Monday, 4 October 2010

Chat assistants

I’ve just been perusing UK mobile sites.  My contract is due to expire in January and I would quite like an iPhone4.

While I was on the T-Mobile site I encountered a pop-up offering help from an assistant who’d be happy to help, via online chat. 

I’ve encountered a few of these with varying levels of quality.  Some have computers powering the responses, and some have real people in a call centre.  I consider it to be a really valuable sales tool for a company if budgets allow.  It’s particularly useful if the product or purchase method are complex, as is the case for mobile phones, and cars. 

The best I’ve encountered was a few years ago on the Mazda North American site.  They used real people who were employees of Mazda.  They weren’t agency call centre staff, and I think the pride in the company really came across.  That could be because they were employees or it could just be that they were American and therefore just generally more positive.  Either way they were helpful and knowledgeable.  It wasn’t a true test because I wasn’t a real American customer in market for an American car but it set my own personal benchmark for evaluating this service.

Tonight’s T-Mobile experience was at the other end of the scale.

“Samantha” started by introducing herself and enquiring after my health.  I explained that we were near contract end with O2 and we were previous T-Mobile customers looking to return but that there didn’t seem to be a great deal on offer.

I’ve encountered “Samantha” on a BT site so I was thinking I was talking to a computer.

“Samantha” replied, with poor grammar, that she was “off” and it seemed strange that a conversation had been initiated if her shift had finished.

I sent back “what?” because the reply didn’t seem to make sense and I received a further poorly constructed sentence that I understood to mean “Samantha” could only tell me about the offers on the website.

I closed the conversation and then up popped a satisfaction questionnaire including views on the chat assistant.  I completed it with the conclusion that the grammar was so poor that there was a real person at the other end of the chat and that real person was probably based offshore.

Frankly if you’re going do online chat then it needs to serve a purpose and it needs to add to the customer experience.  Done poorly, it damages your brand.

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