Why Are Companies So Horrible At Pre-sales Customer Service?

Phone OperatorI have a standard rule of thumb: any product that sells with a warranty usually becomes a product I have specific questions about before I’m willing to make the purchase (especially technology/electronics). But what are my options for getting these questions answered? If I want answers now, I have to check out an FAQ. (Has anyone else noticed that FAQs answer your questions less often than not?)

Or perhaps I can dial a phone number (that is, once I find it—when will sites stop hiding them?). And why is there only one phone number with seven tiers of menus to route me to human? And no, I don’t want an email address; I’m interested in this particular purchase now, not tomorrow when I get a response to my email.

One piece of retro-style customer service I love but don’t find very often: the operator. With an operator, there’s no need to hear the stupid intro of, “listen closely as our options have recently changed.” And again, more often than not, my question falls under the routing category of “other,” but I can’t skip ahead by pressing 6 or 7 on the keypad (often the numbers that are “other”). I have to listen to every single option to get to know the number of the last one, which is inevitably “other.”

So, to review, I first have to look around for a phone number. Then get routed to what I think the equivalent of pre-sales is according to the menu system. And if I’m lucky, I’ll get someone to help me. But they may just tell me I’m in the wrong place. In which case, I get fed back into phone-robot-routing hell.

Another option (which often can be faster) is to drive down to the closest Best Buy and ask someone a question there. But this is another “more often than not”—those employees don’t know the answer to my question. They didn’t make the product; they just want to sell it. I want to talk to someone who was specifically trained in this product at Sony, Toshiba, Canon, HP, or wherever. But does anyone other than the engineers or designers who made it know anything beyond what’s written in the online documentation I’ve likely already looked at?

So many times I’ve been ready to buy something only to pass because of lack of information. And I don’t think I’m alone. Check out this interesting piece which points out ways in which companies might fix this problem. And if you’ve had any good experiences with pre-sales, let me know in the comments.