Should we expect customer support for a free service?

I’ve written several articles recently about my experiences as a customer. I’ve talked about HP, eBay, American Express, Google, and may be some others I don’t remember.

I’ve been writing about how happy I was or how unhappy I was. But the common thing was that there was some level of customer service.

Some of these companies provide me services for free (for example – American Express, Google, Amazon, eBay for buyers). Some – for money I pay to them (eBay get commissions from my sales, HP sold be a product). But I expected a customer support and service from all of them, and I got it.

Is it right to expect customer support from a free service?

I actually had a real problem with Google for another free service they provide – the advertisements. You might have noticed that in the beginning I had Google ads on this blogs, and now I don’t. They closed my account claiming the little amount clicks I got (after all, I only get a mere thousand visitors a months) was fraudulent. I disagreed of course and appealed. That didn’t help, but I did get a response for my appeal (unacceptable is it may be, I got a response). This is a known issue with Google, there are many reports of bloggers being thrown out of the Google Ads program right after they accumulate some payable amount of money. You can Google it (pun intended). Google does it because the advertisers might sue them, like in this example. But when they do that – I can’t do much to defend myself. I can sue them too, but it won’t help much as it was in this example. So I just left and became a publisher for a different advertisement engine. Not a considerable income anyway. Point is, unacceptable is at may be, automated as it may be, there was a minimal response.

Should I have been expecting more? Should I expect for a real person to respond me? Should I expect for a 1-800 number? Even if it is outsourced to some call center in India?

Another recent example – Facebook. I don’t know how many of you noticed that I also have a page, but those who have – might have noticed that the recent articles were not posted there. Why? Because Facebook blocks them for whatever reason. I didn’t get any (even automated) mail explaining why, and when I sent a bug report I didn’t get any response. I got a link to use to contest the block, but I haven’t gotten any response to that either. It seems they all go to a trash bin directly.

This is an extreme example: Facebook doesn’t provide any customer service at all. The most you can ask for is their help pages and FAQ’s, with 3 lines of text on each topic. You got a problem? They don’t care, don’t want to care, and will just ignore you. You’ve got no alternative for them anyway (MySpace is dead, Google+ is not really useful at this stage, and I don’t think there’s any difference re the customer service there anyway). Do Facebook provide better support to paying customers? Surprisingly – they don’t. For example read this, but then again – I myself am in fact a paying customer: I got advertisement credits to use on Facebook from my host service provider, and I used them. Doesn’t matter to them, they’ll take your money, but you won’t get any service.

So should we expect a customer support for a free service? No.

Is it a free service? NO! Neither Facebook, nor Google, and not even American Express are not doing us any favors. They provide us “free” service for profit, and the payment comes when we watch advertisements, click on sponsored links, or swipe the card and force the merchant to pay for us. All of this is funded by us in the end through the product prices. The service is “free” for us, but the companies are being paid for providing it, and without us using it they will go out of business.

So why do they treat us like that? May be instead of using Facebook to organize demonstrations against Mubarak, someone would use something else to organize demonstration against Facebook itself…

Your Little (and a bit disgruntled) Advisor.

PS: Apparently, I’m not alone at all. Even the developers of the Facebook apps, the bread and butter of Facebook income, complain about the lack of any customer support.

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2 Responses to Should we expect customer support for a free service?

  1. Pingback: Horrible American Airlines servce – a unique experience? - The Little Advisor

  2. Pingback: Facebook changes the user interface. Again. Damn…. - The Little Advisor

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