Random geekery since 2005.

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Can I Get Your Email?

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A few years ago (Dec 2008), I posted an article about “5 Steps To Living A Spam-Free Life.”  I was tempted to republish it in its entirety, but I’ll trust that you’re going to read it.  Right now.

Fast-forward to yesterday.  I got home from a week’s vacation with some friends, only to discover that ants had decided to take up residence in my home while we were away.  I’d already sprayed some of that “home barrier” stuff both inside and outside my house, but they’d still found a way in.  There were thousands of dead ants on my front step.

Time to call the Orkin Man.  I’ll save my displeasure for how Orkin does business for another post, but I’ve noticed a trend lately in customer service, and that’s the focus of this article.  Suffice it to say that we’re ant free after their visit.

Do you have an email address we can use?

This is becoming a more common question when working with businesses over the phone, and it makes complete sense to me.  That way, in future communication, they can just send me an email notification instead of calling and interrupting me.  If you read the article I listed above, I have absolutely no fear giving out my email address to businesses, shady or otherwise.  In the case of Orkin, I gave the address orkin@jeffblankenburg.com.  Later in the call, after I had completed my order, the customer service representative asked me if I had pen and paper handy, so that I could write down my appointment time, confirmation number, and Orkin Man’s name.  I told him that I was driving, and that if he could email me at the email address I provided, it would be greatly appreciated.

“I’m sorry sir, I don’t have the ability to email.”

Are you kidding me?

Yep.  He didn’t have a way to email the information.  But I don’t blame Orkin.  This seems to be common practice in customer service.  I’ve had the same experience with Zappos.com, eBags.com, and many other retailers.  With every call comes some important information that I will need in the future, and they don’t have a way to send it to me electronically.  (In fact, sometimes I’m not even driving, I’m just too lazy to find the stuff and write it down.)

This suggests a couple of things to me:

  • They know that confirmation numbers are as worthless as I suspected.
  • They are concerned that a customer service rep will put something in writing that isn’t true, but that they will now have to uphold.
  • Their development staff hasn’t figured out how to create a button that will email a confirmation number to an email address.

What do you think?

I often go on rants like this, but I’ve only got my perspective to fall back on.  Since this seems to be such a common practice in customer service, why do you think that is?  Why can’t the person I speak to on the phone send me an email with the information we discussed?


5 responses to “Can I Get Your Email?”

  1. Michael Eaton Avatar

    I had a similar experience with Sprint on my drive home from North Carolina. The support rep had the address and phone number of a repair center I could use, but he wasn’t able to email the information to me. I had to dig around the car for some paper and a pen, write it down and then hope I didn’t lose it sometime in the 14 hour drive. :-

  2. James Avatar

    You gave three possible answers. I agree with #1 and #2. But not #3. But you missed the most obvious reason. The companies do not trust their “low-level” high-school-grad, $10/hour employees with access to email and internet. I fear employees will start emailing friends, wasting time, browsing the internet, etc. It comes down to management having little trust in their employees, and an environment I would not want to work in.

  3. Rob S. Avatar
    Rob S.

    In a lot of cases, call-center associates are given very limited access to email, so they can’t inadvertently send things in email that are not supposed to be sent. A lot of organizations will provide email functionality within their applications, but, after looking up their headquarters in Atlanta, it looks like a building that can house less than a hundred people, so I’m guessing their development staff, operations staff, and PC support are all the same people.

    And, if you’re really in need of exterminating, consider buying local with Paul’s Exterminating out of Delaware. Less overhead costs, and more personalized service.

  4. Laura Avatar

    I have kind of simple but stupid answer to this question. I have had the pleasure of working in a Customer Service call center environment. Only supervisors and the escalation team had emails- why? Well basically because they wanted to keep wait times as little as possible. So even though this would be a push of a button it could lead to adding seconds on your call and cost me money and longer waiting times for someone else.

  5. Jamie A. Avatar
    Jamie A.

    I absolutely do not agree that providing a button that emails all available details (non-editable) regarding your discussion/resolution with Customer Service would be allowing someone the ability to email or access the internet … let alone add time. If I’m providing my email I am expecting communication from them, the representative should acknowledge the end of the service call then: email you the details (especially what they may expect you to write down for reference) and then ask if you would like the details to write down (in case someone is calling without access to email). No extra time since the details are emailed and you are giving the customer the ability to end the call without restating: reference #s, addresses, etc. On average more time would be saved with “I emailed you all of the details, would you like me to provide them to you now? No? Ok, I have a great day.”

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