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IT Support Pro Tells Why He Hates Live Chat 228

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-seems-to-be-the-trouble? dept.
colinneagle writes "When someone calls into support, we first verify his or her account information. On the phone, this can take seconds. On a chat feature it can take a minute or two because people type slower than they speak. I also find that when people type in a chat they try to make the process go quicker by abbreviating the conversation. This means they might not give me all the information they would have if we were talking on the phone. The more descriptive a customer is about a problem, the easier and faster it will be to solve their issue. But the nature of a chat feature means people will abbreviate their stories to be more efficient, without realizing this just makes it more difficult to solve the problem. I end up asking more questions, which takes longer for the full story to come out. Explaining how to fix a problem can be difficult on the phone, but on a chat feature where I can't see your screen and likely have less information to work with, it can make it impossible to tackle a complex issue. It would be much more efficient for both me and the customer to talk on the phone so I can walk the customer through the steps I am taking."
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IT Support Pro Tells Why He Hates Live Chat

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  • by SeaFox (739806) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:15AM (#40865317)

    No seriously, this reads like a random rant than an actual article. What are we here to discuss again?

    • by Canazza (1428553) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:36AM (#40865657)

      I could rant all day about how terrible phone-based chat is - having worked on a tech support line - and how often people assume that just because you're on the phone to them you can magically see what's on their screen. How reading from a list of required questions (ie, to figure out what system they're running) exasperates people who expect you to already know this because they've been on your site/using your application and they MUST have entered their own phone number for a reason, if it's not to identify who you are when you phone for help then what's it for?

      I certainly wouldn't submit it as a /. article though.

      I'd probably leave it as a comment.

      • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Friday August 03, 2012 @11:56AM (#40869785) Journal

        You know what really grinds my gears? Bank of America customer support.

        You go into their system when you call them up, you enter your credentials to prove that you are who you say you are, fight your way through the menu system to a human being, and when you finally speak to someone you have to verbally repeat what you just did through the automated system. What's the point of a machine asking you to enter your information if they're not going to use it? Then every time you get passed to another person you have to start from the top, prove that you are who you say you are, and begin your story from the beginning again. I had one nightmare call where I had to go through this about five different times, including two with the same department because they kept passing me around like a soccer ball because they hadn't a clue who in their corporation does what.

        Contrast that with HSBC bank in the UK.

        Call them up, enter your account number, it then asks for two digits from your security number (sometimes it's the first and last, sometimes it's the second and third, and so on). The menu is easy to use, and you get through to a person very quickly. As soon as they pick up (within seconds) the first thing the say is "Hi Mr G______ how can I help?" They know my name because my details popped up on their screen before they picked up. If they do need to pass me on to someone else, they put me on hold, contact the other department, explain the situation to them, and then they come back to me saying "Okay Mr G_______, I'm now going to pass you on to Kevin who's going to take it from here." Kevin then says "Hi Mr G_______ I understand that you're trying to do x, y and z, so here we go..."

        What can take an hour with BoA can be a five minute job with HSBC. No repeated re-entering of my details, no starting the story from the top with every person I speak to, and people who actually know not only what they're doing, but also know what other people in the company are doing. And that was my experience with HSBC over 10 years ago when I lived in the UK.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:13AM (#40866217)

      It's not even a well thought rant, all of his complaints are either true of phone chat or easily overcome by a proper chat system. My favourite part is:

      Explaining how to fix a problem can be difficult on the phone, but on a chat feature where I can't see your screen and likely have less information to work with, it can make it impossible to tackle a complex issue.

      Yeah, because my phone gives me a magic window onto the other user's computer - whereas no text chat system ever invented has been integrated into a remote desktop solution.

      Absolutely pathetic.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      yep. also why act like chat is the only option? Are people too stupid to say "welcome to chat. this is (IT). please open your browser, go to (website for preferred remote access tool) and we'll start troubleshooting"?

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      No seriously, this reads like a random rant than an actual article. What are we here to discuss again?

      What he didn't get to say was that the REAL bitch of his job is when he has to troubleshoot someones failed internet connection, and the only medium with which to contact him is an internet-based live chat...

      "ok, so go back to your house and check on your 'internet box' to see if the little light marked 'DSL' is green or amber... yes I will wait..."

  • by icebike (68054) * on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:16AM (#40865323)

    Users can multitask during a text chat session, and the support staff can sit and wait while the user looks up their account code, or what ever.

    The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.
    The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.
    The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.

    Chat sessions aren't something users were pressing for, they are an invention of the service organizations to cut costs.

    If those organizations find they don't like them, I'm sure they could hire some competent English speaking help and actually teach them something more than reading through a solution tree in a book for a product they have never laid eyes on, while ignoring every thing the user is saying.

    Especially when these solution trees invariably end with some stupid advice "like factory reset your device" thereby wiping out weeks if not months of work.

    Also, people tend to think while typing, and questions are actually more well though out.
    A stead stream of verbal "um, ah, like, seedimsayin?, I mean, Huh? Where? How do I do that? Wait while I find a pencile" etc. etc. etc. is not an efficiency model I like to engage in. Neither is explaining the problem to 4 consecutive flack catchers before finally finding someone who as even the shadow of a clue.

    So, the service industry made this bed, they can damn well sleep in it. You built it, you fix it.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:24AM (#40865359)

      I don't really disagree with your overall point - but I must point out:

      The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.

      A person can be a condescending jerk just as easily over chat as on the telephone.

      The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.

      Yes, yes they do. I've had a live support chat with a tech who barely understood English. And I've had live support chat sessions die for no apparent reason.

      The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.

      A text chat can be monitored and/or recorded quite easily, and it can be easily tied to an IP address.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.

      Wrong,

      I can condescend as well, if not better over chat. Not only that, a reminder of the Users idiocy is in their attention for much longer.

      The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.

      Obviously you've never seen the level of English and Grammar skill in this day and age.

      LOL ur fix computr man need fix rite nao no can do thing KTHXBY,

      Every time a user sends me text speak, I threaten to remove one finger.

      The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.

      This phone call is being recorded for quality assurance purposes. Oh by the way to use live chat we'll need you to enter you name, post code

    • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:25AM (#40865615)

      I've never had any "live chat" calls where the agent was swift at responding, asking the right question, using the information I just typed or not helping at least 3 other people (they admitted that nonsense answers/requests from them were supposed to be typed in another customers window) or even fast at typing.

      Bottom line is, either be good at your work and like it, or go flip burgers. Being an "IT Support Pro" isn't for everybody and if you blame your problems on the user, you don't have the right attitude. I know I just described 95% of the help desk staffers, but that is the sad truth, it's a dirty job and good staff is hard to find for that.

      • I've never had any "live chat" calls where the agent was swift at responding, asking the right question, using the information I just typed or not helping at least 3 other people (they admitted that nonsense answers/requests from them were supposed to be typed in another customers window) or even fast at typing.

        I have only tried chat-based support once, and I ended up telling whoever it was to fuck off, because they were obviously typing fluff to stall for time.

        Presumably because they were trying to help 10 other people at the same time, because what I needed was trivially easy.

        I have a suspicion that the company was using a bot to post generic "OK, I'm going to help you with that" statements any time there was too long a delay between actual responses.

    • by jeremyp (130771)

      The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.

      Ah, poor little ice bike with his tiny little five figure user id can't handle a little condescension on the phone.

      Fortunately, it is impossible to adopt a condescending tone in a written exchange.

      The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.

      Lol yeah, its inpossible to has pore langauge skilz on teh enterwebs*

      The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.,

      Well most chat programs I know of require me to have a user id. They also tend to log everything in the conversation, which I think is a plus point for a tech support conversation.

      *Typing that sentence in made me curse the day somebody invented

      • by todrules (882424)

        Ah, poor little ice bike with his tiny little five figure user id can't handle a little condescension on the phone.

        Fortunately, it is impossible to adopt a condescending tone in a written exchange.

        You just did it.

      • Lol yeah, its inpossible to haz pore langauge skilz on teh enterwebs

        FTFY... I will now go and punch myself a few times to save you the trouble.

    • Conversely if they are walking through a solution tree they should have quick shortcuts to paste the next question into the chat window so they don't need to type it. You wouldn't be able to eliminate the person completely, but their application should certainly be able to help them with pre-canned responses.
    • by f3rret (1776822)

      The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.

      I am fairly certain it is possible to have a bad/condescending attitude in text.

      The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.

      Dey don? wow i knewr new! how u get perfct text speek?

      The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.

      Telephone number, no, IP address + whatever info can be pulled from their browser, yeah.

      Also it *is* possible to log texts, it has been for ages. Like if I wanted to I could even save this entire post to my harddrive!

  • by toygeek (473120) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:21AM (#40865341) Homepage Journal

    I need to preface this by saying that I am a 20 year IT veteran who does phone support for one job, and onsite support for another.

    Phone support: Takes a guy 5 minutes to finally get to the point: Internet Explorer is crashing and he thinks its because his cable internet is going down, and he is calling to complain. I have to really listen to this guy and let him get through 5 minutes of bullshit before he gets to the point "Internet Explorer has stopped responding" etc. The rest of the conversation was full of more bullshit, but that isn't relevant.

    Chat support: I'm on site migrating a dead computers data into a new computer, and there's this industry specific software that needs to be reinstalled and have the data restored. The website is a fuster cluck of documentation, so I hit the live chat option. The person on the other end was quick, had correct answers, and I had the info I needed to do the migration in short order, and lo and behold, it *worked* the first time.

    Now, in both cases you have a very experienced technical person on one end of the line, and in the second case apparently, two. Had my customer been on chat in the second scenario, they'd probably STILL be trying to figure it out. So, it has its places, such as when both parties are literate enough (both computer and English) to have a normal conversation. But for "normal" people who type in "my internet is broke" even though they have to BE online to type that... yeah... welcome to my hell.

  • by zaphod777 (1755922) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:21AM (#40865343)
    For an IT person it is much easier, why should I wait on hold to get a HDD or MB replaced under warranty. My time is valuable and when I need to spend an hour on the phone to get something like that done it is really a waste of time and energy. Also when doing end user support a lot of times it is faster and easier when I can fire back an email with detailed instructions and screenshots on how to fix whatever issue it is. For those times when the problem is too complicated then you pick up the phone do a remote control session and resolve the issue. There is a fine balance between all of them.
    • by Cwix (1671282)

      I work with Dell moire often then I'd like.
      When I call server support 90% of the time I get an easy to understand, helpful, knowledgeable tech. I have to say they do a pretty good job there. But when I have to call to get workstation hardware replaced I get the damn workstation support. They usually speak poor English, they are often downright illiterate when it comers to computers. At least with the chat I can get other things done besides focusing my attention on deciphering what the hell they are say

    • My time is valuable and when I need to spend an hour on the phone to get something like that done it is really a waste of time and energy.

      Dude, you're commenting on slashdot. Nobody believes that your time is valuable!

  • Efficient how? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by subreality (157447) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:21AM (#40865345)

    It would be much more efficient...

    It depends how you measure efficiency. It would solve the problem faster in many cases, but that doesn't mean it would use less of your time. Both you and the customer can multitask much more effectively in chat. You're off helping someone else while they reboot, instead of just racking up minutes of dead air. I consider that to be more efficient, even if it takes longer.

    It's also much more efficient when you have a rambley customer. Instead of cutting him off continuously or waiting it out, you do something else while he types up his whole story, then you skim it to find the bits you wanted to know.

    I personally find it much more enjoyable to use chat as a customer. I'll call in if I need something fixed RIGHT NOW, but most of the time chat is much less frustrating than waiting on hold.

  • by tucuxi (1146347) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:25AM (#40865367)

    A technically-savvy (eg.: Bob McHacker) user should be a lot easier to communicate with via chat than a non-technical user (eg.: Joe Sixpack).

    To start with, expert users typically type almost as fast as they speak (seriously: if any of you out there work in IT for a living and cannot touch-type, it is an investment well worth it). As others have pointed out above, both user and helper can multitask; and many computer tasks end up involving huge amounts of staring at a progress bar. You can copy&paste error messages and links back and forth. You can actually think your answers through while you type them, and not waste anyone's time with errr, uhh, yeah, and other "are you alive/i am alive" on-the-phone protocol overhead.

    In TFA, there is no coherent explanation of the type of support / users that this "Pro" is addressing. The article is less than a screenful of general ranting against not having the undivided attention of a user. Nothing to see here, move along.

  • Explaining how to fix a problem can be difficult on the phone, but on a chat feature where I can't see your screen

    And how exactly can you see a screen over the phone?

    Of course what's more efficient depends on the exact nature of the problem, but for many technical problems i would rather use a textual medium to explain them (typically irc, forums or email for me) for one simple reason: cut+paste
    If the computer returns an error, i can paste it, which is easier and less error prone to reading it out. And if i need to run some commands, i can paste those commands back in the same way (this is also another reason why geeks

    • The problem usually isn't that I can miraculously see the screen over the phone, but that the user assumes because they are in chat, that I can see their screen. It's odd and annoying, but it happens more regularly than it should.

  • When someone calls into support, we first verify his or her account information.

    Wouldn't it make more sense to use a script to verify the user's account info before they can even initiate the chat session? Why are you wasting human time (both yours and your customer's) doing something that 20 lines of PHP could handle more efficiently?

  • Simultaneous chat sessions.

    You're welcome. Or, your manager is welcome.

  • I dislike both... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Friday August 03, 2012 @02:54AM (#40865499)

    I'm one of those stereotype geeks who doesn't like talking to people, outside a small circle of friends (and I find talking to them stressful at times). I'd rather just e-mail support with details and get an answer "whenever". If they need more information, they can ask for it.

    I do not need everything in my life to happen *now*. I am perfectly content for things to take a little time, so long as no-one is taking the piss. Which is just as well, because IT at work will get round to dealing with your problem whenever they feel like it and you can't actually phone them anyway, you have to submit support tickets.

  • Article doesn't even mention deliberate trolling of chat operators by the likes of /g/.

    --
    BMO

  • . . . chat is better.

    It takes just as long on the phone, when you have to decipher a bizarre accent. Like, finally figuring out after a minute, that "aaatsch" or "hatch" means "eight."

  • This may be true a lot, but not always. AT&T Live support, for example, presents you with a login page before the chat. You have to fill out the form; the phone number, the name its registered under, the last 4 digits of social security, and a dropdown box with type of issue. That shaves a lot of this work off of the overall time.

  • Love it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jamesh (87723) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:54AM (#40865737)

    Live chat support is one of the best things ever invented. When you type, I can't hear your accent, which removes a huge barrier to communication for most phone support call centre's i've had to deal with. And I can type faster than I can speak (which is slowly for the benefit of the english-is-not-my-first-language person on the other end of the line). And after i've typed the person on the other end can take their time to digest what i've written, and I can look back over what i've written and amend anything I might have missed, and they can cut & pasted into their own internal knowledgebase.

    As for the submitter, I have these questions:

    . In what stupid world is account verification information not submitted via a web form before the chat session is initiated? Sure, there might be some people who don't have the required information and it has to be done in the chat session itself, but that should be a rare exception.

    . As above, why isn't a summary of the problem also provided via web form before the chat session begins? Most chat support web site's i've seen make you enter a description of your problem, and then offer a few possible resolutions based on a keyword search, alongside the "begin chat now" button, which is a huge timesaver for when people haven't checked the FAQ's first.

    . If seeing the users screen is a requirement to do your job, then there is _plenty_ of software available to fill that need. Is something like gotomeeting or teamviewer really out of the question? (i'd never let a remote tech that I didn't know into _my_ screen, but that's not the point :)

  • by tsotha (720379) on Friday August 03, 2012 @03:56AM (#40865741)
    Way back when companies started live chat I thought it might be a good idea, since you can save the transcript and be sure you didn't forget to write anything down. But all I ever get back when I ask a question is the closest canned answer to my question. Not, mind you, an answer to my question, just an answer to a common question that has roughly the same words. For all I can tell there's just a primitive program on the other end which picks out the first four words from my query and then gives the FAQ response based on a simple match.
  • The elephant in the room with regards to support is that THERE IS NOT A SINGLE WAY TO PROVIDE SUPPORT THAT DOES NOT HAVE DRAWBACKS.

    Take on-site visits. Tech shows up. Problem is intermittent and doesn't occur while the tech is there. Tech's time is wasted. User's time is wasted. No one is happy. Or tech shows up to find that user doesn't have database/network/etc. rights and there is nothing tech can do. Techs have to take extra steps to document what was going on during the visit.

    Take phone calls. Hold tim

  • In my time in the support-barrel, I eliminated real-time support in favor of email. This may not fit every situation, of course. We were supporting a complex software product (ERP) used by largely non-technical users. When we offered real-time support, users would contact us whenever they got stuck, rather than looking in the product documentation, or even asking the person sitting at the next desk. When they really did have a support issue, they would contact us completely unprepared: they didn't know how

  • by Junta (36770) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:46AM (#40866395)

    Sometimes a conversation will involve a lot of things that copy and paste is critical for. It also allows one to be a bit more multitasking on either end of the conversation. Particularly if you are using the interaction largely as a pass-through for concrete error-messages/codes and commands to execute on a cli, chat is best.

    Frequently in a conversation, I arrange to actually talk to the person (regardless of which end of the conversation I'm on). This happens when a situation is a bit more murky so there is no concrete place to gather failure data, or if a solution warrants an explanation of how things are the way they are and the intent embodied in the steps to resolution. This could be because the fix process is involved and will require a bit of adaptability on the problematic side or just a way to have the person afflicted learn and avoid/fix similar sorts of situations in the future.

  • Fixed the headline. Carry on.
  • Maybe you do, bunkie. Some of us know how to type.

  • Maybe I prefer chat, because then when I spell my last name, which is all of 8 characters, over the phone, slowly, clearly, concisely, and using the phonetic alphabet it still invariably ends up with extra e's in it. If your coworkers would listen and put a half ounce of effort into it so I didn't have to repeat myself 3 times I'd be more apt to call instead of find other alternatives...
  • The first call center worker.
    "I can't help them as easily over the phone, it's much easier to physically be on location with the customer and talk face to face."
    Unless you're doing it for free, learn to deal with it, you're getting paid to do such.
  • As a customer needing support, using the live chat depends on what I need.
    If I have to convince someone that something is wrong, like a service level not being met, or anything that I expect to escalate to a supervisor, I'm going to want a live person on a phone.
    If I have to explicitly spell something out, like my name, I'm happier to use the live chat... but I seem to be able to type about eight or nine times faster than most support staff. Waiting for a reply from the point when it says "Bob is typing...

  • ... to imagine the vendor should provide voice and chat services and allow the customer to choose?
  • That's it. No other reason. People don't want to speak with someone they can't understand and text doesn't have an accent.

  • How will we provide tech support for the teens who have no ability to talk or communicate in any method other than textual messaging? :>

  • I have speech and hearing impediments. :(

  • I briefly worked at a small company in Burlingame as a desktop support tech, they thought it was cool to have their support staff monitor several in house IRC chat rooms, I asked my manager how I was going to build dozens of "one of" multi-boot, Windows/Linux/FreeBSD, images on several models of Think Pad, Toshiba & Dell PC's, all the while watching the endless (mostly) nonsensical BS streaming across the screen? And (of course) I had to get up and walk over to client machines, answer calls and manage

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