A Plea For Companies To Provide Support Via Text

There’s nothing I dread more these days than having to make a customer service call. Just overhearing a friend on a 53-minute service call to Air Canada for tracking down a seemingly “lost” booking was painful enough to prompt me to pen this post. In today’s Whatsapp-dominated world, why are we still stuck with long hold times with elevator music?  Is there anything more annoying than having to read and correct names, addresses and credit card numbers over the phone?

I find it curious why email hasn’t become the favored medium for customer support. One thought is that the long-form nature of email makes it less than ideal for resolving user issues. It’d be great if users always wrote in with a succinct description of the issue they’re looking to resolve, along with all relevant supporting information. However, the process of resolving a customer issue often requires a back-and-forth conversation between the agent and the user to narrow the issues, identify possible solutions, and obtain the requisite information to provide a resolution. Email isn't great for conversations, as threads become unwieldy after about a dozen or so replies.

Messaging, whether by SMS or through an app, seems to be a great medium for customer support and getting resolution to edge-case issues that can't be handled by automated systems. Transmitting data like names, addresses, account and booking numbers and credit card data is much, much easier. (You’ll truly understand my pain when you note that I have a “u” and a “double-u” consecutively my first name.) You can also easily attach photos and screenshots of supporting documentation. 

There’s also a certain user expectation of “synchronous, but-not-really” associated with text-messaging. It allows either party to do further reserach or collect information without tying up the other, while also allowing for rapid-fire communication when necessary. There’s also an expectation of brevity that makes messaging a better medium than email. By design of the medium, users cannot fit essays into a message — they are forced to present their issues one at a time, in short snippets.

The primary benefit to companies would, of course, be happier users. It’s also quite possible that their staff members will be able to process issues much quicker, although one might argue that their current approach reduces queue length merely through user-attrition. (But certainly, that can’t be a valid strategy?) Having conversations on-record helps companies audit and train agents much better, as well as quickly gain customer insight.

So why haven’t companies all flocked to this medium? Tools like Sendhub are becoming more widely available. Are companies simply not aware of these options? Do they need help in getting processes and systems in place to support support-by-text?  Are there any weird incentives I simply failed to consider?

Connecting the dots.

You can't connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.

- Steve Jobs.  Stanford commencement speech, 6/12/05.

A golden age of content creation

Browsing YouTube tonight, I was struck by the amazing quality of covers.  And this was just for one song.  At the advent of the self-publishing era, it was easy to be cynical about the quality of "amateur" content.  Geocities, MySpace, anyone?  It's clear not everyone has great design or artistic sense.  

Proponents of the "crowd" as content creators have pointed that tools have allowed massive amounts of information to be published quickly (leaving the headache of making sense of it all to algorithms or crowdsourcing - or, in some cases, just resulting in confusion).  That's not the only benefit of crowd content creation, however.  Tools have also allowed for talented "amateurs" to quickly and cheaply craft stunningly beautiful content, sometimes just on their Macbooks.  

The growing tide of mass market content creation has simply amplified the abilities and efforts of those already with talent and dedication, and it's a treat to watch.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life."

“Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. 

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. 

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

- Steve Jobs.  Stanford commencement speech, 6/12/05.