Friday, January 24, 2014

When live help on a website leaves you none the wiser

Live help on a website is a great idea: getting immediate answers is exactly what I want when I'm wondering about buying a new service or product.

But when it's done poorly, it is worse than useless.

Take this conversation I had with 'Andy' on the EE website today when considering switching my mobile from 'three' because I get such poor coverage where I live to EE's 'superfast' 4G service

I ask Andy if he can check EE's coverage at my postcode.  Here's what happened:

Andy: at 16:17:24
I'd be happy to help you on that
Andy: at 16:17:30
May i know your post code
keith: at 16:13:13
my postcode is DE...
Andy: at 16:18:39
you do have finer coverage of 4g but great 3 g
keith: at 16:14:34
Sorry, what does that mean?
Andy: at 16:19:39
you do have fine coverage for 4g only 3 bars and 3 g is great

Ok, that's not exactly clear, so I press on:

keith: at 16:15:37
What difference will 3 bars for 4g make?
Andy: at 16:20:35
It sis fine not great

Oh, now I understand.  Actually, I don't.

keith: at 16:16:53
I don't understand that. What is the difference between fine and great?
Andy: at 16:22:00
I will explain
Andy: at 16:22:21
you will get 4g but the network will not be storng
Andy: at 16:22:31
It may fall some time
Andy: at 16:22:48
And 3g it will be great

Right.  Go on:

keith: at 16:19:17
Will I always be able to browse on the internet?
Andy: at 16:23:55
yes you can\
keith: at 16:19:57
But it might be slow?
Andy: at 16:25:01
yes slow

Now I get technical.  I have no idea what it means, but I ask:

keith: at 16:20:58
can you tell me what speed I should expect for upload and download?
Andy: at 16:26:00
it will be 17 to 19 mpbs speed
keith: at 16:21:52
What would it be if it was great?
Andy: at 16:26:38
21 to 23 mpbs

Sounds impressive and there doesn't seem to be much difference between fine and great.  But Andy has got another idea:

Andy: at 16:30:31
you can go for 3 g plans
Andy: at 16:30:38
You have great fine
keith: at 16:27:02
what speed would 3g plans give
Andy: at 16:31:50
7.2 mpbs

I don't really know what I'm talking about, but that doesn't sound anywhere near as good! So I ask:

keith: at 16:28:02
And on my postcode I would definitely get 17 on 4g?
Andy: at 16:32:52
I cannot comment on  that

Eh?  Wait a minute - he just told me that I would get 17-19 on 4g.

keith: at 16:28:42
but that is what you said earlier?
Andy: at 16:33:32
yes but indoors it may be till 17 mpbs
keith: at 16:29:31
sorry, what does that mean? It may be till?
Andy: at 16:34:11
17 mpbs
keith: at 16:29:57
but what does may be till mean?
Andy: at 16:35:01
I will explain
Andy: at 16:35:10
As looking at your coverage
Andy: at 16:35:27
you may get till 17 mpbs speed
Andy: at 16:35:38
It may go higher and lower to

Now, I'm really confused.  And it's not just because 'Andy's' first language is obviously not English:

keith: at 16:31:24
I am sorry, I don't understand 'may be till' - it is not an English phrase
Andy: at 16:36:26
I will explain
Andy: at 16:36:36
As looking at your covarage
Andy: at 16:36:51
You may get speed till 17 mpbs speed

Oh, right.  Silly me.  Then nothing for 50 seconds until this:

Andy: at 16:37:04
May io know which plan you have selected

I press on:

keith: at 16:33:19
Earlier you said I would get 17-19 mbs
keith: at 16:33:30
Are you saying that is not true?
Andy: at 16:38:17
yes as looking at your covrage
Andy: at 16:38:33
Please click here
Andy: at 16:39:01
you can see
Andy: at 16:39:06
If you had fill bars
Andy: at 16:39:15
The speed will be 21 to 23 mpbs

And so it goes on for another 10 minutes until Andy asks me:

Andy: at 16:50:38
Did you selected any plan

The truth is that I am really unsure what he has told me.  He kept saying I would get 17-19mbs, which seems really fast, given that I can't even receive texts on 'Three's' network here.  But when I asked him if I would definitely get 17mbs he said: 'I can't comment on that!'