Page Two

By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2003-05-19 Print this article Print

How to find customer support on Clicking on the Help link brought me to a page full of marginally useful FAQ items. So I then clicked on the link labeled "Still Need Help? Contact Customer Service."

But again, no customer service was apparent, simply more information directing me to past FAQs. I then clicked on a link for General Questions. This brought me to yet another page with FAQ information. Buried at the bottom was a button labeled "E-mail us."

So here I am, four links deep in the Web site, and all I get is a 1995-style HTML e-mail form. A day after filling this out, I got a very polite e-mail response with apologies for the delay and a $5 gift certificate. But I still received no reasons for the delay of an item still listed as in stock.

Compare this with another experience at about the same time. Sick of buying new batteries for her Panasonic portable CD player, my wife asked if I could get her rechargeable batteries and a power adapter for it.

Heading to Panasonics Web site, I was happy to find both support and part-ordering links right on the home page. From these pages, there were a number of useful links for calling, e-mailing or finding information on my own.

Heading into the part-ordering area, I was stunned by the primitive interface. It wasnt altogether easy finding things, but I was able to locate both the batteries and the charger for my wifes player.

A couple of days after placing the order, I received an e-mail, clearly produced by an automated system, informing me that one of the items was unavailable. But the notice did state the item was out of stock and listed the date it was expected to be back in stock. It also gave me the option to cancel the purchase.

Not needing the item immediately, I did not cancel; it was delivered on the day it was supposed to be back in stock.

Now, there was no magic here, just straightforward information. If Amazon provided the same, I would feel a lot more comfortable about ever getting my purchase. And dont tell me Amazon cant implement similar automated technology to make its customer support more friendly. Postponement must be a cornerstone of Amazon.coms business strategy: in profitability, order shipments and customer satisfaction.

The bottom line: Its not good business to keep your customers in the dark. Before implementing flashy technology, give your customers the information they need.

More from Jim Rapoza:

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr Rapoza's current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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