Back in the 90’s, Saturday Night Live aired a funny skit featuring Jon Lovitz titled, “Lower Your Standards.” In it, Lovitz plays a sniveling, slimy, overconfident guy on a dating ad encouraging American women to “lower your standards!”
I often ruefully recall that skit whenever I navigate customer service, online support websites, and online chat windows. Having worked for decades offering IT support, I have watched with dismay the decline in the level of customer service in most industries.
But last night I was unexpectedly surprised and delighted – and I didn’t interact with a single human.
A part on the door of our LG washing machine broke. I don’t even know what to call the part. On the inner side of the door is a spring-loaded magnet. It allows the empty washer door to remain ajar to dry out while holding the door one just one inch open (so it doesn’t swing out and take up space or block or strike something or someone nearby).
I anticipated a lengthy, difficult navigation through explaining the problem (probably repeatedly) and hopefully getting a replacement part identified, purchased, and sent to me.
I took a bunch of photos using my smartphone of the label showing the serial number and model of the washer, the door, and broken part. Then I tromped over to my computer to see what support I could muster. It was 8:30pm on a Sunday evening, so my expectations were low.
The washer is an LG, so I went to the LG website and selected “Support.” I entered my washer’s model number. It popped right up. I then clicked the “Contact Us” button. Unsurprisingly, no live support was available on a Sunday evening.
I saw there was a “Chat with Us” feature, which surprisingly was available 24×7. Still, I didn’t expect a live human to chat with, instead more likely a mindless auto chat bot. But I went ahead and clicked it and the online conversation began.
The chat bot prompted me to describe the problem and/or part I needed, and I did the best I could. It responded with a US authorized parts supplier in Georgia and offered up the phone number and website.
I navigated to the GA parts website, entered in my washer model number, and navigated to replacement parts. Prompted for the part, I simply entered “door magnet” and the part came right up including a photograph nearly identical to the one I took of my broken part!
Within minutes I had placed my order, and moments later I received an email letting me know the part should arrive in a week.
So this was a success story. Many, perhaps most manufacturers do not provide a easily navigable path to solving one’s own problem, and some people would rather speak to a human being than click and search through various support sites.
Here are my suggestions for increasing the likelihood of success should you need help finding a part or fixing a broken appliance.
- Take a photo with your smartphone of the serial number and model number
Most support sites or customer service numbers will need your model number and/or serial number. Serial numbers and model numbers, especially for appliances can be long and complex. Often these labels are in locations difficult to read (inside door frames, on the back or bottom, etc.). Also, the font size can be small. Using your smart phone makes it possible to zoom in and read the codes accurately.
Manuals and paperwork for your appliance may not list the entire codes, so you have to find the label or sticker on your appliance that lists both.
So just make it easy and take a picture using your phone.
- If possible, take photos of the problem/broken part/etc.
Describing a problem either in text or over the phone to a customer service representative or repairperson can be difficult. A few photos may help them more quickly figure out what is wrong and what is needed versus understanding what you are describing. In some cases, it may make sense to record a short video of the problem.
- Give online chat a try
I know many people prefer speaking to a human rather than typing a conversation. But the live support hours of availability may be limited, and you may have wait on hold listening to annoying hold music and advertisements telling you “how important you are” while you have to wait.
Additionally, poor connections, strong accents, and hearing issues can make talking over the phone less than ideal.
Some chat systems are very unhelpful and requiring you to jump through a bunch of steps before you can describe your problem and needs.
But chat systems may
a) available more hours (as was the case for me),
b) allow you upload the pictures you took,
c) offer you a written transcript of your conversation which you can refer back to, and
d) email you the chat conversation to you for your records.
- Email all the details
If your only option is to send email, take the time to clearly describe the problem. Get to the point quickly, include all the details (what happens, how to reproduce the problem, model/part number), and attach the pictures you took.
I take pride in the service I try to provide my clients. It is rare that, as a customer, I receive the level of service I try to provide others (and when I do, I definitely let the person know!).
I do have empathy for people who have to provide customer service – it is often and thankless job, and the only people who contact you have a problem and are often upset.
I try to remember this when I seek support. I collect all the information and take all the pictures I think might be needed before reaching out for support. I try to be patient with the person on the other end of the phone/screen. If there is an option for online chat, I give it a try.
Admittedly, most of my support experiences are, at best, adequate. This experience, even though I had no interaction with another human, was a pleasant surprise.