Why I Hate Contacting Online Support

I do a lot of stuff online. I pay my bills, operate websites, email, instant message and surf the web for interesting stuff to read, or information to glom onto.

Sometimes, I have to contact support because I have a question or an issue to resolve.

Whether it be my webhost, the gas company, the electric company, or even your garbage collector — they all have online “support” now. Most of the time, you can no longer just call these people on the phone, you are now required to go online and contact them even to pay a bill. (few utilities will take a payment over the phone now, and those that do will charge you a fee)

No matter what the company or service is, if you find yourself in need of contacting “support” you know you are going to be in for a rough ride. Calling support on the phone never really was a picnic — it usually ended up in you having to give them a “YOU PEOPLE” speech. Trying to contact support online has a whole new set of problems.

Here is my latest experience with contacting online support:

A few weeks ago, I decided to sign up for Skype — a web-based telephone service where you can place and receive telephone calls on your computer. I don’t have a land-line and haven’t had one for several years. I have a Blackberry with a bluetooth earpiece that I am seldom without. But sometimes I need to have a number that I can give out to people that I don’t really want to have my cell number. People that I only need to be talking to if and when I am on my computer. Skype seemed like the perfect solution.

So I signed up. I saw that there was a subscription process where I signed up for that and paid the fee. I also saw that if I wanted to have a number for people to call me, I would have to sign up and pay for it a year in advance. No problem, I expected that.

So I tried to sign up for the phone number. When it got to the point where I could pick my area code, I found that there were no phone numbers for Washington State. It listed every other state BUT Washington. I could get a number in Kentucky if I wanted. I could get a number in North Dakota. I could even get a number in Alaska, Puerto Rico — and Afghanistan. Just not in Washington.

So I looked through their “knowledgbase” (which is typically lacking in any kind of useful “knowledge”) because I would rather find the answer today instead of waiting days or weeks for the solution.

Not finding the answer, I was resigned to contact Skype Support. They have no phone number to call (how ironic, for a company that deals with phone numbers) so I clicked the link provided and it sent the following question to their support personnel:

Name: DJ Allyn
Skype Name: ######
E-mail: ######@gmail.com
Topic: Technical
Subtopic: Other
Subject: No phone numbers for Washington State?
Message:

———————————————————————–

On March 4, 2009 I signed up for and paid for a subscription for service with Skype. I installed your software and now I am trying to buy a phone number through your website and have run into a problem. When I get to the point where I am to pick a state and area code where I want people to call me at, I do not see my state listed. Your system lists 49 other states and its territories, but for some reason it does not list Washington state.

I need a phone number for the Seattle Washington area with either a “425” or “206” area code.

Is this an error in your system — or does Skype not provide phone numbers in Washington state?

I have searched searched all of your online documentation and could not find an answer. Please advise.

———————————————————————–

It was a pretty simple statement of the facts along with a pretty straightforeward question. Or at least I thought so.

I sent this email in on March 4, 2009. I then forgot about it until yesterday, when I did a scan on my computer and found a port that was wide open. I did some investigation and discovered it was the Skype software that I had installed on the computer six weeks earlier. Since I assumed I was never going to get an answer from them, and I really didn’t like the idea of having an unnecessary port open to invite malicious behavior, I removed the software — a task that took almost 45 minutes and three automatic re-boots to complete. I had no idea how intrusive a Skype Software installation is. Had I known ahead of time, I never would have done it. It doesn’t take that long to install Windows XP from scratch.

This morning I awoke to find the response to my question I asked their support staff six weeks ago:

Hello DJ,

Thank you for contacting Skype Support.

We are extremely sorry that we have not been able to handle your request for Skype online number support as soon as we would have liked. Unfortunately we have been experiencing extremely high volumes of incoming queries that have temporarily affected our response time.

First off, as we have an online Knowledgebase it is very likely that you will find a solution to your problem there. Due to the fact that this site is always kept up to date, this should be the best and fastest resource for finding a solution to your problem. To access it, please visit http://support.****.com/?_a=knowledgebase

It is also highly recommended that you check out our User Guides at http://www.*****.com/help/guides/

Depending on which subscription you have purchased before the 6th of April 2009, one or several Skype online numbers were offered along with some additional great benefits.

Unfortunately online numbers are not offered with subscriptions any more. However new subscriptions offer a 50% discount on purchases of 12 months online numbers and 33% on 3 months online numbers.

In order to purchase your Skype online number with the discount, please sign in to the Account section of our website and visit the following page :

https://secure.*****.com

Please check our new subscriptions too:

http://www.*****.com

Finally, we are sorry to inform you that we have technical issues with German online numbers.

We are aware of this problem and are working hard on fixing it as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

NB! If you can’t receive calls on your Online number, please check your privacy settings and make sure that you can receive calls from anyone.

If you are using Windows you can set up your privacy in Tools > Options > Privacy > Advanced settings.If you are using Mac please go to Preferences > Privacy

We trust that one of these suggestions will help you solve your problem, however should you need any further assistance feel free to contact us at any time.

We apologize for the inconvenience once again and hope that you will continue to use Skype.

Best regards,
Tom – Skype Support

[Emphasis mine]

Note my original question. It was simple and concise wasn’t it? I went ahead and responded to “Tom – Skype Support”:

“Tom”:

You wrote an awfully long email to tell me NOTHING. I asked why there were no phone numbers available in Washington State — (currently located in the UNITED STATES.)

You answered me back telling me that I could “likely” find the answer I was looking for in your knowledgebase.

A lot of us look at knowledgbase material before having to contact support. Typically, it is faster to do that than wait weeks for someone to get back to you. But if we DO have to put our lives on hold while we wait to hear from someone at support, we DO expect to support to at least attempt to answer the question instead of referring us back to where we already know the answer isn’t at. We would assume that the support staff would at least investigate a question or an issue on the VERY LIKELY issue that the answer isn’t in your limited knowledgebase.

You will also notice that I didn’t ask whether numbers were provided free with subscriptions or not. Assume for the moment that I expected to purchase a number — just as your website indicated. Assume that I got all the way through the signup procedure, and when it came to the point where I got to pick my number, THERE WASN’T ANY NUMBERS FOR WASHINGTON STATE. In fact, it listed every state in the United States EXCEPT Washinton State. Hense, the reason for my need to contact support and ask my rather simple question.

I could get a phone number for Oregon, Mississippi, or even North Dakota should I want one. There were numbers available all over the US. Just not Washington. Which is why I contacted you: I need a number for Washington state, not some other location.

Now I notice that Washington is on the list, but there STILL are no numbers.

Lastly, you told me that you were aware you were having problems with GERMAN numbers and that you were working on them.

That is when I came to the conclusion that it was no wonder you didn’t have numbers for Washington State of the United States. You are under the impression it is located somewhere in Germany.

I think I will just stick with my cell phone, thanks.

DJ Allyn

This was cross-posted at DJ Allyn’s A Soundtrack for my Life