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Netflix Makes It Easy To Reach a Human 277

Posted by kdawson
from the unlisted-at-gethuman-dot-com dept.
msblack writes "In a move that goes against the prevailing trends of outsourcing and non-interactive customer support, Netflix has forsaken e-mail as a means of resolving customer problems. According to the NYTimes article, Netflix set up a call center in Portland OR, shunning other popular US call center cities (because Portland natives were perceived to sound friendlier) or off-shoring. 'It's very interesting and counter to everything anybody else is doing,' said Tom Adams, a market researcher in Carmel, California. 'Everyone else is making it almost impossible to find a human.'"
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Netflix Makes It Easy To Reach a Human

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  • by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:30AM (#20248351)
    AMAZING! In all likelihood, English was their first language too! I think I'm going to break-down and cry from all this excitement.
    • Customer: "I tried to have Rancid Aluminium sent to my flat from my mobile and haven got it yet"

      Cheers!
    • by jgarra23 (1109651) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @10:00AM (#20248771)
      English was their first language too!
      Mod parent up, I totally understand this problem. Why on earth companies that cater to a predominantly English speaking country off-shore their support to ESL countries where the people that can read & speak English DO NOT understand the vernacular, expressions, idioms and vocal inflexions are driving me nuts. How many companies do I have to put on a list to avoid because I just couldn't understand the person on the other end of the phone because:

      1. They are ESL
      2. They are reading exclusively from a script
      3. The connection is so bad it sounds like we're both under water.

      Just like if I were in France, I would expect a French speaking CSR...
      • by Wolfrider (856) <kingneutron@nOsPam.yahoo.com> on Thursday August 16, 2007 @10:19AM (#20249003) Homepage Journal
        --You know, stuff like this actually makes me want to go out of my way to *support* NetFlix -- for doing the Right Thing(TM) for their CUSTOMERS.
         
        // Hates outsourcing with Teh Very Core of my Being
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Khuffie (818093)
          GameTap has the best customer service I've seen. Not only was there virtually no wait time, the person I was talking to was obviously a gamer (which is great, since it's a gaming service), you could tell he wasn't reading word for word from a script, and actually went out of his way to figure things out.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by misleb (129952)

          Hates outsourcing with Teh Very Core of my Being

          I think you mean "off-shoring." Outsourcing is just when you pay a consultant or another company to handle some part of your business. Could still be in the same country. Offshoring is when you either hire employees overseas or outsource to another company overseas. Although I suppose it doesn't necessarily have to be "overseas." It could be on the same continent, I suppose.

          Or do you really hate outsourcing to the very core of your being?

          -matthew

        • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Thursday August 16, 2007 @11:47AM (#20250159) Homepage Journal

          --You know, stuff like this actually makes me want to go out of my way to *support* NetFlix -- for doing the Right Thing(TM) for their CUSTOMERS.
          Definitely; I'm proud to be a Netflix customer and happy to recommend them to anyone.

          Another thing they did recently ... they reduced their prices. Sent me a letter in the mail, said 'hey, the plan you're on is now $14.95/mo instead of $19.95, congrats.'

          I was really surprised. Most companies I would have expected to just bump me up one level of service (to the 4-at-a-time plan or something) while keeping me at the same price level, making me call them up to downgrade to my old level of service in order to save money. They didn't; they just dropped the price, and I didn't have to do a thing.

          It's a little ridiculous that I get surprised by a company doing what ought to be the right and obvious thing, but that's how things work these days. Anyway, kudos to Netflix and whoever is in charge there. Hope they can keep it up.
      • by vigmeister (1112659) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @10:25AM (#20249109)

        Why on earth companies that cater to a predominantly English speaking country off-shore their support to ESL countries where the people that can read & speak English DO NOT understand the vernacular, expressions, idioms and vocal inflexions are driving me nuts
        Assume for a second you are from Texas. I'd say that a rep in Portland would have trouble understanding your accent if you have thick southern drawl.

        Or you can try ordering a 'pie' from a pizza place in Valdosta, GA.

        1. They are ESL
        That should not have a bearing on the issue. Although I am from India (and ESL country)english was the first language I learnt. My spoken english is quite good and most people I meet are surprised that I "don't have an accent". I am not an exception and I know several Indian/Chinese/European people who all speak excellent english. In fact, one of my english teachers at GT was german. Problem, however, is that the people smart enough and capable of speaking good english usually don't end up working in call centers. The fault lies with the hiring process and not the outsourcing itself.

        2. They are reading exclusively from a script
        Again, they hire the wrong people.

        3. The connection is so bad it sounds like we're both under water.
        They are skimping on the mechanism. Nothing to do with the fact that the reps are from ESL countries.

        I daresay that these companies can hire better employees, improve connection of the call and still come out ahead if they outsource. It's the implementation that is at fault - not the principle.

        Cheers!
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          I do happen to be from Texas. There's nothing about a southern drawl that is unintelligible.

          In all of the times I've called customer support (both domestic centers and outsourced) I've never had anyone not understand what I was saying. I've had more difficulty understanding them.

          And while it's great for you that you happened to learn English as your first language, that doesn't automatically mean that we can assume the entire nation of India speaks perfectly fluent English. It's only common sense to
          • by vigmeister (1112659) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @11:22AM (#20249827)

            I do happen to be from Texas. There's nothing about a southern drawl that is unintelligible.
            I am fairly good with accents and to me, the southern drawl is not an issue. However, I know several people who DO have a problem with understanding various accents within the US including the southern drawl, the NY talk and ebonics. There is nothing about the indian accent that is unintelligible either.

            In all of the times I've called customer support (both domestic centers and outsourced) I've never had anyone not understand what I was saying. I've had more difficulty understanding them.
            Not insinuating anything, but if they understand what you are saying and you can't communicate back, there is still some ambiguity as to which one of you lacks the ability to communicate or whether it is a problem with the connection.

            And while it's great for you that you happened to learn English as your first language, that doesn't automatically mean that we can assume the entire nation of India speaks perfectly fluent English. It's only common sense to assume that if the hiring pool is in a nation where the majority of citizens don't learn English as their first language, then the majority of hires will speak limited English.
            Then I guess it is also common sense to assume that if the hiring pool for a hospital is in a nation where the majority of citizens don't have degrees in medicine, then the majority of hires will have limited medical skills?

            Additionally, whether you learn a language as a first language or a second language is irrelevant to your skills in that language. I am better at understanding and communicating in my fifth language (Hindi) than several native speakers of the same due to better communication skills. When you learn a language is not so important as linguistic and communicative abilities.

            You seem to have an acute case of closed-mindedness. It was ignorant of you to make such a statement about the fine people of Texas
            Having a thick southern drawl is not a negative thing. In fact, it is helpful in the south to communicate better. It might be the portland hire's inability to bridge the gap. Point is that the difference between a NY accent and the southern drawl (which I semi-consciously find to be a mark of politeness) is no different from the differences between a Texan and a well educated Indian.

            and it was also ignorant of you to assume that you, with your fortunate upbringing, represent the whole, or even the majority of citizens of "ESL" nations.
            My upbringing was not especially fortunate. My parents spoke 3 languages at home and they just picked one to teach me. I picked up the other two as well and was very comfortable using them. I am by no means an exception like I said, a good portion of India's urban population have kids speaking english by the time the kids are in kindergarten. Regardless, it doesn't matter as long as peolpe like me DO exist and CAN be hired as opposed to dimwits who can't communicate.

            Cheers!
            • by plague3106 (71849) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @11:47AM (#20250151)
              I am fairly good with accents and to me, the southern drawl is not an issue. However, I know several people who DO have a problem with understanding various accents within the US including the southern drawl, the NY talk and ebonics. There is nothing about the indian accent that is unintelligible either.

              Southern accents have never been an issue for me either, but more often than not Indian accents are. The problem is that the Indian accent is so think it IS unintelligible. I don't think you're a good judge of that because you were raised in India and were exposed to it growing up. Most people in the US aren't exposed to thick Indian accents on English speech, and for us it IS very hard to understand.

              Even some of the Indians I've worked with I've had to really concentrate to work through the accent. Others have had less of an accent, probably because they've been here for quite a while.
              • by CmdrGravy (645153)
                Speaking as a Brit I find it easier to understand Indian accented English than I do with some of the American variations of English I have encountered on some of the American helpdesks I used to have to deal with a few years ago so I think it's really just a question of perspective, there's nothing inherently less intelligible about Indian accents than there are American.
                • by Matimus (598096)
                  As an American (in Portland Oregon actually) who works with people in India on weekly basis, I do find it very difficult to understand Indians. I can understand how a Brit would find it easy though. The issue is that people in India actually do speak a fair amout of English on a daily basis. Having been part of the Brittish Empire however, it is heavily skewed towards Brittish English. Many Indians grow up speaking English, but they learn it with a mix of Brittish dialect and Indian accent. To them, this is
              • Southern accents have never been an issue for me either, but more often than not Indian accents are. The problem is that the Indian accent is so think it IS unintelligible. I don't think you're a good judge of that because you were raised in India and were exposed to it growing up. Most people in the US aren't exposed to thick Indian accents on English speech, and for us it IS very hard to understand

                That was my point. It is not a question of whether an accent is unintelligible, but whether it is unintelligible to YOU. I know a lot of americans that had an incredibly hard time communicating with black people since he had never really been exposed to ebonics much. Look at your local drive through. The people working there are some of the worst people to hire for a job where communication is important since it consists of people willing to work for their low wages and that invariably constitutes predomin

                • Luckily us Portlanders are blessed with accent free English;-)

                  WHat is interesting is that you hear about NY accents, SOuthern accents, British accents, Australian accents, Scottish accents, Irish accents, Midwest Twangs, and many many more- except for the West Coast. What's a Pacific Northwest accent? Or a California accent sound like? Just one of those things I've noticed...

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            India has the most English speaking people of any country in the world. Fluently... that's another story.

            I've worked with several people from India and their English was quite good and their grammar was impeccable. (better than mine at times) But basic turns of phrase, jargon, acronyms, and slang would leave them confused.

            They, like most people, can learn to adapt to those kinds of things over time. Of course the people I worked with were either immigrants or here on student visas. So they were in the c
        • Yes, but then you run into cost problems. In short, less competency = more short term profits due to lower pay. They can also treat lower skilled workers like utter garbage as they're replaceable.
          • This is the problem and I concur. I hate Indian call centers as much as the next guy - not becasue they are in an "ESL country", but because of the way they are run.
        • He said "They are ESL."

          You said "That should not have a bearing on the issue. Although I am from India (and ESL country)english was the first language I learnt."

          Then you're not ESL, are you?

          On the other hand, you didn't capitalize "english". I don't know what to make of that.

          And on the gripping hand, you said "learnt" which is almost certainly a UK idiom, even tho used over here once in a while.

          None of what you said has much at all to do with his primary big picture complaint, that offshoring to ESL countr
          • by vigmeister (1112659) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @12:18PM (#20250605)

            He said "They are ESL."

            You said "That should not have a bearing on the issue. Although I am from India (and ESL country)english was the first language I learnt."

            Then you're not ESL, are you?
            His earlier statements regarding ESL countries was what I was going for. There are several non-ESL people in ESL countries.

            And on the gripping hand, you said "learnt" which is almost certainly a UK idiom, even tho used over here once in a while.
            You mean a UK variant? 'learnt' is not an idiom.

            None of what you said has much at all to do with his primary big picture complaint, that offshoring to ESL countries is a bad idea. All you have really done is dodged his compalints with hand waving. If you had some bacon, you'd have bacon and eggs, if you had some eggs.
            Next time, try answering his hig picture complaint.
            Convenient snippage here. Offshoring to ESL countries is not a bad idea. As long as you hire the right people and don't go overboard with cost cutting, you can still save some money without compromising service. Problem is that most companies outsource with the explicit purpose of cutting costs and go overboard.

            Cheers!

            On the other hand, you didn't capitalize "english". I don't know what to make of that.
            This is slashdot, I make punctuation errors like there's no tomorrow. I fear no Nazis!

      • by Creepy (93888)
        I hate to break it to you, but from my experience (tech support), even US based call centers operators are trained to essentially read from a script. Generally, I would read a cookie-cutter opening, give my name and extension in case we got disconnected, ask for certain information, and then proceed to diagnose their problem (often looking up the fix in a database). The only exceptions were when the caller cut me off and requested to speak with a particular person (often because they had lost the name or
    • I personally switched banks after three calls in a row were answered by someone whose English was unintelligible. I didn't think it was unreasonable to expect that the people a company puts on the phone to talk to English-speaking customers actually be able to speak and understand English.

      In the end, putting customers first can work as a business strategy, but only when customers aren't focused on the "lowest-price-at-any-cost" model. And at some point, people start realizing that it isn't worth it to buy t
  • Phew... (Score:5, Funny)

    by vigmeister (1112659) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:31AM (#20248361)
    Atleast with a call center in portland, the deception doesn't start when the rep says "My name is George"

    Cheers!
  • Why not both? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:34AM (#20248391) Journal
    While it's great to be able to reach a human, sometimes you have a simple question, or a complicated one with a simple solution, such that email is a lot more time efficient. I've had a problem with Sprint billing and their customer service part of the site doesn't give an email, so I have to call in and be put on hold for 30 minutes, authenticate myself, and get shuffled around through several departments, just to be able to communicate the existence of a problem. On the other hand, with Vanguard (investments) you can both call and email, and this has saved me a lot of time, for example, when I have a question that doesn't need to be answered immediately. I just send it, and pick up the answer at my convenience. (Thought it's not "email" per se, but a messaging form after you log in.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HUADPE (903765)
      I think the point was that in addition to using only phone, they don't make you wait 1/2 hour to speak to someone, or get shunted from dept to dept.
    • For me, the best way to communicate with a CSR is with a chat thingamajig. It's fairly quick, people don't mind waiting so much (becasue they can do other stuff) and I'd assume the rep can do 3-4 sessions at a time.

      Sprint only has it BEFORE you buy... once you are in, you have to call/email. Email works very nicely though with turnarounds generally less than 36 hrs. Plus the guys answering emails seem to be a wee bit more knowledgeable than phone reps. This is just my experience though.

      Cheers!
    • by javelinco (652113)
      I'm still waiting for the time when I send in an email and actually get an answer back that has anything to do with what I asked. For example: Question: "How do I turn on anti-aliasing in your game?" Answer: "The Alias game is no longer available in stores." Umm, gee, thanks. And have you ever tried to CLARIFY after receiving this kind of response? Example: Response: "I'm not looking for the Alias game - I was wondering how to turn on anti-aliasing in the X-Men 2 game?" Answer: "X-Men 2 and Alias are
      • by mph (7675)

        I'm still waiting for the time when I send in an email and actually get an answer back that has anything to do with what I asked.

        I've had no problem with Netflix in this regard. Here is an example dialog: Me:

        I'm fortunate to work near a big USPS processing plant, so I return
        my movies using the blue mailboxes there. They provide three
        mailboxes, labeled as follows:
        * METERED
        * LETTERS
        * LARGE ENVELOPES

        Which of these should I be using to return movies? I've been putting
        them in the "LETTERS" box, and they've

        • by javelinco (652113)
          That's great! I wish it were true everywhere. Email certainly is easier for me - I just find I don't get any results.
    • by sirket (60694)
      Register.com has both email and phone based support. They make it a point to have enough operators such that you get to speak to a human being immediately. Also their call center is Canada and the folks speak English as their native language.

      What's sad is that they've been doing this for a while (so have many other companies) but Netflix gets a story in the Times.

      -sirket
    • While it's great to be able to reach a human, sometimes you have a simple question, or a complicated one with a simple solution, such that email is a lot more time efficient.

      Generally, you're correct, email can be more efficient. Yet how much electronic correspondence (email, web or usenet posts, etc.) have you read that was written well enough so as to be complete and clear or otherwise void of ambiguity? Most email I read consists of a malformed sentence or two that leaves me shaking my head wondering w
  • Good news! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by loony (37622) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:34AM (#20248397)
    Good enough for me - I just signed up. People always complain that everybody is outsourcing and service is bad and all. Well, here is your chance to put your money where your mouth is. I know I just did.

    Peter.
  • by Applekid (993327) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:36AM (#20248429)
    It's nice that there's a call option that's home-grown, and there isn't a push for using the web/email for customer service, and all... but, did they have to cut e-mail out of the loop altogether?

    DVDs by mail isn't such a big hairy deal that I need to jump on the phone and hold for who knows how long to express that I never got a disc that was sent when I can just shoot off an email saying "It's been a week, the disc you sent never got here, could you try again?" and forget about it.

    (Partial disclosure: I am not a Netflix subscriber, but of another DVD-by-mail rental company (Full disclosure: Greencine) and never had any problems using e-mail only, although I think they've got an 1-800 number, too.)
    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:40AM (#20248517)
      I believe they still have the "Report a problem with this disc" option in the queue, where you can notify them if you haven't received a disc (or it was damaged) with just a couple of clicks. I used it before when I received one that was damaged.
      • by jridley (9305)
        Agree, that works very well and is much faster for both me and them than if I had to write an email and they had to read it.

        I used Netflix for a few years, and in the winter when the discs were being delivered in subzero weather they would crack a LOT. I just reported the disc bad, told them to ship another, and shipped the broken one back. Fast and easier than either email or phone.
    • by dm0527 (975468)

      DVDs by mail isn't such a big hairy deal that I need to jump on the phone and hold for who knows how long to express that I never got a disc that was sent when I can just shoot off an email saying "It's been a week, the disc you sent never got here, could you try again?" and forget about it.

      Netflix has a button on their website where you tell it which video you have "out" that never reached you. It takes them about another day to get you another one (depending on where you're at in relation to the warehou

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by trjonescp (954259)
      All the quick and easy problems like Disc not received, Damaged disc, Wrong Disc, etc. can be reported with an automated system on the customer service portion of Netflix.com. It's easy and works quite well. If you have a commonly reported problem it' on there.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:36AM (#20248437)
    I used to be on Netflix years ago, when they first got started. But I left when they started the subscription model and started throttling [wikipedia.org].

    But a few months ago, I decided to get back into it. At the time, I decided to try out both Blockbuster and Netflix at the same time, just to see how they stacked up. In the end, there was no comparison. Blockbuster's only advantage was their store exchange feature (where you can return your rental in a store and pick out a new DVD from the store). But it was completely outweighed by the terrible quality of every other aspect of their service.

    Blockbuster was SLOW. Netflix, for me has a two day turnaround--I drop a DVD in the mail and 2 days later a new one. Blockbuster's turnaround was several days at best, much longer at worst.

    Blockbuster's queue system is weak. It's nowhere nearly as sophisticated as Netflix's. Moving things around in Blockbuster's queue is a pain and it lacks features like getting a summary of the movie just by hovering your cursor over it and dragging-and-dropping movies to change their order.

    Blockbuster's selection is a JOKE compared to Netflix. This is especially important to me as an indie film fan.

    Blockbuster throttled me almost from day one. Movies would sit at the top of my queue with "Available" status, yet they would ship out a movie that was 6th on my list, and it would take them several days to do even THAT.

    To me, this news of better customer service is just another way that Netflix shows that they've really got their stuff together. Blockbuster may have the store model down, but their online store leaves MUCH to be desired.

    • by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @10:35AM (#20249247)
      I still don't buy the 'throttling' rumors. When it was a big deal, I looked all over for some indication that Netflix was throttling delivery. I never found any. People would point to the Netflix terms of use as 'proof' that they admit to 'throttling'. There was never anything I found in their TOS that said they throttled. When people would explain what was happening to them, it always turned out that they just didn't get the movie that was a new release and at the top of their list.

      I know that Netflix has rarely taken more than 1 day to receive my movies, and 1 day to get me a new one. This has been the case the entire time I have had Netflix, and I watch a LOT of movies. In fact, I usually go through about 30 movies a month on my three movie plan.

      I think that part of the problem is that people get confused about what 'throttling' is. I know that Gamefly throttles. Throttling would be holding back deliveries. If Netflix sends you the second or third movie on your list because they don't have enough of the new release, and they give first priority to those that rent less, that is NOT throttling. In fact, doing the opposite would be throttling. If Young Sebastian only has one item on his list, and Ms. Black has 50, and there is only one copy of "Blades of Glory" left to send out. Sending it to Ms. Black would mean that Young Sebastian would be 'throttled', where as sending it to Ms. Black would mean that both people get a movie.
      • by timster (32400)
        Yeah, people are simplistic in the way that they think about these things. The complaints seem to come mostly from people who go through a whole pile of new releases. New releases are a problem for any rental place, since there is a big surge in demand for the first few weeks, but you can't make enough profit to justify purchasing a huge supply of DVDs to meet that demand.

        Netflix gives priority on these in-demand DVDs to the people who rent the least, as you say. Some people think this means that they ha
    • This seems just one more reason to switch to Netflix. I'm currently with Blockbuster Online, only because I can return titles for in-store rentals as you say. I've almost completely exhausted their in-store selection (except the new season of Rome just released, damn you HBO) and I'll be switching to Netflix soon. Just to feel less dirty really. I hate Blockbuster. I'm still bitter about the years of late-fee rape and randomly charging my card (sometimes the full purchase price for movies I actually did ret
    • I'm having a customer related problem of geek kind with them. Their SPF records are shot to hell and Blockbuster online emails aren't coming from "authorized" email address therefore my spam filter ends up rejecting them.
    • Blockbuster's queue system is weak.

      But I've also had some frustration with Netflix's queue system as well. It apparently tops out at 500 entries. I've been in the habit of enqueuing a movie whenever I hear about one that I'd like to see eventually, including those I see the trailers for on Apple's website.

      Now I can no longer use the queue that way because I've gotten to about 500 entries. Now I have to check my queue and prune it before I can add a handful of new movies.

      Even worse, sometimes I cl

  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@optonlin[ ]et ['e.n' in gap]> on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:36AM (#20248443) Journal

    According to the NYTimes article, Netflix set up the call center in Portland OR, shunning other popular US call center cities (because Portland natives were perceived to sound friendlier)

    What the f**k?!?! Are they tryin' to say people in New Jersey aren't f**kin' friendly enough?!?!? Freakin' lunatics... them and their weepy northwestern friends. Jersey doesn't need you or your stinkin' movies...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by vigmeister (1112659)
      Although I don't really care much when people use curse words, when I was in NY, I heard this guy yelling to his kid at a Toys R Us, "I am not buying you another fucking toy"

      No one so much as batted an eyelid :S

      Cheers!
      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

        by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:46AM (#20248583)
        John Waters used to do a stand-up routine where he would talk about the funny stuff he overheard in Baltimore. One of my favorite ones was one he overheard in a grocery store one day. He was standing behind a family in line and the little son turns to the Dad and says "Dad, why is mommy crying?" to which the father replies "Because you're a little asshole!"
      • by Billosaur (927319) *

        You should hear my two-year-old daughter... she can swear like a trucker... of course it's all her mother's fault (Just kidding Honey! ;).

  • Answers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by COMON$ (806135) * on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:37AM (#20248459) Journal
    You know, I really don't care if I reach a voice, I just want my questions answered. There are situations where I prefer a computer answering, Airborne package pickup comes to mind. As for customer service I am happier to have a live chat with the rep as anything. I get a person (albeit they are multitasking) fairly quickly and there are no misunderstandings as the text is right in front of you. When I am done I get a transcript to file away in case I want to look at it again. Talking on the phone just takes way to long most of the time and I dont feel like I get as good of expertise on the first try as I do chat anyway.
    • by AndersOSU (873247)
      I agree.

      I don't mind too much when a electronic system picks up. I already know if my question can be answered by a human or a computer. If I need a human I pound zero until I get someone (and the wait is invariably shorter than companies that send you straight to hold.)
    • Frankly, I'm a little shy on the phone and like having time to craft my messages and send them via email. If they could guarantee a real response (rather than something canned) within five minutes (which would still be cost effective for them, since it takes less time to answer an email than deal with a person over the phone), that would serve me better.
  • What about those of us that want to use email?

    I hate calling call centres and finding staff who are not empowered to fix anything. Being held in queues, being promised call backs that never happen. I mean, if I want to report a cracked DVD, it's just as easy to say in an email "you sent me this DVD it has a crack, please replace it" as it is on the phone.

    If I use email I have a written record of what I said to them and what they said to me. All I ask is that I get a timely and helpful reply. That means not
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by twostar (675002)
      Obviously you don't use Netflix because if you did you would know you report shipping problems via the website. You go to your queue and at the top of the list, just under the dvd's that have been shipped to you, is a link that says "Mislabeled, lost or damaged DVD? Report a problem and order replacements". Three more clicks and you have a report filed and a replacement or next on the queue is sent out.

      This phone center is for other problems with the service.
      • by Albanach (527650)
        Obviously you don't use Netflix because

        And you are obviously a /. regular as you clearly did't RTFA...

        Megan Funk had been on the phone for 30 minutes and had already untangled one billing knot, ... and received one request to replace a cracked copy of "Hotel Rwanda"...

        My comment stands even more so for things like billing errors - I'd _much_ rather have a written record of such communications than a log entry in their call management system written to reflect the agent's view of the conversation after i

    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      If I use email I have a written record of what I said to them and what they said to me.

      Check your local laws to see if they only require one party to a phone conversation (i.e. one of the speaking people) to know it is being recorded in order to record a conversation. Usually that means you can record any conversation you are a party to without informing the other party verbally or with periodic beeps on the line.

      And if they start with an automated message saying they may be recording, you're free and clear to record without any further notice as well.(*)

      IANAL.

      Now if only they'd build reco

  • by PlatyPaul (690601) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:38AM (#20248475) Homepage Journal
    One important point which is ignored in TFA is that the use of simple to-the-point web forms for common issues (such as lost/damaged discs, excessive delays, or incorrect mailings) means that the typical user never has to call or email in the first place. Unlike a lot of other websites, these forms actually don't suck, either. In case you're a user and haven't found them yet, they're all accessible off of your account page [netflix.com].

    Also, Netflix users frequently receive emails which are "checking up" on movie arrival times in order to provide an accurate estimate of when shipped discs will arrive. Having changed addresses twice with our family account, my wife and I have been very grateful for this "getting things right" mentality.

  • Wait Time? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tiberius_Fel (770739) <fel.empirereborn@net> on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:38AM (#20248477)
    They're not doing themselves any favours if the call centre has a huge wait time. At least with e-mail you can send the e-mail and wait for a response, as opposed to sitting there with the phone playing bad hold music on speakerphone or while you hold it in your hand. Though it's nice that they are using (relatively) local reps who no doubt speak English... it's not very helpful if you can't get to one in a reasonable amount of time.
  • by Fozzyuw (950608) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:38AM (#20248487)

    'Everyone else is making it almost impossible to find a human.'

    Oddly, I would normally agree but recently I need support on my Dell XPS system (it's about a year old) after some water damage. I was reluctant to call Dell (as I've had some horrific experiences last time with my laptop) so I tried their online chat while looking up other contact information. the online chat was over 11min wait.

    I found the XPS phone number and called it and I got through to a Tech. in less than 30 seconds. He also was clearly American and no distinguishable American accent (at least not to a Midwesterner). Needless to say, It was probably one of the easiest and fastest Tech. support calls I've had. Which is in stark contract to my laptop support I received years ago. I guess the XPS price tag does come with some perks other than a pretty fast computer.

    Cheers,
    Fozzy

    • Yes, this is true especially when you pay for business support. I have a 4 year contract on my precision laptop, and - with one exception - the tech support I've spoken with have all be knowledgeable about the systems, OS, and common solutions. They are also very respectful of testing I've done (so we don't have to go through the "is your computer plugged in" list).

      For what it's worth, my one tech call to Xerox on a low-level ($4k) printer/copier was also amazingly useful. I actually had a tech - the first
  • by packetmon (977047) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:39AM (#20248497) Homepage
    I recently had to call NYPD to find out something about a ticket. So I dialed the local precint... To my amusement (not kidding):

    Thank you for calling yadda yadda...
    For homicide press 1
    For a detective press 2
    For donut squad press 3

    Alright, so I made up donut squad... But it was funny yet a little scary to think that automation is going a little too far sometimes. I tried to call my mother recently and got the same thing:

    Thank you for calling your mother...
    If you need money press 1
    If you need your laundry done, press 2
    If its mother's day, press 3

  • by RudeIota (1131331) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:41AM (#20248527) Homepage
    Good for Netflix, but after being a Netflix customer for a few years, I've never had to contact customer support.

    And that, my friends, is probably the best 'customer support' of all.

  • Friendly, indeed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @09:45AM (#20248575) Journal
    (because Portland natives were perceived to sound friendlier)

    As long as you don't mention you're a Californian!

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @10:09AM (#20248883)
    Here are 4 crazy things that companies do with their phone systems. I have experienced them all. whenever any of these happen to me I try hard to avoid ever doing business with them again.

    1) Those voice menu things, especially if they have no paths to speak to a human, or make you key in some arcane reference number to speak to a human. Score bonus points if the human asks for it again even though you just know they've already got your records on their screen.

    2) Getting some message that tells you the wait will be long as they are experiencing abnormal call volume yet that happens any/every time you call, even at 3am. Score bonus points for providing automated wait time estimates that are wildly inaccurate.

    3) Hiring phone operators that can hardly speak English, or have a very heavy accent. Score bonus points if they are overseas themselves or have had their common sense surgically removed.

    4) Assume its OK to keep customers waiting on hold for 20 minutes just to talk to someone. Score bonus points if the person you finally speak to just redirects you to another 20 minute wait to speak to someone else. Score mega points if any person you speak to redirects you back to an earlier person you have already been redirected by.

    • by mbone (558574)
      5.) Require you to provide full information to your problem to a gatekeeper even if you know where your call should be directed, and even though the gatekeeper does nothing with the information requested. Bonus points if the gatekeeper has no clue what you are talking about, so you have to educate them about their product or service before they will forward you to the department that you already knew you wanted. Mega bonus points if they insist on forwarding you to another department besides the one that
  • I've been with netflix for about 4 years now, and I've only needed to call them twice. I spent about 5 minutes on the phone today with a customer service rep, and my problem was resolved. This is why I continue to give them my business. More important than the convenience or the price, I like dealing with real people.
  • I have a better idea for Netflix. Partner with TiVo to deliver movies over the wire. I don't know what happened to that deal, but they should find a way to work it out. TiVo is now aligned with Amazon. The Amazon service pretty much sucks from the (lack of) search options (try finding a movie to rent and then clicking on an actor's name in the credits list) to the lousy selection.

    I would go back to Netflix (previous subscriber, and was pretty happy) if they would do that, instead of this half-assed deal
  • I support the decision to have a human call center. Until AIs are better, this is a necessary resource for people whose questions do not fit into categorizable types.

    For those questions that do, a well-written FAQ placed prominently on the website can make a big difference, especially if the company is smart enough to embed helpful forms within it (a question "How do I contact you?" should link to a form or ideally, have the form embedded within it).

    A good FAQ saves massive amounts of time over talking to a
  • I've had Netflix for years now and I've never had a reason to contact their customer service. Most of the stuff you would need to contact customer service for (missing disk, damaged disk, etc...) is handled conveniently on their website.

    This sort of thing is the reason I have Netflix in the first place. I was tired of getting jerked around by traditional video rental companies.
    • by EggyToast (858951)
      I think that's why they opened a US call center and promise short wait times. They know most people don't need to use it. Makes it cheaper when you don't have to open a bazillion of them because your product/service is crappy.
  • For me, this kills Netflix. I'd been thinking about it, but I hate talking to people on the phone. I prefer email for many customer service tasks.

    I would love the idea of making calling a service rep a viable option. I would not work with a company that wouldn't accept email.
  • .....use a recording device.

    It's a lot easier to lie if proof is not left behind.
  • I have been a Netflix subscriber for a long time, and only recently did I have to call their customer service for the first time. I received the usual email notification that a movie shipped, and that I should receive it the next day. The next day the movie never came, but I did receive another email for the same movie saying that it had been received by Netflix, never having been at my house. Being a new release, and fearing that it would be a while before it might show up again, I called their customer se
  • Kudos to NetFlix (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xednieht (1117791)
    The irony a technology company going low tech to serve their customers, while my local bank sends my phone calls overseas.

    Yeah, I think that warrants giving NetFlix my business.
  • by peacefinder (469349) <alan...dewitt@@@gmail...com> on Thursday August 16, 2007 @11:39AM (#20250029) Journal
    Just so long as you're not a Californian trying to move here!
  • I was all set to try out their new streaming video feature, but after downloading the plugins it gave me an error saying that you had to have at least 2GB free space on your drive to watch the movies.

    I had plenty of room, just not on my c: drive, I have another, much larger disk for data. There was no option to tell it to use another drive at all, it just failed.

    Immediately I looked around on their web-site for some sort of support to contact, but I couldn't find anything other than the phone number. I was

  • ...it is easy to reach a human, does not mean it will make the experience any better. Netflix used to staff a call center in San Jose and from what I understood they used a horrid bit of home grown java bloatware that the support folken had to use on antiquated, underpowered hardware, all while suffering the normal call center pressures (including not having any authority to do much of anything save absorb abuse).
  • Press 1 for English
    Press 2 for...
  • by localman (111171) on Thursday August 16, 2007 @12:22PM (#20250661) Homepage
    So many companies today seem outright hostile to their customers. I am continually amazed how companies do their very best to avoid contact with their customers. Research has shown that people hate computer menus whether they're numerical or voice recognition. And if you do manage to fight your way past those, how many times have you heard "due to unusually high call volume"... 365 days a year, right? Insane.

    It's not impossible to run a great call center. I used to work at Zappos [zappos.com] and we did our calls in-house and usually maintained wait times under 30 seconds. And the good will we generated with customers has paid off big time. We took on several more established companies with deeper pockets and so far we've left them all in the dust, largely because of our focus on customers.

    Also, it's not just about having people answering the phones. There's two other critical ingredients: the phone people have to be empowered to actually serve the customer, which means they have to be well trained, but dammit, that's what it takes to run a company. And they also need to have a voice back to the company itself, so that problems that they encounter are recognized and addressed -- because customer service problems are really just customer problems. And for all the companies spending millions on ads to establish their "brand", they could establish a real, authentic brand by resolving their customer's problems.

    There is so much room to improve this kind of thing. I applaud Netflix and wish the luck. Any company that wants to take on the 800lb gorillas need only treat each customer with care and respect. The gorillas never seem to figure this out.

    Cheers.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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