a free support option has been standard practice in European countries for years. We are now seeing it in North America. Personally, I like the idea. One, it brings jobs back to NA versus an outsourcing company in India. AVG Premium Support is a prime example. When you speak to someone there you work with a tech in NA who is not some scripted monkey (I know I paid for a Virus Service from them). I personally had a great experience with their tech support.

I searched and searched the AVG site for a solution and did not find what I was looking for. I then emailed and received a reply which was above my computer skill level. Next, I opted for the phone number. I paid my $130 and about an hour later I was back up and running.

The idea of email only support is nothing new; it's just something people in NA who have a horrible entitlement mentality and no critical thought skills cannot understand.

Get over yourself; if you want free support, then deal with the Indians who can barely speak English and work from a script. Or, you can support American Outsource companies who employ North American staff and pay a little money. I personally am a NA first person and will pay that money to continue to support organizations who are attempting to bring jobs back to NA.

Rathgar Florida

One of the worst is AVG Technologies. They don't care about you once you buy. I've been trading emails about a renewal issue and they keep sending me the same email and they just don't care. All they want is the money. I'm going to become a one man anti-AVG technologies to all of my contacts. And what is sad is I used to be their biggest fan.

George Mancuso Grinnell, Iowa

I purchased AVG March 2009. I sent several emails before receiving one telling me that I had been successful downloading. I thought I had the protection until I received an email 2/2/10 advising that I should download. After several attempts and emails I was went a number to call. I called and was told I would be helped if I purchased a service which was nearly $50. I was denied a refund because more than 30 days had elapsed since making my purchase.

David Walker Tennessee

I totally agree with you re: email only customer service and AVG has got to have the WOSRT customer service I have ever encountered (or actually not encoutered because you can't get a human being to talk to). I have spoken to PayPal and asked them to consider not doing business with AVG because of the lack of customer service. AVG is an unethical and sleezy firm to say the least.

Caren Gurwitz

You can now voice your complaints to a real person at AVG Technologies in the USA. They won't help you with technical support, at all, but they do answer the phone. 888-823-2233 is the number to their Florida office, press 3 to reach a person.

Brian NJ

How can you email from your computer which has a virus and you can't even get it to cut on? I think it is utterly ridiculous that they do not have tech support that you can call and they can walk you through how to solve problems. I wish I had known this before I bought AVG. The paper that came with the installation disc says tech support 24/7.

Doris VA

First let me say that the AVG products are among the best I've used--that is until there is a problem...

I have been the endless support loop for some days without any success at all. It may be the most frustrating support situation I have found myself a part of in 25 years in the compute support business. Even a technical user, like myself, can have frustrations with installation and usability issues.

What does one do when a product will simply not install? Why, of course, you contact technical support, if there is any. Apparently AVG has none, because three attempts to contact them has resulted in no return contact. So, I found a competing product (eset nod32) with a pre sales phone number and a post sales technical support phone number. I am now a satisfied eset customer. I will begin switching my entire client base to the eset products beginning today.

Ren Kessler Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

I am right now on the phone with my credit card company in an attempt to cancel payment to AVG. I have spent so much time trying to contact AVG and have found the numbers listed in these posted comments to be dead ends--I'm sure AVG either got too many calls or they were 'placebo' numbers in the first place. Maybe I can get their attention by canceling payment. Wish me luck. From now on I am going to verify customer service options BEFORE I purchase something.

Debbie Springfield, MO

On Oct 25th I responded to an e-mailed approach from Avg and agreed a contract.During the down loading of the software I was advised by Avg that there had been an interruption and they would contact me within two days.As at the time of writing I have heard nothing.I have tried to make con tact with the tech. people who wanted further payment to correct the failure in a service I have already paid for but not received.I have now tried to cancel the agreement and be refunded but cannot find anyone who can help.The South African office /agent knws nothing.When I went through sale support I found myself in contact with Elent 5 in Cologne-very helpful but again know nothing of the order no.or licence no.Payment seems to have gone to AVG Nicosia.How do I reach them?Am I the victim of some scam or am I being given the run-a-round util the thirty days is up? Can you help?I have never had dealings with such a user unfriendly supplier--ever Thank you Stuart Park

N.Stuart Park South Africa

Last fall I purchased a two-year contract with AVG, the paid model of a free product which had been working well for me. Then the trouble started. It wouldn't complete the download. So, on to tech support. It took hours, and I finally had to turn my computer over to their tech support, so he could see what was going on. Apparently the download hadn't completely cleaned out the previous installation. He got it done, finally, and since then it had been working fairly well, although other problems were showing with the computer, mostly in internet connections. Last week AVG wanted to do an update so, of course I allowed it. Then I lost nearly everything. Back again to the tech support, and a very nice woman helped with the removal tool, and the download. I thought it was wonderful, until the restart. The only way back to the desktop was in safe mode. The next step was my computer guru, and thank god for him. He spent five hours trying to clean up old AVG files going back to 2009! Nothing worked, and the new 2012 download just wouldn't install. I now have Microsoft Security Essentials, things are working again, and I spent the afternoon warning friends NOT to use AVG, at least not the purchased one. Thanks for listening.

Lenore Tomlinson Vancouver Island

Recently I paid AVG for two softwares online. They received the money. I never had the software installed on my computer by them or anyone. I want a refund of my money. The probelem is that whatever phone number I call I am given another phone number that will not serve to resolve my situation. I just want my refund of $60. and some cents. I have not as I said installed these two softwares and feel that I should be able to get a refund. However, I am unable to contact billing customer service since this seems intentional on AVG's part. My feeling is that I have been ripped off and once they get your money then it remains their funds. Not being able to bring this matter to the attention of billing customer service refunds is an intentional block on AVG's part.

ivan willis