The Disadvantages of Web-Based Customer Service

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Not many customers are willing to type their credit card information into a chat window.
Not many customers are willing to type their credit card information into a chat window. (Image: karelnoppe/iStock/Getty Images)

As consumers continue to migrate online to do their shopping, it’s natural that companies follow suit by moving their customer service options to Web-based platforms. Doing so can take care of issues quickly, linking customers to relevant policies and forms to expedite solutions. However, this capability comes with disadvantages as well.

Limited Information Sharing

There’s a limit to how much personal information customers are willing to divulge via Web-based customer service options, particularly if the website doesn’t emphasize its security features. The proliferation of data theft may make customers understandably reluctant to relay data like credit card information or Social Security numbers over chat or email. As a result, many companies don’t even seek this information via online platforms, either asking customers to call or allowing their online agents to look up that information based on personal information the customer is willing to offer.

Timing is Everything

A Web-based system that doesn’t rely on live chat or a similar real-time feature risks infuriating consumers with delayed responses. Disputes over email can take days to reach a conclusion, as the customer and company exchange messages. Failing to resolve complaints quickly frustrates customers and doesn't help a company's service reputation.

Customer Comfort Levels

Depending on your target market, Web-based customer service may be relying on a medium your customers aren’t comfortable with. If your customers are wary of communicating with a representative via live chat instead of a phone call, you may not know you're making them unhappy until they've already taken their business elsewhere. This is a particular risk if online customer service is your only option, or if you make it difficult for customers to find any other contact information besides email, social media and customer service chat resources.

Lack of Personal Touch

Web-based customer service can seem less personal than a human voice on the other end of a phone line or a sympathetic agent in a retail store. Relying on canned responses in chats, emails or social media efforts makes it appear that your customer service is more focused on handling generic problems quickly than meeting an individual customer needs. Even a personalized response can be misinterpreted without the added context of tone and tenor of a real person's voice.

Damage Control

An ill-considered response from a poorly trained online customer service agent can do your business reputation more damage more quickly than is possible through traditional means. A private conversation online can quickly turn into a matter of public record with a few clicks on the keyboard. An offensive tweet from an exasperated representative, or an unfortunate typo in a chat or email, can be shared with a wider audience in a way that a phone call or in-person action can’t.

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