Ordering Online Versus Calling it In: Which is Better?

by Nora Dunn on 24 March 2009 8 comments
Photo: Nora Dunn

Let’s say you struggle with internet terms & conditions and privacy policies that go on forever, a slow connection, or an enrollment form that just won’t accept your information. Or you try order that item or sign up for that service (like internet, or telephone, or a subscription) online, only to find that after you have entered your credit card information no less, some error was encountered, and you are asked to call customer service.

 

So you call customer service. Or maybe you don’t even bother with the internet side first and go straight to the telephone, weary of your information being stored or lost in electronic purgatory, or hoping to get a better deal by talking to a human being.

 

The customer service agent seems nice enough, however they don’t actually speak English. Or they don’t understand your query. Or you spend another half an hour trying to accomplish that which could have been done online in half the time (had it worked). Or you just plain sit on hold for…ever.

 

It has happened to all of us.

 

It seems we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we sign up for a certain service or place an order online, we may miss the fine print that could have saved us money by calling the order in. Or we try to place the order by phone, only to become so frustrated by the lack of efficiency that we hang up and go back to the computer.

 

And in running between the phone and the computer, we wonder how badly we really need that service or product after all.

 

Here are a few pros and cons to signing up for services or placing orders online, versus calling customer service:

 

 

Why Calling Customer Service Rocks

  • Talking to humans (especially if you are nice) can result in additional discounts, and even the possible discovery of special promotions.
  • Customer service has the ability to customize and discount a plan or product, especially if you ask for the manager.
  • Having somebody’s name builds in accountability (keep records of your calls) if you run into trouble later on.

 

Why Calling Customer Service is a Pain

  • Humans make mistakes, and you have no way of knowing what they are entering into their computers.
  • Phoning in an order can take longer.
  • Calling cues are a bitch. I recently heard “Your call will be answered in approximately…4…minutes” – which turned into the longest 4 minutes in my life…45 minutes later.

 

 

Why Using Online Platforms Rocks

  • There are often additional discounts available to online customers (just the other day, I spent 10 minutes on hold while a customer service rep tried to find the online discount I was referring to in a botched online order. In frustration I hung up and re-placed the order…online).
  • You can ensure that your personal information (like your name and address) is properly entered.
  • If you sign up for a service online, it usually means that ongoing bills and communication will also be sent online, saving paper.

 

Why Online Orders are a Pain

  • Signing up for a service online can launch you into a category of customer that is entitled to little to no customer assistance.
  • Signing up online for an internet service (when you don’t have internet to begin with) is a little difficult.
  • Security of credit card and personal information can be compromised.
  • Once you press that “submit” button, you always wonder if the order will actually go through properly. Horror stories abound.

 

 

For me, the jury is still out on whether it is better to use customer service to place orders or sign up for new services, or to simply live my life digitally. I have had both success and horror stories for each. What about you?

 

 

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Guest's picture

Traditionally I was a pro-internet guy. But recently have had a few purchases going sour (still waiting on a dog collar ordered 8 weeks ago) and so I'm losing faith in the system.

When it comes to customer service I prefer to try and resolve the issue via email. That makes it so I don't have to set aside a block of time to work on the problem. If it doesn't work I will call, which many times works just fine. I'm a big fan of hitting "0" a million times until an operator picks up.

Guest's picture

I'm not so sure there's one way that's better than the other. You made it fairly clear that there are pros and cons to both approaches; however, I feel like if you're fairly confident with what you're signing up for, save yourself the time and just do it online.

Guest's picture
MB

Someone I know used to manage online and phone sales for a major department store, and he thought that credit card info was more safe online relative to over the phone. While they did background checks on all of their employees, they would occasionally have call center employees stealing credit card numbers from customers.

He did think that most of those cases got caught, with the employees being fired and charged for whatever crime applied.

Just one thought.

Guest's picture
Guest

Or the fact that many companies just have their employees type in the info into the same system the customer would be using if they went online to order the product.

Guest's picture
Sally

Surprise. I have heard of a case where the paper catalog prices were lower than the same item on a large department store's website.

Nora Dunn's picture

Interesting responses people...so far I guess it just goes to show that it is best determined on a case-by-case basis. My getting frustrated with a customer service rep the other day trying to find information I'd found online was testament to Trevor's observation that if you know what you're signing up for, tis best to just do it yourself online.

Guest's picture

Tough call, but I usually prefer to click . . .

Guest's picture
Guest

I used to be a firm internet believer, until a credit card wouldn't process online and I had to call it in.
The person on the phone gave me a 30% discount that didn't show up on the website... at least when dealing with that company, I'll phone it.