Why does online chat support almost always fail to solve the problem? And take so long? And generally just suck?


I’m on the online chat support with Palm right now trying to figure out how to get my Treo 650 to work in China and collect more information for my  Cell phones in China post.    As with other online help systems I’ve tried – almost always with regrets – I’m finding the online chat experience very frustrating and inefficient and time consuming.    Inefficient enough that I’m able to do this blog post while chatting, and learning that the technician appears to have far less information than I’ve already collected about how to get my Treo to work in China.  You’d think this would be a simple question and they’d have a nice FAQ but no, he’s sticking with me which I sort of appreciate, but so far all I have learned is the the Treo wil work in China but he’s not sure about the Sprint Network.  Unless I’ve missed something he’s missing the whole point here – you need unlocking and a SIM card which you normally purchase in China.

The failure of these chat support systems is really interesting because it seems like it should be a good way for a single support person to handle dozens of questions.  For some they’d know the answer immediately and send people on their merry way, while more complicated questions could be answered by using their databases, FAQs, and internet.    Yet generally I find that a phone call is more effective in drilling down to the issue and even faster unless you are on a very long hold.

OK, after over 30 minutes I have absolutely NO information I did not have before.  A total waste of time again:

LiveAssist Chat
 Status: Analyst Silas is here and your issue status is: working
Problem: Need to use Treo 650 in China

if (g_bContactLater) document.write(laterBttn.Instantiate());User Joe_Hunkins has entered room

Joe_Hunkins(Sun Mar 2 11:19:13 PST 2008)>

Hello -  I'm travelling to Shanghai and Beijing and want to take my Sprint Treo 650.    Is this possible?  What is best way to allow me to use the phone in China for about 2 hours calling total?  Will a China Mobile SIM Card work in Sprint Treo 650 in China? How do I "unlock" the phone? THANKS!      


We are experiencing higher than usual service times. Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.

We are experiencing higher than usual service times. Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.

We are experiencing higher than usual service times. Please wait and an analyst will be with you shortly.

analyst Silas has entered room

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:36:41 PST 2008)>Hello Joe_Hunkins, Thank you for contacting Palm Technical Support. My name is Silas. How may I help you?
Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:36:54 PST 2008)>

Hello.

Joe_Hunkins(Sun Mar 2 11:38:26 PST 2008)>

hello

Joe_Hunkins(Sun Mar 2 11:38:37 PST 2008)>

Joe_Hunkins(Sun Mar 2 11:19:13 PST 2008)>Hello -  I'm travelling to Shanghai and Beijing and want to take my Sprint Treo 650.    Is this possible?  What is best way to allow me to use the phone in China for about 2 hours calling total?  Will a China Mobile SIM Card work in Sprint Treo 650 in China? How do I "unlock" the phone?   

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:38:35 PST 2008)>

I understand that you want to take your phone to china.

Joe_Hunkins(Sun Mar 2 11:38:58 PST 2008)>

yes

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:39:43 PST 2008)>

I will assist you with the issue.

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:41:32 PST 2008)>

Treo 650 will work in China. However I am not sure about Sprint carrier network.

Joe_Hunkins(Sun Mar 2 11:42:33 PST 2008)>

How do I unlock the phone - that is needed to use a CHina Mobile SIM Card

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:42:53 PST 2008)>

I mean Treo 650 (GSM) will work in China.

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:45:08 PST 2008)>

Can I have 3 minutes to work on the issue?

Joe_Hunkins(Sun Mar 2 11:45:19 PST 2008)>

sure...

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:49:05 PST 2008)>

Thank you for staying online.

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:49:07 PST 2008)>

Locking and Un locking deals with the specific carrier. How ever we are not aware of that.

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:49:35 PST 2008)>

I suggest you to contact your Sprint once.

Joe_Hunkins(Sun Mar 2 11:49:48 PST 2008)>

OK, thanks...

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:49:59 PST 2008)>

Is there anything else I could assist you with?

Joe_Hunkins(Sun Mar 2 11:50:08 PST 2008)>

Nope..

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:50:10 PST 2008)>

You are welcome.

Silas(Sun Mar 2 11:50:19 PST 2008)>

Thank you for using Palm Technical Support.   We value your inputs, please feel free to fill in the 
customer survey that will pop up once you click on the end session button to close the chat window.   
Have a great day!

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About JoeDuck

Internet Travel Guy, Father of 2, small town Oregon life. BS Botany from UW Madison Wisconsin, MS Social Sciences from Southern Oregon. Top interests outside of my family's well being are: Internet Technology, Online Travel, Globalization, China, Table Tennis, Real Estate, The Singularity.
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11 Responses to Why does online chat support almost always fail to solve the problem? And take so long? And generally just suck?

  1. Fools Gold says:

    I assume this is a transcript of an online ‘chat session’ wherein ‘Silas’ is a computer program, not a real person at all.

  2. JoeDuck says:

    Yes a transcript but I think Silas was a real person.

  3. FoolsGold says:

    Well, I’ve re-read the transcript and still think that it sounds like a chat session with an artificial intelligence program, not a live person, but since you were the one who actually experienced this chat session, you probably know best.

    I have found that chat help people tend to seize upon the most commonly encountered reasons right away.

  4. Tommo says:

    If it were a bot, I’d think it’d have better grammar, and I’d expect to see a search tree in action, or at least some entertaining nonsense 🙂

  5. JoeDuck says:

    FG what you see is the entire exchange – now you’ve got me curious. Silas certainly sounds like a MACHINE, and one from a dystopian futureworld to boot!

    But I agree with Tommo that we’d actually see better grammer and more logical interaction with a machine session.

  6. felix says:

    If it were a bot, I’d expect see things like “You want to go to China? Why would you like to go to China?” 😉

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’ve had equivalent bad experience both on the phone and via chat. On the one hand, phone *tends* to give you the same answer but faster – on the other hand during a chat it’s much easier to be doing other stuff and checking the screen every now and again. I think I pretty much agree, most of the time I prefer using the phone.

  7. FoolsGold says:

    Its odd perhaps how we view this transcript. And can accept the existence of a person at the other end of the phone line whose performance is disappointing but are less inclined to accept the existence of a ‘bot’ at the other end of the line, particularly a bot that is a poor performing one. Why is it that we expect a bot to be “better”? Perhaps its not yet learned it job and its knowledge base is low?

    Grammar? Does Joe’s use of the word ‘grammer’ prove he is human? Wouldn’t a bot misspell the word too if it was a poorly engineered one? Is quality of the interaction the test for human versus bot?

    Irrespective of whether this particular transcript is that of a human or an artificial intelligence program, I wonder why people prefer to deal with a voice rather than with displayed text? One airline company yanked out an automated lost-baggage system and put in a human being who performed less well but sure dealt with frustrated travellers better.

  8. Tommo says:

    I guess the main reason it doesn’t look like a bot to me is b/c it doesn’t look like the bots I programmed 🙂

    It’s certainly true that a bot with an ungrammatical repertoire will produce ungrammatical output. I presume that QA would weed that out at a place like Palm.

  9. JoeDuck says:

    Wouldn’t a bot misspell the word too if it was a poorly engineered one?

    Maybe, but this brings up an interesting aspect of machine “intelligence” that I think has very profound implications for the long haul Unlike a human, the bot will only need ONE correction of a grammer mistake and then it’ll be correct for the next 1000 years. When the machine is capable of “recursive self improvement” it’ll be able to study grammer and fix itself.

    Why hasn’t this happened yet? Because programming that level of activity is a lot easier for me to talk about than for guys like Tommo to actually do! But get cracking Mr. T cuz we need them thinkin’ puters ASAP!

  10. Pingback: Ramona and Jenn « Joe Duck

  11. sandra says:

    I THINK IT IS A BIG WASTE OF TIME TO USE CHAT LINES BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW AS MUCH AS WE DO OURSELVES.

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