Web Savvy: Don't Call Us--Ever
So as my first act as I take over this column, let me tell you the toll-free number for calling Amazon.com's customer service--800/201-7575--because even with a compass and a map, you may not be able to find it on Amazon's site.
Recently I ordered a nonstick pan from the online giant. It arrived with a big dent. In the past when I had a problem with an Amazon shipment, I called, and a reassuring voice told me everything would be all right. But this order's packing slip didn't list a phone number.
I went to Amazon's site and couldn't find the phone number anywhere. Eventually I e-mailed customer service. I received a speedy reply with the number--but only because I'd asked for it.
So were we wrong to warn readers to look for phone numbers at Web sites? Many sites, Amazon especially, have excellent online tools for resolving problems. But surely there are major sites that encourage personal communication. To find out, I asked Jupiter Media Metrix for a list of the most-visited e-commerce sites and tried searching for phone numbers. Here's a sampling of what I found.
An unscientific study--but what gives? I refuse to believe that phone-based service has no place on the Web.
"Customers have asked us to provide more self-service tools online," says Bill Price, Amazon.com's vice president of global customer service. "As long as they're online browsing or making purchases, they want to check their account, change settings, and track shipments."
But this customer wants to talk to someone, I tell him. Price explains that even before Amazon removed the customer service number from its packing slips (to steer even more people online, he concedes), only a fraction of customer inquiries were done over the phone.
Don't get me wrong. We should all try Web-based help. Maybe even send a test e-mail to see how quickly the company responds. But until online support works as well as a human, sites should make it easy for us to call. If they don't, it's time to hunt down those toll-free numbers and share them with your friends.