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21st Century Advertising and Customer Service

I’ve returned from the land of no internet. While I was away I began thinking about something that has irritated me and others for a few years. This is what my mental exercise sounded like.

A couple of decades have passed since I was involved in any form of advertising, having written the occasional audio/video commercial back in the early nineties. Everywhere one looks, whether on blog sites, company sites, or while trying to gather one’s email, pop-up ads jar the mind, exasperate the user and generally become a nuisance. Television is no better, in its own way. They do, occasionally, serve a purpose to inform readers of something they available for use in their lives.

When I look at how advertising has shifted with the availability of and interaction with the Internet, I’m surprised at how assumption drives much of today’s advertising and how customers are expected to conform to current business practices.

For example: With adequate anti-virus software, almost anything can be purchased, paid for, shipped, explored, etc. on the Internet. Online banking, checking, bill-paying and other normal business dealings are a daily convenient practice. It saves trees, you know. At least that’s the reason given.

With that ecological view in mind, there are good reasons to allow oneself to fall into the online business trap, so conveniently awaiting a keystroke to consummate a transaction.

I’m not arguing against saving trees. Over my lifetime I’ve found few that I couldn’t call friend.

My concern is that the business community has come to assume that everyone has a computer–if not several–with Internet service at home, and that they no longer have to provide live people to do business. Or, if you’re lucky enough to talk to a real person on the phone, you discover that something you need to order from a business is 70% cheaper if you order the same item over the Internet.

That’s what happened to me a month ago. I tried to order one box of checks; nothing fancy—simple plain blue, standard font, duplicate, top-tear checks. That’s not a strange thing to want.

I didn’t need more than one box of checks. The bank wanted to charge me $22 for one and then I’d pay nearly $10 in shipping charges. The check service I normally use has phone ordering available and online purchase. Online I’d pay $7.50 for ordering only one box, plus shipping, whereas over the phone one box would cost me $20, and I’d still have to pay shipping.

My question is whether the customer—me—is personally paying the salaryfor the phone customer service rep. and that’s why it’s cheaper to buy more than one box. To bring down a phone order to the lower price per box, I’d have to order two or more boxes.

It sounds petty, but this is the kind of situation that pops up frequently. Television advertisers automatically expect a viewer to hop on a computer and the net to go to their website to find the explanatory information alluded to in the TV ad. No address is given, nor a phone number many times.

This sense of expectation and assumption is what bugs me about the situation.

The older generation has come up through the ranks and have expectations of their own; they expect fair treatment and honest businesses, respectful attention from service providers, and the ability to talk to live people when a problem with those services arises.

I don’t know any older adults who are fond of those automated response systems that take the place of humans when dealing with customers.

Oddly enough, back when live service people were the norm, the customer paid less for the privilege of doing business with that service or for those goods than they do with automated systems today. The price of our progress looks to land on the runway of automation, to reduce business costs. I wonder if that same progress also soon eliminate the need for customers to interact with any of those live persons who are providing the services or goods.

So, tell me, reader, where do you stand on this piece of the new business model? Are you patient and unresisting, regarding the automated phone response systems that keep running you around through cyber tunnels looking for the light at the end? Or, are you ready to throw the phone across the room when you’re accosted by that recorded voice that won’t respond to anything but a pressed-button tone or a “Yes” or “No”?

Think about it and chime in. Until next time,

A bientot,

Claudsy

 

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