The Brutal Truth About Online Support – Part 1

Merry Christmas!! Happy New Year!! Feliz Navidad!! It’s a happy time for everyone. It’s the time of year when we all start thinking about family, joy, and really crummy support from our favorite e-tailer.

OK, so maybe that last item isn’t your stereotypical Yuletide expression. The sad fact is that it’s probably true. In a study conducted by Jupiter Communications 46 percent of the leading e-commerce sites failed to display a support email address, took five or more days to respond, or never responded to support inquiries.

So with poor support being the brutal truth, we have to ask the question: Why do e-tailers and other online ventures let themselves do such a poor job? This two part article hopes to answer this question. First, by describing the causes of this phenomena and then by explaining why sites can’t seem to fix the problem (in the next installment).

Catching A Waterfall With A Teaspoon

Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? If you have, the thing that really strikes you is the sheer volume of water going over the falls. It’s amazing to see the water just cascading down. Now let’s imagine you are at the bottom of the falls trying to catch all of the water with a teaspoon. Well, that should strike you like a brick at its impossibility.

Now you have stepped into the shoes of an e-tailer who is growing like a wild fire and has no chance of handling all of its support/service requests.

I know one e-tailer (who didn’t want to be named) who receives 12,000 support emails per day and only has a staff of three support personnel to respond. You try and answer that, and all of a sudden being a waterfall catcher isn’t sounding half bad. The sheer volume of support requests is killing many online commerce sites.

Need Glasses… Who Me??

My dad is one of those middle-aged guys who doesn’t want to admit he’s getting older. Part of his denial is to pretend he doesn’t need reading glasses. He holds the paper back, then moves it forward, and then he tilts it. Makes no difference, and he just doesn’t want to admit he needs help.

Well, this is another visualization of what an online retailer feels. Many of them have so much going on, they have no idea that they have support problems. The speed of the web community keeps them from “seeing” the support problems. In some cases, they may even know that they need help; they just don’t want to admit it.

There are many reasons why support stinks at e-commerce establishments. In some cases, it’s just that great support is not a priority. The money is coming in, investors are happy, everybody has great stock options, and the whole world is myopic.

In other cases, companies have tried to fix their support issues, and they are still far short of being good. This is the scenario we are going to tackle in the next installment. So until then, keep demanding great online support, it is the only way things will improve.

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