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Mar 26

Imagine what you could do if you helped your users?

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Computer Help

Context is everything. The context for an online help system for most companies is that they want to do everything possible for you NOT to contact a human being. The CIO looks at the numbers and call/email centers as a money pit in their eyes.

I just had yet another example of this. It is a common one.

I had to contact United and didn’t want to jump on the phone to hate life in the automated system as I type “0″ as often as I can to get a human that will be on the other side of the world.

The issue wasn’t mission critical, so I wanted to just shoot off an email. Along the way the system tried really hard to trick me into not sending it, culminating in this:

Resolve Issue

The key is that after you click “SEND” you expect the email to be sent don’t you? I do, and as it is loading I move on from the tab as I am done with my action. When I run across the tab later I am surprised to see “Here are some answers to your question” with a “Continue sending email »” message. Oh darn it, now PLEASE actually send the correspondence would you old chap?

If the systems that try to work out the solution to your problem are awful. They have never actually found the answer to my question, and if my question was simple enough I would have found it on the site or through simple usage. Most of the time you are asking someone to add your frequent flyer number to a reservation (when you try it errors out) and you get back “Do you want to rent a car?”

The system could do a much better job by:

  • Actually giving you results that make any sense at all, and if you don’t think there is a good match don’t even try
  • Send the email, and then say “hey, just in case, was it one of these?” On the bizarre off chance that they got it right, there could be a button that would cancel your question “You don’t need help anymore, thanks though”

If the CIO actually realized how important customer service is to the brand and the entire experience, this enlightened person would be able to do so much good that you wouldn’t be able to switch to the competition.


  • There is a 10 minute wait, but don’t worry, we will call you back, so get off the phone
  • I am sorry that the connection died, I called you right back

One Response to “Imagine what you could do if you helped your users?”

  1. Brian Moschel Says:

    The “we’ll call you when we’re available” call waiting system idea is amazing.

    GoDaddy is the shining counter example of reversing the trend of intentionally bad customer service. Despite a messy, confusing site and administration interface, they have a phone number listed clearly on every page where you can get ahold of a knowledgeable human 24 hours a day in less than 5 minutes, in my experience. That is the ONLY reason why they’re still so popular as a hosting service.

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