Online Customer Service Requires Literate Representatives

Below I'm pasting an email reply to my inquiry online to HomeDepot.

They put this very cute looking girl next to the form, but unfortunately, they appear to be another online customer service outsourcing client. I suppose I could be wrong, they could have poor customer service in-house. However, all the signs are there...

The 5 Biggest Signs Customer Service Is Automated & Outsourced

  1. Your email reply contains elaborate and wordy greetings.

  2. Your email reply appears to be a collection of paragraphs that may have nothing to do with each other.

  3. Your email reply arrives at 3AM, but you sent your question at 2PM.

  4. There is no way to reply to your email reply.

  5. The person answering your email appears to have not read your email, as your question is not actually answered.

  6. Bonus: The email is signed by someone with an "unusual" (to you) name OR a name that is straight from the pages of an first level English learner (Rick, Tom, Lisa, Mary)

What I'm Guessing Is Happening

  1. Your question arrives at email response center

  2. Software automatically queues your email to a representative

  3. Software may also use artificial intelligence to draft reply based on a keyword scan of your email

  4. Customer service representative checks a series of options for prefabricated answers which seem to apply to your question

  5. Email is sent to you

The problem is, no one is reading your inquiry for content. No one is reading the reply for content. In my case it appears that the better response from HomeDepot would have been, "I'm sorry, our online customer service cannot identify that product. Please call a store to be transferred 7 times, put on hold 11 times, and 'accidentally' hung up on once."

At least I would have gotten an honest answer.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Customer care
Date: Mar 15, 2007 5:50 AM
Subject: Re: Contact Us - Product / Project Information
To: cheryl

Dear Customer,

Thank you for your email to Home Depot Direct.

We apologize for the inconvenience caused to you.

If you need help finding the product online, please follow these steps:
go to www.homedepot.com and type product name or model number in the
Search Box. The next page will show you the description, availability
and pricing of the product.

You can also visit your local Home Depot store for more information. If
we do not carry your requested item or if it is not in stock, an
associate at the Special Services desk will see if we can have it

Your local store information is as follows:

3701 MT Moriah Road
Durham, NC 27707

North Durham
1700 N Pointe Dr
Durham, NC 27705

1000 Vision Dr
Apex, NC 27502

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.


Home Depot Direct

Original Message Follows:
"Contact Us" Form Message From: cheryl
Submitted: Wed, Mar 14, 2007 05:41:55 PM
E-mail: --------@----------.com
Phone: ------
Zip/Postal Code: ------------

Subject: Product / Project Information
Store Locator:
Service Number:
I'm looking for the light switches we have at work. They had them in
college 10 years ago, so they should be available. These are the kind
that switch off if no one moves, and switch on when you walk by.
Basically, like a security light but for normal lights. What are they
called? Can't find anything in electrical OR lighting.


Phoebe said...

Motion sensor light switches? Like this: http://cgi.ebay.com/Motion-Sensor-Light-Switch-Decor-White-Infrared-decora_W0QQitemZ270096300065QQcmdZViewItem ?

AFAICT, Home Depot doesn't carry them online, and I wouldn't be surprised if you had to special-order them if you went to the store.

Anonymous said...

lmao I love the original e-mail. SOOO hilarious. Sorry, but I'm really not surprised you didn't get anywhere with that description lol. I didn't know they had light switches like that though...now I want some lol.

Greg Gerke

Yet Another Girl said...

They actually DID have them @ HomeDepot. I just had to go in person and describe them to a tech.

Hmm, this reminds me. The husband needs to install those. (We have a deal: I don't have to do anything involving cords or cat litter, he doesn't have to read or pay the bills.)