Options to reach customer service

I was never fond of calling into customer service hotlines. The often long hold times, interactive voice response (IVR) systems programmed to play pre-recorded messages, commercials, and/or elevator music depending on my answers to their questions/prompts.

Plus the fear of being on hold for a long time, only to hear the familiar click of a dropped line which means calling back and going through the gauntlet again. Admittedly, though, many encounters were quick and resolute too.

Sometimes it took more than one call to customer service to get things resolved. When such was required, I quickly saw the importance of having a paper trail. Although logical and nothing to write home about, keeping good records of my conversation was critical.

So as soon as I get connected to a live agent, I ask for their name, badge ID number, and the call center they're in. Of course, on top of all this, I scribble meticulous notes of our conversation. I always feel like the burden of proof would fall on me if the situation of "he said, she said" arose, hence the paper trail of who, when, and what in detail.

As you can see here, contacting customer service this way takes time and effort, both waiting on hold and keeping a paper trail. The good news is that I've been utilizing other communication methods to reach customer service, leaving telephone calls as a last resort.

For a while now, many companies have had the "chat" function, aka "webchat," on their website as a means to connect to sales or customer service staff while on their website. This is you type and read their answers in real-time.

Even with webchat, you may have to wait for the next available chat agent but at least I can open a new browser tab to catch up on my favorite YouTube channel or be productive in other ways using my browser.

Just like an IVR system asking you questions and leading you to the right place depending on your choices, a "chatbot" in a webchat also tries to provide you with the answer to your inquiry or lead you to a live agent most capable of answering your questions/concerns.

Chatbots will become more intelligent since the artificial intelligence (AI) race among the tech firms developing the next generation of AI engine started earlier this year. There may come a day in the near future where you might not be able to distinguish between chatbot or a live agent.

So other than a potentially more productive hold time, are there any benefits to using the chat function on their website in regards to keeping a paper trail? You bet! Many chat functions have the capability to send the chat "transcript" to an email address of your choice. Albeit, some chat systems used by websites lack this functionality and in those cases, I have highlighted the chat communications, copied, and pasted into a blank Word document or even a blank email message to send to myself, negating the need to take notes.

You have options!

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation. Please visit EmpowerSeniors.Org for more information!

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Volume 15, Issue 13, Posted 8:37 AM, 07.18.2023