Self help – not what it used to be

A big trend when it comes to customer service is to leverage online chats. I get this with my bank, I forget a password or have a question and I can instant message with someone. Granted they are walking through a script just like what happens when you actually speak to someone on the phone, so it take sometimes just as long. But at least you are not sitting on the phone listening to horrible 80s soft jazz.

But I had another experience with the same system, this time with one of the airlines I fly – United. United Airlines had rolled out Alex, she is an avatar that is suppose to help you with navigating through the United web site and supposedly answer questions. Recently I had a question about some miles I wanted credit for (need to get to the next status level!) I went into the web site and of course they always want your ticket number, reservation number, three pictures of the actual plane you flew and a signed note from your mom. And of course I no longer have my ticket. So I clicked on the “contact us” link on the United site hoping I could send and email or call someone that could assist me in getting my credit…but the only option seems to be our friend Alex.

So I did as she asked, and typed in my question…to which she “directed” me to the section of the web site that has all the information about asking for a credit…which I had already gone to on my very own! When I typed in a more specific question about not having my ticket information, Alex just sent me back to the same page. Ugh.

I realize companies are trying to avoid incurring costs associated with actual people in customer service, I realize companies are looking to stream line the experience. However when your solution is what appears to be chat, which we are all accustomed to, and all that chat does is send you to links that you could have navigated to on your own. That is called poor or a lack of customer service!

Airlines like Banks like the multitude of vendors that have an online presence must realize is that while they no longer rely as heavily on brick and mortar, there remains a brick and mortar element. Human assistance. I realize that United does not want to be inundated with calls. But not answering my question, whether via an avatar or an actual person, is not the way to provide customer service.

Come on United, give Alex a real voice!

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Filed under Customer Service, Technology

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