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IT Support Pro Tells Why He Hates Live Chat

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the what-seems-to-be-the-trouble? dept.

Technology 228

colinneagle writes "When someone calls into support, we first verify his or her account information. On the phone, this can take seconds. On a chat feature it can take a minute or two because people type slower than they speak. I also find that when people type in a chat they try to make the process go quicker by abbreviating the conversation. This means they might not give me all the information they would have if we were talking on the phone. The more descriptive a customer is about a problem, the easier and faster it will be to solve their issue. But the nature of a chat feature means people will abbreviate their stories to be more efficient, without realizing this just makes it more difficult to solve the problem. I end up asking more questions, which takes longer for the full story to come out. Explaining how to fix a problem can be difficult on the phone, but on a chat feature where I can't see your screen and likely have less information to work with, it can make it impossible to tackle a complex issue. It would be much more efficient for both me and the customer to talk on the phone so I can walk the customer through the steps I am taking."

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Welcome to communication (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865305)

Packet size happens.

Opposite experience (5, Insightful)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865731)

Funny that I read this, when I have the total opposite experience. I found that it's cool to use the chat, so that people can actually type their domain names, account names, or whatever. I found restful that people aren't on the phone and expect you to fix in the second, or find their account immediately. It's also very nice that I can cut/past URL, like for example the one explaining what a glue record is on wikipedia and so on. It's also quite cool if a customer types slowly, that way, I can continue to do what I was doing at the same time, but anyway, it's very rare that our customers are typing that slow.

Maybe this has to do with the type of customers you get on the other side of the line (ours might know more).

Re:Opposite experience (5, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866101)

We've had several hard drive failures in the last few months and I've used HP's online chat every time to get them replaced. When I call HP, I'm usually on the phone for a t least 15 minutes listening to on-hold music. On the Chat, my wait is rarely more than two minutes. On the downside, I'm often waiting for them to respond, but it's easier for me to do other things while waiting on the chat than it would be on the phone.

Re:Opposite experience (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866173)

It also seems like some of the problems described are a result of a badly designed support-chat system, or a properly designed one with bad policies in place, attempting to shoehorn the phone-based workflow into a rather different environment.

Sure, if I call you, you need to confirm some sort of account/service tag/serial number/customer ID/something because I might be calling you from just about any phone number and automated phone mechanisms are a pretty painful way of entering anything nontrivial. But if I'm starting a text chat over the internet, you can just have a form that requests that information before setting up the chat(and hey, why not send me directly to the right subsection of your support apparatus based on the answers I provide, just for fun?) and then not waste everybody's time by having me re-type it unless there is some specific point of confusion/uncertainty/disagreement with the database.

Similarly, 'I can't see your screen' is one of those problems that can be solved by technology... Your internet chat system doesn't have a way for me to upload screenshots, diagnostic logs, etc. to your support people why exactly? Yeah, you can't do that in phone support, so people make do; but you could do better in chat support.

Obviously, none of this is the poor support guy's fault, it isn't his system; but a chat-support system that is more painful than a phone support system, despite vastly greater ancillary capabilities, is just plain broken.

Re:Opposite experience (0)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866343)

Excellent observations. "Mod parent up" is I believe the local lingo.

Exactly (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866235)

For somebody who communicates better via written word rather than speech, thinks better while writing than speaking, and can touch type at impressive speeds, there is no question that "live chat" is superior.

Then again, the guy has a point because these people are the tiny minority.

Re:Opposite experience (2)

mellyra (2676159) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866243)

It's also quite cool if a customer types slowly, that way, I can continue to do what I was doing at the same time, but anyway, it's very rare that our customers are typing that slow..

If your system only gives you one customer at a time and your performance is evaluated based on through-put you wouldn't be happy about that.

Re:Opposite experience (4, Insightful)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866281)

I also found it funny, because my assistance by chat was ALWAYS several times better than phone support. Try for example dictate your full name or an email address by telephone.

Re:Opposite experience (4, Informative)

EvilIdler (21087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866345)

I have good experiences from both ends. But that required a login system where identification is already handled. When the customer is logged in, the chat presents all the details the tech needs. Free for all chat is only useful for sales, and shouldn't be used for tech-support.

Re:Opposite experience (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866423)

I too have had the opposte experience. Fed up of having to call to premium rate phone number and being on hold for 10 minutes before getting someone who can barely speak English, asks me to repeat my name several times, etc, I now see these support phone numbers as another way for the company to make money. I've started using the web chat whenever possible now, and my experience has been great.

Re:Opposite experience (4, Insightful)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866481)

From the support end, fielding multiple chats simultaneously is possible, while waiting for one person to reply one can start to help the next person, this can not be done on the phone. Miscommunication is less, names aren't misspelled so easily or just not quite heard right, you don't need to be sat their going through a sequence of numbers or characters and checking it is correct character by character. Finally if you give a set of instructions, it can all be given at once and they are left to get on with it, they can reread the message to check the next step, they don't need to bother you again 'till there is an actual problem or it solves the issue.

Is this a journal entry? (4, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865317)

No seriously, this reads like a random rant than an actual article. What are we here to discuss again?

Re:Is this a journal entry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865435)

and now deep thoughts...

Re:Is this a journal entry? (0, Troll)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865521)

Exactly. You don't like a certain aspect of your job, sunshine? Here, have a muffin and tell me all about it. No one cares that some random dude dislikes live chat.

Re:Is this a journal entry? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865539)

I believe he's attempting to bemoan text-based chat, in an internet era when he should be using webcam-based chat or skype.

Re:Is this a journal entry? (3, Informative)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865657)

I could rant all day about how terrible phone-based chat is - having worked on a tech support line - and how often people assume that just because you're on the phone to them you can magically see what's on their screen. How reading from a list of required questions (ie, to figure out what system they're running) exasperates people who expect you to already know this because they've been on your site/using your application and they MUST have entered their own phone number for a reason, if it's not to identify who you are when you phone for help then what's it for?

I certainly wouldn't submit it as a /. article though.

I'd probably leave it as a comment.

Re:Is this a journal entry? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866217)

It's not even a well thought rant, all of his complaints are either true of phone chat or easily overcome by a proper chat system. My favourite part is:

Explaining how to fix a problem can be difficult on the phone, but on a chat feature where I can't see your screen and likely have less information to work with, it can make it impossible to tackle a complex issue.

Yeah, because my phone gives me a magic window onto the other user's computer - whereas no text chat system ever invented has been integrated into a remote desktop solution.

Absolutely pathetic.

Re:Is this a journal entry? (2)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866563)

yep. also why act like chat is the only option? Are people too stupid to say "welcome to chat. this is (IT). please open your browser, go to (website for preferred remote access tool) and we'll start troubleshooting"?

Short-term thinking (1)

klingers48 (968406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865319)

Corporate moves to live-chat for support are usually the result of a razor-gang corporate management style focussing on short-term savings benefits.

Closed job numbers will look great on a monthly report, but issue resolution will be sub-par at best while customer satisfaction will be considerably lower. As mentioned above it's not a popular option with support staff either...

Re:Short-term thinking (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865485)

It's not even about savings. They had pop up "we'll call you back" boxes years ago, but nobody wanted to call a high-pressure salesman or give out their number. The ones that said "click here for free live chat" got clicked much more. So was born the life of chat help. I hate chat help as a user. Usually, if I'm getting help, I have a real problem. With chat they make sure they are following their script and it takes longer to get to the right person, as front line doesn't do much more that advise a "reboot and try again" approach.

Re:Short-term thinking (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865585)

I don't know about that, I'm a fan of live-chat support when I need help. Depending upon how it's implemented it can make things a lot easier as there's less repetition and it's a lot less likely that I'll mishear something or they'll mishear something and have to repeat it.

It also means that I don't have to have a phone which can make a difference sometimes. Now for things that are directly related to the computer that doesn't really apply.

Re:Short-term thinking (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865713)

In my opinion - both phone and chat are useful, often using them together. This because you can't always figure out the spelling of some words and sometimes it's easier to send the user some text string over the chat. Even better if images can be sent.

But sometimes it's a lot easier to solve the problem for the user with a personal visit.

Unfortunately what management sees are just trouble tickets resolved, not the real user satisfaction. It's like measuring the quality of a bakery on the amount of flour used.

The user is saving his time - not yours (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865323)

Users can multitask during a text chat session, and the support staff can sit and wait while the user looks up their account code, or what ever.

The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.
The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.
The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.

Chat sessions aren't something users were pressing for, they are an invention of the service organizations to cut costs.

If those organizations find they don't like them, I'm sure they could hire some competent English speaking help and actually teach them something more than reading through a solution tree in a book for a product they have never laid eyes on, while ignoring every thing the user is saying.

Especially when these solution trees invariably end with some stupid advice "like factory reset your device" thereby wiping out weeks if not months of work.

Also, people tend to think while typing, and questions are actually more well though out.
A stead stream of verbal "um, ah, like, seedimsayin?, I mean, Huh? Where? How do I do that? Wait while I find a pencile" etc. etc. etc. is not an efficiency model I like to engage in. Neither is explaining the problem to 4 consecutive flack catchers before finally finding someone who as even the shadow of a clue.

So, the service industry made this bed, they can damn well sleep in it. You built it, you fix it.

Re:The user is saving his time - not yours (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865359)

I don't really disagree with your overall point - but I must point out:

The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.

A person can be a condescending jerk just as easily over chat as on the telephone.

The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.

Yes, yes they do. I've had a live support chat with a tech who barely understood English. And I've had live support chat sessions die for no apparent reason.

The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.

A text chat can be monitored and/or recorded quite easily, and it can be easily tied to an IP address.

Re:The user is saving his time - not yours (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865415)

Two can play that game. A single support person could easily handle several simultaneous support chat sessions. I'd say this makes him have to wait less han on the phone and would result in shorter waiting times.

Re:The user is saving his time - not yours (2)

mjwx (966435) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865471)

The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.


I can condescend as well, if not better over chat. Not only that, a reminder of the Users idiocy is in their attention for much longer.

The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.

Obviously you've never seen the level of English and Grammar skill in this day and age.

LOL ur fix computr man need fix rite nao no can do thing KTHXBY,

Every time a user sends me text speak, I threaten to remove one finger.

The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.

This phone call is being recorded for quality assurance purposes. Oh by the way to use live chat we'll need you to enter you name, post code, current address, previous address, telephone number, mothers maiden name, affiliation status with the South Swindon crochet club and number of donuts you've eaten since Tuesday the 3rd. Then we can start.

you just described the agent (4, Informative)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865615)

I've never had any "live chat" calls where the agent was swift at responding, asking the right question, using the information I just typed or not helping at least 3 other people (they admitted that nonsense answers/requests from them were supposed to be typed in another customers window) or even fast at typing.

Bottom line is, either be good at your work and like it, or go flip burgers. Being an "IT Support Pro" isn't for everybody and if you blame your problems on the user, you don't have the right attitude. I know I just described 95% of the help desk staffers, but that is the sad truth, it's a dirty job and good staff is hard to find for that.

Re:The user is saving his time - not yours (1)

jeremyp (130771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865875)

The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.

Ah, poor little ice bike with his tiny little five figure user id can't handle a little condescension on the phone.

Fortunately, it is impossible to adopt a condescending tone in a written exchange.

The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.

Lol yeah, its inpossible to has pore langauge skilz on teh enterwebs*

The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.,

Well most chat programs I know of require me to have a user id. They also tend to log everything in the conversation, which I think is a plus point for a tech support conversation.

*Typing that sentence in made me curse the day somebody invented autocorrect.

Re:The user is saving his time - not yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866031)

You better believe I am asking for and want more chat sessions. If a business won't help me by chat or email I am less likely to bother with their products. This is 2012, inability to use the internet to communicate with me means your company is outdated and your service is bad.

Re:The user is saving his time - not yours (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866111)

Conversely if they are walking through a solution tree they should have quick shortcuts to paste the next question into the chat window so they don't need to type it. You wouldn't be able to eliminate the person completely, but their application should certainly be able to help them with pre-canned responses.

Re:The user is saving his time - not yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866321)

The user may not have to put up with a lot of that. What the user does have to put up with iss an endless stream of copy-and-paste irrelevencies put into a chat window faster than a human can type as the outsourced, offshored support "technician" just follows his stupid script the same as on the phone. I've never accomplished anything by chat other than screaming at the screen as some dolt proceeds to ignore everything I say and responds with 'please make sure your printer is plugged in' and other lame script crap.

Re:The user is saving his time - not yours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866383)

Um. Sorry, as a user, I was pressing for this. I loath calling support of any kind. While chat support is still pretty weak in general its what I goto first.

Re:The user is saving his time - not yours (2)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866463)

The user doesn't have to put up with surly condescending attitude on a chat call.

I am fairly certain it is possible to have a bad/condescending attitude in text.

The user doesn't have to put up with poor language skills or a heavy accent, or a shitty phone connection.

Dey don? wow i knewr new! how u get perfct text speek?

The user doesn't have to give out a telephone number, and be monitored and recorded for quality control purposes.

Telephone number, no, IP address + whatever info can be pulled from their browser, yeah.

Also it *is* possible to log texts, it has been for ages. Like if I wanted to I could even save this entire post to my harddrive!

Chat has its place, but shouldnt be primary (4, Insightful)

toygeek (473120) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865341)

I need to preface this by saying that I am a 20 year IT veteran who does phone support for one job, and onsite support for another.

Phone support: Takes a guy 5 minutes to finally get to the point: Internet Explorer is crashing and he thinks its because his cable internet is going down, and he is calling to complain. I have to really listen to this guy and let him get through 5 minutes of bullshit before he gets to the point "Internet Explorer has stopped responding" etc. The rest of the conversation was full of more bullshit, but that isn't relevant.

Chat support: I'm on site migrating a dead computers data into a new computer, and there's this industry specific software that needs to be reinstalled and have the data restored. The website is a fuster cluck of documentation, so I hit the live chat option. The person on the other end was quick, had correct answers, and I had the info I needed to do the migration in short order, and lo and behold, it *worked* the first time.

Now, in both cases you have a very experienced technical person on one end of the line, and in the second case apparently, two. Had my customer been on chat in the second scenario, they'd probably STILL be trying to figure it out. So, it has its places, such as when both parties are literate enough (both computer and English) to have a normal conversation. But for "normal" people who type in "my internet is broke" even though they have to BE online to type that... yeah... welcome to my hell.

Re:Chat has its place, but shouldnt be primary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865663)

Issues of nomenclature can be exasperating with lay users, but the lay description can usually be quickly eliminated with a couple of questions. And it is nowhere near as exasperating as the lay self-diagnosis, as per your first scenario.

In the second scenario you would have presented your actual issue and not your theories, which is correct as you wouldn't be asking if you knew what the fix was.

Re:Chat has its place, but shouldnt be primary (5, Funny)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865773)

If they're a VoIP customer get them to reboot their router while on phone support. The result is 5 minutes of peace until their phones start to work again.

Re:Chat has its place, but shouldnt be primary (1)

hannson (1369413) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865955)

Parent at work []

Re:Chat has its place, but shouldnt be primary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866079)

Try not to take this personally but if you're still doing phone support after 20 years in IT, your career needs some serious help.

Then again, if you're making at least $50/hr doing phone support - well, more power to you then. I just can't imagine still doing phone support more than 2-3 years, tops. I did front-line phone support for an ISP for 3 years--1.5 of them as the sole support guy and a year as the second-level support and help desk manager-and that was PLENTY. I moved into desk-side support and a year later into sys/network admin roles where I've been ever since (now over 15 years in the industry).

While I did get very, very good at phone support - there was almost nothing I couldn't recall from memory by then and I could hand-hold almost any utter newbie through every fundamental computing dysfunction in the universe (and brother are there plenty of them) - and that in itself is an extremely valuable skill let's be honest with ourselves that's it's not really a challenge to kowtow to the click-impaired.

It depends on who you are (4, Interesting)

zaphod777 (1755922) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865343)

For an IT person it is much easier, why should I wait on hold to get a HDD or MB replaced under warranty. My time is valuable and when I need to spend an hour on the phone to get something like that done it is really a waste of time and energy. Also when doing end user support a lot of times it is faster and easier when I can fire back an email with detailed instructions and screenshots on how to fix whatever issue it is. For those times when the problem is too complicated then you pick up the phone do a remote control session and resolve the issue. There is a fine balance between all of them.

Efficient how? (4, Interesting)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865345)

It would be much more efficient...

It depends how you measure efficiency. It would solve the problem faster in many cases, but that doesn't mean it would use less of your time. Both you and the customer can multitask much more effectively in chat. You're off helping someone else while they reboot, instead of just racking up minutes of dead air. I consider that to be more efficient, even if it takes longer.

It's also much more efficient when you have a rambley customer. Instead of cutting him off continuously or waiting it out, you do something else while he types up his whole story, then you skim it to find the bits you wanted to know.

I personally find it much more enjoyable to use chat as a customer. I'll call in if I need something fixed RIGHT NOW, but most of the time chat is much less frustrating than waiting on hold.

Eliza (1)

H3xx (662833) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865357)

Something tells me he hasn't tried writing a chat bot, ELIZA style. There are only so many ways to write "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

Re:Eliza (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865677)

Why do you say something tells you he hasn't tried writing a chat bot, ELIZA style?

Re:Eliza (1)

narcc (412956) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866013)

We're talking about you not me.

Re:Eliza (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866099)

Who else is talking about you not me?

good post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865361)

my buddy's mother-in-law earned $21513 the previous month. she is making an income on the laptop and moved in a $440200 house. All she did was get blessed and put to work the instructions laid out on this site

Re:good post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865467)

Goatse alert! Don't click if you value your eyesight!

Re:good post (3, Funny)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865569)

It's plain text. Click it all you like, nothing will happen.

Re:good post (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865733)

That post was clearly spam. If you opened the link it you may very well be part of the reason spam works. I say goatse spam is a good way of conditioning people to recognize spam and not click on spam links.

Depends heavily on user type (5, Insightful)

tucuxi (1146347) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865367)

A technically-savvy (eg.: Bob McHacker) user should be a lot easier to communicate with via chat than a non-technical user (eg.: Joe Sixpack).

To start with, expert users typically type almost as fast as they speak (seriously: if any of you out there work in IT for a living and cannot touch-type, it is an investment well worth it). As others have pointed out above, both user and helper can multitask; and many computer tasks end up involving huge amounts of staring at a progress bar. You can copy&paste error messages and links back and forth. You can actually think your answers through while you type them, and not waste anyone's time with errr, uhh, yeah, and other "are you alive/i am alive" on-the-phone protocol overhead.

In TFA, there is no coherent explanation of the type of support / users that this "Pro" is addressing. The article is less than a screenful of general ranting against not having the undivided attention of a user. Nothing to see here, move along.

IT Pro =! working via chat desk (0, Flamebait)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865385)

What kind of IT "pro" works on a chat desk?

That's first line, very basic support and if they can't fix it with the normal Reboot/Power off for awhile/check cables then they give the answer of "One of our engineers will call you".

This guy is overrating his own skills if he considers himself a pro and is stuck in a job where he has to use a chat program.


I work in a small office supporting customers both locally and all around the world. For anything more than a simple "reboot this" I request they file a ticket in our ticketing system. If the ticket isn't explained clearly; I'll tell them so.

If it was a "Public" customer as apposed to someone internal; I'd phone them to get details. It looks professional (Me calling them instead of them chasing the ticket which hasn't been acted on). If I can't call them due to time frame differences etc; I'll email them with exact questions numbered so they can answer clearly.

Re:IT Pro =! working via chat desk (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865529)

The word "professional" just as much applies to a 1st level helpdesk tech just as much as it applies to anyone in the higher tiers. Perhaps you would like to consult a dictionary?

Not sure why you feel like you need to be a condescending and demeaning asshole about it.

Re:IT Pro =! working via chat desk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865643)

If IT support is his paid job, he's a IT support professional (look it up in a dictionary).
The term you're probably looking for is "expert".

Re:IT Pro =! working via chat desk (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865645)

"Pro" means professional, which means you get paid to do what you do. As opposed to an amateur, who usually doesn't get paid and is just in it for fun.

So in online gaming "pro" has come to refer to someone who is so good at gaming that you think they should be paid for it, or are being paid - but in the real world, it basically means anyone with a job.

I really wish people would check to see if their own assumptions are wrong before insulting others..

Re:IT Pro =! working via chat desk (2)

Zilberfrid (2510394) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865685)

There is a lot of difference in support desks, some actually have more hard then easy questions. When I call to my helpdesk, almost every time a chat screen is opened as well, it keeps me from stating error codes, and the other side from typing them out (both would have more errors then a simple copy-paste). I do not consider myself a particulary stupid user, but I prefer the combination of speech and chat to chat alone. Interpretation of written speech is harder, and it is easier to say "I get the error code in the chat, when I use program A and Program B under circumstance A. In the chat are the event logs of both programs, bolded are some things I find odd. I suspect this is the error, but can't look at the serverside, could you check if I am correct?." Another client here started chat sessions with end users, which is less of a success, mainly due to underestimations of the staffing it'd cost, but also because and users will type exactly what they'd say, but more slowly. Chat sessions are a nice tool, if used correctly, which is not for first line work.

Depends on the company (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866053)

First, quite a few of the first tier IT megaliths have chat support these days, especially for their enterprise level vertical software. Key example: IBM's Maximo product.

Second, integrated chat support is the wave of the future for vertical applications. You cannot imagine how much of a time saver it is for a user having a problem to click the chat button inside the app and drag the problem record to the app window. The support analyst gets information from the record itself that many users might find difficult to put into words (e.g. the primary key for the record). Moreover, it is possible to build the software so that the IT analyst sees the same application screen over chat as the user does.

Third, at the enterprise level, if it isn't in the ticket, it didn't happen. The more you pay for support, the greater the odds that they'll request that *ALL* interaction goes through the ticketing system. These days, calling the client directly doesn't look professional, it looks disorganized except for a handful of exceptional cases such as a VP old enough that he prefers personal attention.

Be thankful that "ppl abrve8 the chat"...... (1)

KrazyDave (2559307) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865387)

because that means you get to keep your job;

Email (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865407)

So how is this different to email? This has been a problem ever since there has been IT support.

One good thing about typed or written communication is proof of the conversation.

Automate the lookup? (1)

sdunster (2600167) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865421)

Why hasn't the chat system already prompted the user for their information and looked it up automatically, even before the support staffer started the conversation?

Re:Automate the lookup? (2)

aix tom (902140) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865567)

Probably because they did NOT approach it from a "We analysed our support procedures, and came up with a new, more effective system using live chat" angle, but did a "I hear live chat is the next hip thing to to, let's do it" while keeping the process itself exactly the same as it was on the phone.

And NOTHING is worse in IT than changing the tools just for the sake of changing the tools. New Tools should be chosen because they fit the process.

Screen? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865437)

Explaining how to fix a problem can be difficult on the phone, but on a chat feature where I can't see your screen

And how exactly can you see a screen over the phone?

Of course what's more efficient depends on the exact nature of the problem, but for many technical problems i would rather use a textual medium to explain them (typically irc, forums or email for me) for one simple reason: cut+paste
If the computer returns an error, i can paste it, which is easier and less error prone to reading it out. And if i need to run some commands, i can paste those commands back in the same way (this is also another reason why geeks use the cli - its easier to explain in a support context, even over the phone where reading cli output is far less error prone than trying to describe a graphic verbally)...

Re:Screen? (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866509)

The problem usually isn't that I can miraculously see the screen over the phone, but that the user assumes because they are in chat, that I can see their screen. It's odd and annoying, but it happens more regularly than it should.

Technical issues by email only please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865443)

I work quite hard to force all requests for technical advice to come by email only. By the time someone has properly written an account of "What did you do? What did you expect to happen? What did you want to happen?", they've quite often realised the solution to their problem on their own.

Re:Technical issues by email only please (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865553)

interesting. I had an issue with 20 computers once where pushing the software update out one morning caused them all to crash and reboot. Email and or chat at that point would have required leaving the site entirely or redoing the router setup in order to get internet access for my laptop outside the network.

I don't mind chat and or email support, but i demand a phone number and live person be available too.

Re:Technical issues by email only please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866009)

I'm not involved in providing internet access. Thus if your problem involves you being unable to send email, I am the wrong person to contact. Your mileage may vary of course!

Use a script (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865451)

When someone calls into support, we first verify his or her account information.

Wouldn't it make more sense to use a script to verify the user's account info before they can even initiate the chat session? Why are you wasting human time (both yours and your customer's) doing something that 20 lines of PHP could handle more efficiently?

Re:Use a script (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865787)

Or a TCL script on Cisco CM to identify clients' account numbers from their CallerID.

Anon to preserve mod points

I'm about to blow your mind... (1)

matunos (1587263) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865469)

Simultaneous chat sessions.

You're welcome. Or, your manager is welcome.

Re:I'm about to blow your mind... (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865531)

His manager may thank you, but he sure won't. You just increased his workload!

Re:I'm about to blow your mind... (1)

matunos (1587263) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865701)

True, but what's he on here complainin' about how people type slow, then?

Gotta get those metrics up!

I dislike both... (4, Insightful)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865499)

I'm one of those stereotype geeks who doesn't like talking to people, outside a small circle of friends (and I find talking to them stressful at times). I'd rather just e-mail support with details and get an answer "whenever". If they need more information, they can ask for it.

I do not need everything in my life to happen *now*. I am perfectly content for things to take a little time, so long as no-one is taking the piss. Which is just as well, because IT at work will get round to dealing with your problem whenever they feel like it and you can't actually phone them anyway, you have to submit support tickets.

Chat is Great Hard Of Hearing / Language Barrier (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865501)

I work in global support scenarios , and chat support is very helpful for those who are deaf and when I speak to those who have trouble speaking English, and it some cases it would actually save time. if it takes more time to solve problems then so be it, at least it will be documented, phone calls may not be recorded and previously read back, so chat logs provide history, it out weighs the obligation to hold a phone/headset to your ear, and the resources to record/translate/review audio.

Every screen share application I have used, have a built in chat capabilities, Microsoft Lync and LiveMeeting, Cisco WebEx, Adobe ConnectNow, TeamViewer, LogMeIn.

If i don't need to sit there with a headset and listen or speak to someone on the phone breathing down screaming or yelling at me , I would prefer chat support any day over text.

The nice thing about working with someone on the phone you get more friendly context , and even more so over web cam , and so on with in person. You might do well for someone you can see and hear, then rather treat as lines of text in a box..

Article is worthless. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865507)

Article doesn't even mention deliberate trolling of chat operators by the likes of /g/.


parallel, asynchronous and signal noise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865523)

Criticism seems to be about how chat systems are often used. One to one, real time. That is poor way to use chatting systems. When there are lots of people in same chat 'room' or 'channel' things super boost to extent unseen in conventional conversions.

Chat is inherently asynchronous.
Multiple persons can speak at the same time, and a lot will become seen by many.
Dealing same problem reported multiple times is managed as one chat session.

That said, sometimes giving call will be the easiest way to deal some problems. Telling chat is crap is equally non-sense as bashing phone calls being useless.

Silly (1)

CTU (1844100) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865551)

I find live chat to be helpful. So it might take a few more minutes to get things done. I think the extra time is worth it as a bad connection could leave both sides asking to repeat something a few times to get it right, or just close enough. With the written word it is clear as day and something can be reread to be understood.

If the support person doesn't speak English . . . (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865571)

. . . chat is better.

It takes just as long on the phone, when you have to decipher a bizarre accent. Like, finally figuring out after a minute, that "aaatsch" or "hatch" means "eight."

Re:If the support person doesn't speak English . . (1)

irwiss (1122399) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865831)

And spelling out uncommon words, passwords or usernames isn't required at all in a chat... "hatch" is just "hatch" and needs no explanation of "h as in hat, a as airport, t as tennis..."

Re:If the support person doesn't speak English . . (1)

Larryish (1215510) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866385) []

If you haven't watched this series, you should.

It is absolutely brilliant.

Re:If the support person doesn't speak English . . (1)

irwiss (1122399) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866405)

He he thanks it was neat :)

It's even funnier ... (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866139)

... when the two participants of the call speak English with two different, heavy accents. And the phone line has the quality of your typical American phone line, i.e. noisy, bandwidth-limited, _and_ digitally compressed and uncompressed at least twice.

I'll take the live chat, thanks.

Not always true (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865577)

This may be true a lot, but not always. AT&T Live support, for example, presents you with a login page before the chat. You have to fill out the form; the phone number, the name its registered under, the last 4 digits of social security, and a dropdown box with type of issue. That shaves a lot of this work off of the overall time.

Opposite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865591)

I have had the exact opposite experience with chat support. On a phone call the person running it likely has no flipping clue what they are doing and are a just a butt filling a seat at a call center. In chat I explain the problem, they tend to *gasp* actually understand, and explain to me what to do in easy steps, or tell me why something can't be done clearly and to the point.

Comcast one night at my parents, they hadn't paid their bill and they got turned off, but they had the money so we just paid through the web portal you get redirected to when your account is cut off. Called support after about 8 hours of no service, ended up calling through twice because the first guy told me that service wouldn't be restored for 24 hours (I knew better, my parents had done this before and it was usually on in a few hours). Second call was a woman that tried to help but eventually spouted the same 24 hour BS.

So I finally broke down and used the Vita's broken-ass web browser to find out if Comcast had web support. Got on there, told the lady who answered the chat exactly my problem. She had me test a few things, asked me to do some very specific things, and eventually was able to get the account or modem or whatever out of the status it was stuck in. I thanked her and gave her a glowing review in the survey thing they had after. Took maybe 10 to 15 minutes for the chat, whereas it took maybe an hours worth of calling to not get anything done that way anyway.

No, you just don't know .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865641)

.. how to ask the right questions! Users are IDIOTS. They will give you extraneous data that has no bearing on the problem at hand if you don't lead them down the right path!

Thank you,


Chat is great when *you* don't speak the language (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865649)

There has been lots of mention of hard-to-understand support staff, and how chat makes this easier. But this also works the other way. I've moved countries a couple of times in the last decade, both time to a country where I don't speak the language. Trying to get internet etc. set up is much harder when you can't speak a word of the language. But live chat and google translate etc. made this process considerably easier. It may not be for everyone, but it's a nice option to have!

Love it (3, Insightful)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865737)

Live chat support is one of the best things ever invented. When you type, I can't hear your accent, which removes a huge barrier to communication for most phone support call centre's i've had to deal with. And I can type faster than I can speak (which is slowly for the benefit of the english-is-not-my-first-language person on the other end of the line). And after i've typed the person on the other end can take their time to digest what i've written, and I can look back over what i've written and amend anything I might have missed, and they can cut & pasted into their own internal knowledgebase.

As for the submitter, I have these questions:

. In what stupid world is account verification information not submitted via a web form before the chat session is initiated? Sure, there might be some people who don't have the required information and it has to be done in the chat session itself, but that should be a rare exception.

. As above, why isn't a summary of the problem also provided via web form before the chat session begins? Most chat support web site's i've seen make you enter a description of your problem, and then offer a few possible resolutions based on a keyword search, alongside the "begin chat now" button, which is a huge timesaver for when people haven't checked the FAQ's first.

. If seeing the users screen is a requirement to do your job, then there is _plenty_ of software available to fill that need. Is something like gotomeeting or teamviewer really out of the question? (i'd never let a remote tech that I didn't know into _my_ screen, but that's not the point :)

I don't like it either (2)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865741)

Way back when companies started live chat I thought it might be a good idea, since you can save the transcript and be sure you didn't forget to write anything down. But all I ever get back when I ask a question is the closest canned answer to my question. Not, mind you, an answer to my question, just an answer to a common question that has roughly the same words. For all I can tell there's just a primitive program on the other end which picks out the first four words from my query and then gives the FAQ response based on a simple match.

When used wisely, chat is a huge cost-saver (1)

ritchman (2699761) | more than 2 years ago | (#40865757)

Two things:
- AI chatbot applicable, which automatically redirects to real-persons when needed
- as colleague mentioned, multitasking. Phone means I can talk to one user at a time; when I was a hard-core casual chatter, I usually had 5-6 private chat windows open.

Change customer service (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40865977)

Why don't you just change your customer service to some web-based email service where every request is replied with an auto-response and then it takes days or weeks until your customers get a generic, pre-fabricated message that doesn't answer anything? You know, like Sony and Ubisoft have.

That would solve your problems and save you a lot of costs, since no customer would attempt to contact you more than once. (Don't worry, with the right marketing, they'll still buy your shit---see Sony and Ubisoft.)

typing account information too long - boohoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866017)

Then sodding well utilise the fact that I'm talking to you through YOUR chat system and have most likely already logged in to your crappy site...

Here's what I do to help (as customer) (1)

MrEdofCourse (2670081) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866037)

I prefer chat support. Actually I prefer non-voice phone communication for everything, but that's another subject. One of the things I do to help is write everything down in advance. That way, when asked, not only do I have all the version numbers, configuration and specs, but also descriptions of problems and error codes ready to copy and paste in the chat. I often get funny replies regarding how fast I "type".

Assuming direct control. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866147)

If you have live chat, just offer another service with that... which is taking control of the user's computer and fixing whatever problem he or she may be having. This will be much faster than waiting for them to attempt and fail to fix whatever it is they are trying to fix.

Yeah, like everything, chat has its bad points, (2)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866169)

The elephant in the room with regards to support is that THERE IS NOT A SINGLE WAY TO PROVIDE SUPPORT THAT DOES NOT HAVE DRAWBACKS.

Take on-site visits. Tech shows up. Problem is intermittent and doesn't occur while the tech is there. Tech's time is wasted. User's time is wasted. No one is happy. Or tech shows up to find that user doesn't have database/network/etc. rights and there is nothing tech can do. Techs have to take extra steps to document what was going on during the visit.

Take phone calls. Hold times. Bad accents. VOIP over spotty networks. The phone call doesn't exist unless the tech properly logs it with an accurate description of the call.

Take email. You've got most of the defects mentioned in TFA that apply to chat combined with a gap between messages that could span days or even weeks.


Depending on the environment, some of the defects mentioned above might be a deal breaker. Which defects are the most critical will vary depending on what sort of support is being offered. Moreover, each of the methods above also have different advantages.

Take chat, since the TFA was about chat. Many vertical software vendors are starting to build chat into their apps in a way that is an incredible aid to support teams. If a user can click the chat button and drag a problem record to the chat window, the support analyst now has access to a wealth of information that would take eons to get a user to properly describe over the phone or through email. More sophisticated tools might include a way for the analyst to access a log of actions the user took last to see what sequence of events triggered the problem or a way for the analyst to share the application screen of the user.

But, of course, there will still be times when a 60 second phone call can hash out something that would take 10 minutes in a chat session or trading 15 or 20 emails. It all depends on what kind of support is needed and the people on either end of the communications link.

Forget real-time support, use email... (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866255)

In my time in the support-barrel, I eliminated real-time support in favor of email. This may not fit every situation, of course. We were supporting a complex software product (ERP) used by largely non-technical users. When we offered real-time support, users would contact us whenever they got stuck, rather than looking in the product documentation, or even asking the person sitting at the next desk. When they really did have a support issue, they would contact us completely unprepared: they didn't know how the error occurred, they didn't know how to reproduce it, they usually hadn't even written the error message down before clicking it away.

As soon as we required contact by email, most of the RTFM questions went away. The real support issues usually arrived with at least some of the necessary information, simply because the user had to sit down and describe in writing what had happened.

After an initial period of adaptation "no, we can't take your call, please describe your issue in an email to xxx@yyy.zzz", we never had the impression that anyone missed the real-time support.

Troll - NOT my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866285)

Nearly every use of chat has been negative, but that goes for *most* of my support experiences. Usually, it's Comcast. I give them my info, and they ask for it again. I give them a detailed description with supporting data, that ask me to turn on my PC.

As an internal support person, if a user hits me up with chat, and it's not going well, I them to call or let me call them back.

Use the right tools for the job at hand (1)

Stolpskott (2422670) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866307)

The last two banks I have worked in have a significant number of Bloomberg users, and the online chat feature built into the Bloomberg client works pretty well - hit the "Help" key twice, the chat window opens up, and you can type your question/comment - anything from "I need a replacement keyboard" or issues with the Excel API integration, to issues with setting up charts and reports or locating data in the Bloomberg systems. Trying to call Bloomberg live support puts you in contact with the same call-centre that services the chat system, and response times are much the same... but you also have the accent of the call-centre personnel to contend with - not a problem if the call centre is in your country, but not many of them are, these days.

From the other side, I have worked as a support monkey with telephone, email, live chat and remote access systems in place. A phone call is definitely better for a conversation with an angry customer (on-site visit is best of all, but who has that option for general support issues without a fat support contract?), while email and live chat are good for conversations where you need a written record of the communication, and remote access is good for obvious reasons but not always possible.

Trying to work in an environment where you only have one of those tools sets you and the customer up for a frustrating experience - "if the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then every problem starts to resemble a nail". If management make sure that you have acess to the most appropriate tools for the job, then client satisfaction should see a noticeable uptick, and probably support staff satisfaction as well (although a pay rise would also help there, you have more chance of getting the tools than the money).

Not all Chat Systems are Equal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40866353)

Chat systems are not all the same. A good chat systems should present the customer with a window to describe the problem. Then when the agent selects the chat the entered information is immediately available.

It's for experienced users (1)

bolt_the_dhampir (1545719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866359)

Every time someone new pops by #yourfavoritedistro on, they have to learn how to pose a question on IRC.

This includes figuring out what is relevant, what is not relevant, when to include a pastebin link with logs, config files and such, the exact command the user is typing, the expected output, the actual output and often also an explanation of the higher goal in case a whole different approach could be suggested.

New users also have issues with using needless abbreviations line "u" and "plz" and use the enter key as punctuation, making it very hard to follow their broken up sentences in crowded channels. Once you stop doing that and put your entire question in one message, don't make assumptions, paste your command and output exactly, the amount of help you can get from friendly voulenteers is nothing short of astonishing.

I know, it's a lot, but you get used to it, and it's great!

Nice to have either option... (2)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866395)

Sometimes a conversation will involve a lot of things that copy and paste is critical for. It also allows one to be a bit more multitasking on either end of the conversation. Particularly if you are using the interaction largely as a pass-through for concrete error-messages/codes and commands to execute on a cli, chat is best.

Frequently in a conversation, I arrange to actually talk to the person (regardless of which end of the conversation I'm on). This happens when a situation is a bit more murky so there is no concrete place to gather failure data, or if a solution warrants an explanation of how things are the way they are and the intent embodied in the steps to resolution. This could be because the fix process is involved and will require a bit of adaptability on the problematic side or just a way to have the person afflicted learn and avoid/fix similar sorts of situations in the future.

IT Support Pro Tells Why He Hates IT Support (2)

netwarerip (2221204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866421)

Fixed the headline. Carry on.

"people type slower than they speak" (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40866555)

Maybe you do, bunkie. Some of us know how to type.

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