Friday, January 07, 2011

A Better Way To Offer Phone Support

Today, I was given a task by the wife: Cancel our trial subscription to the Quickbooks Time & Billing Manager tool we signed up for. We had gotten an e-mail from Intuit about our first month's charge and we didn't want to continue to use the tool.

Here's went through to get the job done:

  • Found the Contact Us link on the e-mail notifying me about the charge, clicked it, and found a phone number for Intuit Support
  • Navigated through 5 different levels of phone tree
  • Talked to a person at Quickbooks Technical support who couldn't help me, because he's in support not billing. He transferred me.
  • Talked to another person in Technical support, who again, said he couldn't help me. But, gave me a number I could in to in about 30 minutes (when they opened) to get the problem solved.
  • Called the given number and talked a very confused member of the Bill Pay team, who against my warning, transferred me again to Quickbooks Technical support.
  • Talked to a nice lady who transferred me back to the Intuit phone number I called earlier in the day.
  • Navigated the prompts from this morning differently and ended up at a Customer Server rep and not Technical Support. Was transferred again.
  • Finally talked to someone, who in a matter of minutes, canceled my subscription and gave me a refund for the charge.

Thing is, I wasn't really upset by any of this. This strikes me as normal for my interaction with Inuit, or really, most big companies. After all, there's all these limitations they have: the voice prompts can only be so specific and they can only have some many levels of phone tree. Not to mention, with such a huge company, I can't expect everyone to offer support or even know where to find it, for every product they offer..

But, thinking through this further it occurred to me that there was a better way.

Why not use click to call to offer an extensive directory on (or or wherever)? They wouldn't be exposing phone numbers, and could have as deep and thorough a tree of options as they wanted. I could imagine something like:

  • ...
  • Quikbooks Phone Support
    • ...
    • Quickbooks Time & Billing Manager
      • Problem logging in Call
      • Sign up for the free trial Call
      • Stop the free trial Call
      • Questions about using Call
      • ...
    • ...
    • ...
  • ...

Obviously, many of the Call buttons go to the same location - but they could be organized and structured in a way that made sense to the outside user. And, because you're not exposing phone numbers, you can re-organize them behind the scenes as often as you want.

You could even taken this one step further, allowing people like myself to associate specific questions with the Call option they selected. Then add in digg style wisdom-of-the-crowds behavior, so that as a new type of question comes up, more and more people would rank the right number to call. The result being that as more people get help, your help system gets easier to use.

In this case, though, there's actually an even cleverer solution they could implement. The e-mail I got from Inuit has the From address:

Intuit Customer Service <>

Ahhh, the classic, No_Reply technique. But why? Wouldn't having reply support here be perfect? Imagine if the From address not only went to a human, but had embedded in it information about this transaction.

Getting my question answered should have been as easy as hitting the reply button and asking: "How can I cancel this trial?"

And why not mix the two concepts? Why not have a Call about this e-mail button I can click on and immediately get to an individual who's ready to talk about this specific e-mail?

I know support systems hardly seem like the place to innovate. But think about how valuable it could be. And the the technology to do this is available and just itching to be used for stuff like this. You just need to put some effort into the problem, and most importantly understand that this is an example of a problem, not constraint.

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