Amazon Chat Support Gave This Man "The Worst Customer Experience"

"Do not use Amazon chat support," Chris Williams warns. "This just happened to me."

Anyone who's spent several hours on the phone with their local Internet provider during an outage can tell you: There's little more frustrating than bad customer service. Chris Williams knows this feeling of frustration well, if his account of a recent encounter with Amazon chat support is legitimate.

"That was perhaps the worst customer experience I have had," Williams told Fast Company via email. Williams reached out to Amazon via chat after encountering an email address almost exactly like his own. Worried it was some sort of phishing attempt, he was connected with "Farah," who started the conversation off on the wrong foot by calling Williams by the name Brittni. "my name is not brittni.. my name is Chris Williams."

Farah apologized profusely for the mistake, but the conversation went downhill from there:

"Every question I asked, and was asked, the time between each of my responses to her took between 5 - 15 minutes," Williams says. So, understandably, he snapped, and demanded to be in touch with another representative.

Williams assured Farah: "I AM POSTING THIS CONVERSATION ONLINE. THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE. WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED." And indeed, he put the entire conversation in a Google Doc and shared it on Hackernews.

A rep never did call Williams. Instead, he called them, but "they seemed confused and were unable to help." He was forced to change the password on the bogus email account himself and change the email address so it was dissimilar from his own. He said the experience left him "disappointed that Amazon would hire or outsource their customer support to people unequipped to handle issues like this ... Amazon has been a wonderful resource but experiences like this make me question the security of my account."

[Image: Flickr via user gatordawg99]

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  • cherylaka

    I just had a very similar experience that started in chat and has been going on with about 7 different customer service reps who can't figure out something simple. I ordered new software, when it arrived it had been opened (seal broken), scratches on the disk, and the box was definitely used. I still don't have this resolved. Part of the problem is that by the names and communication skills I can tell Amazon outsources their customer service. Appears to be somewhere in India. I also have two Amazon accounts under the same email, and Amazon was never able to get that straightened out. I have been shopping with them since 1997 and they get worse each year.

  • Jessica Robin

    this seems fake. amazon has awesome support, i have never had an unhelpful chat to this date. and ive been with amazon for a few years now.

  • Five Ws

    There is an email address that LOOKS LIKE MINE. OHHHHH nooooo! I am gonna call Amazon since they have drones they can take it out!!!! What does this article mean? Encountering this email where? Five Ws. Start there Jenna and maybe this article will make sense. I wonder how those professionals in Argentina are getting along.

  • Fireborne

    When dealing with new potential vendors the first thing I ask is "Where is your call center located?", if they don't say USA I don't use them!

  • perfectlysafe

    This looks like a case of moderately poor customer service exacerbated by the fact that the customer is wildly unhelpful. I don't understand from what he's written what the nature of the problem is - it appears that he's asking amazon to delete someone else's gmail account. If he's asking for something that amazon might be able to help with, then it's not clear what that is.

    And if you're waiting ten minutes between responses and the person at the other end is obviously a bit confused, then it might be wise to spend two of those minutes explaining exactly what the problem is OR spend all of it inventing a contraption that makes it look like steam is coming out of your ears.

    Finally, bad customer service doesn't excuse Chris Williams' infantile behaviour. What a complete prick.

  • inachu

    On the onset in chat always say you prefer to be called Sir.. This person must have had several chat windows open with other customers.

  • nicole

    5 min in between answers means the agent had to respond to 3 chats or more at once (one of them being a highly aggravated britni I guess). I think that's not even the agents fault, its bad management within the call centre

  • cherylaka

    I think they outsource to India, put all kinds of quotas and time limits on the reps, and yes...have multiple customers they are dealing with at once. I also had to wait a very long time between when I typed in chat and got a response.

  • Tia

    I'm confused as to why Mr Williams believes he has the right to have an account that is similar in name (but not exact) as his own deleted? I thought it was illegal to hack in or log in to an email account that doesn't belong to you and change its password?

  • Anthony Reardon

    Lol! C'mon and pull yourselves out of the gutter. Seriously, nobody is going to draw the connection to the featured "Mayday" live video-based support for the new Amazon Kindle?

    I've long been an advocate for "online personal service". I mean, it only matters if say you want to compete. There are two big elephants in the room, and this article is a perfect example.

    First is the notion of automated efficiency being driven by the developer community. It remains a primary selling point for technology- that you can cut the cost of people. Enter the contact form and take a confirmation number. Only problem is the experience can suck for end-users.

    Second is the notion of call centers. This addresses the notable demand for human interaction, but most companies are still looking for the same kind of automated efficiency that comes with economies of scale. You're paying low for volume and it's probably scripted instead of empowering. Problem with that is people expect to get a rational resolution to problems requiring some common sense, and it sucks even worse when they don't get it.

    So I find it really interesting to see what a technology driven company is going to do when they offer personal service. Chances are the outcome is predictable, but seeing that commercial for Amazon's mayday support showed promise. That's what it should be like. I'm wondering what it is actually like.

    Tell me the scenario in the article here wasn't an obvious case of some unempowered call center staff, probably poorly paid and afraid of losing their job, trying to navigate automated customer info and some scripted checklist. I can imagine them looking at their screen at "Brittni", trying to pull up the script for "email>_________".

    It's not about the technology, it's about the people that use it. That's the point of online personal service. If you're looking for automated efficiency and economy of scale, you're not really competing on that front.

    Best, Anthony

  • obi4amamazon

    Amazon's customer service is pretty good. They place their customer service at top priority and always treat their customers like kings. But there always will be a few bad apples here and there. And all customer service agents will not be good. I think people realize this and reading this will not deter me. It made me laugh quite a lot, it looks so comical. But it does not change my attitude towards amazon. They had always fixed any wrongs the sellers had done.

  • cherylaka

    I'm glad you have had good experiences with them. I did in 1997-2000. The last 14 years, it has increasingly gotten bad. And I learned from my experience this week, if you buy a product from an Amazon store...let's say Fred's Electronics, that Amazon can pull the product from their overall inventory and not from Fred's at all. So, you order from Fred because you see he has really great reviews, then instead someone at the warehouse pulls a product from George's store inventory and you get a used product when you ordered new. Now, you are ticked at George when it wasn't his fault and give him a bad review because you don't know this. You return the product, he loses the sale, and Amazon is a jerk of a company for doing this!

  • sola6loria

    Seems like this guy was being awfully disagreeable. But I guess he thinks that's his right, since he's a person with hopes and dreams and the support rep is not.

  • Amber

    Can someone help me understand why it's Amazon's responsibility to help Chris Williams with a Gmail account? What...?