Thursday, December 30, 2004

Customer Service: The Hunt for a Human

The New York Times has a good story on the frustration of trying to reach a customer service person.
Try to reach customer service at to fix a problem with an order and you will encounter one of the most prominent and frustrating aspects of the Internet era: a world devoid of humans. Not only is there no telephone number on Amazon's Web site, but the company makes a point of not including one. Instead, customers are asked to fill out an online form and wait for a response.

'It's incredibly annoying,' said Ellen Hobbs of Austin, Tex., whose frustration has led her to publish's customer support number at her own Web site ( 'They haven't invested the kind of money in helping you solve problems as they have in selling you things.' In December alone, some 1,100 people visited Ms. Hobbs's site. [The page now says 16,000 as of Dec 30. The NY Times story created a lot of traffic.]
I had the same problem with Amazon. After a very frustrating series of messages, I finally did get the number
Phone toll-free in the US and Canada: (800) 201-7575
Phone from outside the US and Canada: (206) 346-2992 or (206)-266-2992
and got satisfactory service. My experience with Amazon has generally been quite good—once you reach an actual person. I don't understand why they have decided to create such frustration for their customers. Is the cost that great? The person I talked to seemed to be in India. I imagine the cost is not that high.

One would think that some smart company would do well by raising their prices a bit and providing real customer service.

One would also think that someone would do well by starting a website on which people could contribute customer service numbers.

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