Digital Marketing: The Lure of False Promises

My pet peeve of the week: engaging with “Live Help” that isn’t actually “live.” It’s a rare occasion that I’ve initiated a live chat for help with something online; mostly, because I feel like it’s not going to be a “live” person on the other end and I’ll just walk away annoyed.

It should not have come as any surprise to me, then, that I had the interaction that I did with a live help feature this week. It left me thinking the more proper nomenclature for “live chat” should be “automated help” in many cases. And, if that’s the case, I say it’s better to just set up a search-based “help” feature and call it a day.

The first time I tried to engage with “live help” on this particular site (which shall remain nameless), I was told to wait 10 minutes. That should have tipped me off. Ten minutes in online waiting equals about 30 of waiting in the offline world. Who is going to sit and stare at their screen for 10 minutes?

Nevertheless, I tried again. Success. I got “Nadine.” Here’s a verbatim copy of my exchange. Keep in mind, the question I’m asking is basically “I used to be able to do X on the site and I’m not able to anymore. Why?”:


Live help

You are now chatting with NADINE

kellie: I used to be able to set up news alerts for different journalists’ stories, and I can’t seem to find where that option is on the site anymore. Can you help?

NADINE: Hi Kellie, I understand that you want to set up a news alerts. I’ll be glad to assist you. May I have your name, email address, phone number and billing address on the account?

kellie: [submitted my information]

NADINE: Thank you. Can you hold while I access that information for you?

kellie: sure

NADINE: Thank you for holding. Our records indicate that you have an active account registered under Login: xxxx

kellie: yep, that’s me. So, can you tell me how I can find the function that allows me to set up email alerts for specific journalists or keywords on the site?

NADINE: You may do so by clicking on the “Newsletters” link, located under the Tools & Formats section at the bottom of the home page.

kellie: Yes, I’ve tried that and I can’t seem to locate the “set up an email alert” option

NADINE: Are you now in “Manage your xxxx Emails and alerts” section?

kellie: i see that written across the top of the screen I’m in, but I still don’t see where I can actually click on an option to “manage my alerts.” The only options list newsletters and alerts that xxxx has created. Not something where I can type in a “topic” or “journalist name” and receive an alert.

NADINE: That’s just our available news letters.

kellie: Right, so back to my original question – is the option NO LONGER AVAILABLE for me to create my own alert based on keywords or a name that I type in?

NADINE: It is no longer available Kellie. These are the only news letters or email alerts available to xxxx subscribers.


Between the waiting for a response and the “processing my subscriber information” (which was completely unnecessary, in my opinion, for this particular question), this exchange took more than 20 minutes.  We could have eliminated most of this nonsense and cut to the chase with her last response in about 2 minutes.

Maybe Nadine was real? If so, then she’s definitely following some sort of strange protocol that spits out automated responses. This is no better than talking to a robot, in my opinion. Instead, maybe that time should go to staffing Nadine on a phone line to answer my question.

With many companies looking to make their sites more personalized and engaging, this experience left me considering the following:

  • If you offer a “live” feature of any kind on your website, be sure to keep your promise. If “live” really means “automated response,” or an over-programmed set of responses from a live human, perhaps you should re-think the labeling or consider another method of engagement.
  • Think through the customer experience of your “engagement” features – and put them through a series of test runs soliciting feedback. How easy is it for customers to engage and get answers to their questions? Are they being asked too many qualifying questions up front?

Have you been lured by similar false promises with online engagement?

Photo courtesy of Palo on Flickr

Connect with Kellie:

Twitter: @kshe
Kellie Sheehan