Sunday, February 19, 2006

Being online means being on your own

Netflix isn't the only online business with hard-to-reach customer service people:

With the convenience of e-commerce comes a trade-off: lack of personal customer service.

Phone numbers are sometimes hard to find, if they are there at all. E-mail queries often are answered by anonymous customer service representatives writing from "Do Not Reply" addresses.

"Our community has 181 million people," eBay spokesman Hani Durzy said. "A community that size requires efficiency, and because 99 percent of customer support is handled between the buyer and seller, our basic level of customer support is Internet-based."

It's not just eBay. Popular Web-based businesses such as and Netflix prefer you to navigate the FAQs first and to e-mail -- not call -- as a last resort.

Netflix spokesperson Steve Swasey says it's about cost-cutting:
"The assumption is that you're comfortable with the Internet and e-mail already," said Steve Swasey, communications director for the Sunnyvale, Calif., company.

Swasey also suggested what some believe is another reason for decreased emphasis on live, phone-based customer service -- cost. Swasey said that rather than outsource call-center jobs overseas, where labor is cheaper, Netflix has cut its customer service staff in half, to fewer than 50, and directed more efforts to improving the company's Web-based support.

Getting in touch with Netflix requires
"At least four clicks to send an e-mail: Start by clicking the "Help" link and work your way through a series of questions. Look closely for the "e-mail" option. The customer service number, 1-888-NETFLIX, or (888) 638-3549, is nowhere to be found."

Read more at Newhouse news

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