The New York Times:

Can big Internet companies actually provide responsive customer service?

Two items today raise this question for me and tell two versions of the all too familiar story of someone who simply can’t get anyone at a Web site to answer the telephone and fix something that has gone awry.

The Washington Post tells the tales of Caitlin Batman Shaw, Tim Six, Becky Super and Bess Pancake.

All of them were summarily prevented from creating their own Facebook page because the site’s computer didn’t believe that they had real names.

It took Ms. Shaw three weeks and several rejected appeals to get her rightful place in the world’s social graph.

Bad customer service is an epidemic in the country, from supermarkets to banks.

But there is something particularly exasperating about Internet companies.

Good Web sites appear so personal and friendly, giving you the power to customize and control many aspects of your experience, so it is a particularly rude shock when there is absolutely no way to get someone to help you when your circumstances just don’t fit into the check boxes provided.

Google, Facebook and the rest of the industry will find they need to divert some of their best designers to find better automated ways to treat people humanely, with information and control, when things go wrong.

And they will need, I suspect, to invest some money in hiring more people to answer telephones and empowering them to solve problems.

Photo by pixie_bebe.

Originally posted by Rich Whittle on March 13, 2009 in Ideas.

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