Why Big Companies Hide Contact Information on Their Web Sites

Categories: Tech

tech-comcast.jpg
Comcast's "customer central" has everything you need...except contact information.
A few years ago, I was getting ready to sell a house. My existing mortgage company had been purchased by another company and my account had been transferred. However, when it was transferred, the permissions that allow customer service representatives to do basic, but important, tasks like provide a payoff amount, were not available to them.

Thus began a nearly 20-day struggle to do nothing more than get a dollar amount that was owed to them so they could be paid off. You'd think they might actually want that.

As I navigated the maze of departments, I found out that one small part of the company had the ability to change the permissions on my account and free me from this labyrinth of hell. Unfortunately, the people in that department had no phones. That's right, they were cut off. I wasn't sure if they were some secret covert agency operating within the confines of a home loan organization or if this company was just idiotic. Finally, I found a customer service rep who had a friend who worked in that department. That is how the issue was resolved: I know a guy.

After reading about Steve Jansen's recent bout with Comcast, I thought back to that event and realized, for some big companies, giving customers access to them is something they don't really want.

I've been in the web design and development business since the late '90s and one thing that has not changed for the vast majority of commercial businesses is that contact information needs to be easy to find on a company website. This is a basic premise for any business, online or off. If your customers can't reach you, it will make it tough for them to patronize your business.

But that rule doesn't apply to large corporations, particularly those with thousands if not millions of customers. For them, they make their customers jump through hoop after hoop on a website to find a phone number and many don't list them at all.

On the websites for Comcast and AT&T, two of the biggest cable providers in the country, it is nearly impossible to find a phone number. Visitors have to click through a series of links and are prompted to answer questions in hopes they might solve the problem themselves. Frequently asked questions are offered up in lieu of phone numbers and emails.



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15 comments
IT Services Houston
IT Services Houston

All of us are aware that search engines are capable of churning out huge number of prospects to a business's website. Getting ranked on top of the search engines mean more lead generation.

kstallings100
kstallings100

Hell, I payed nearly $200 just to get out of my AT&T indentured servitude. Best money I ever spent.

kstallings100
kstallings100

They don't want us to contact them because they know we only want to cancel their services.

Randybud
Randybud

Are you implying that having MS teach you Access was what you were entitled to, by saying "try that now."?  That would be stupid.  And it was stupid you didn't learn it on your own, or pay for it.  And it was stupid MS put up with your sh_t.  It's stupid I'm wasting my time trying to explain to you, how you abused MS's good will in supporting their product.  It's also stupid that you will simply get defensive, instead of actually looking at this without bias, to cover your ass with lame excuses.  If you wake up to this rebuke, there's hope for you, otherwise, you will continue down the wide highway of the stupid, that leads to destruction.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan

Now that is a service I wouldn't mind paying a small fee for!

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan

 Dear God! AOL. Many moons ago I made the mistake of using them as my ISP. I don't think anyone there could not understand the concept of customer service even if you wrote down the definition for them in big, bold, perfect script.  AOL is the place where fired Comcast customer support personnel go when Comcast boots them. I had a bit of a headache with Comcast this weekend. To whit, on Saturday my kid goes online and whoops! She can't connect. We checked the modem, it was on. Got the little message that you have been disconnected. Well..........I know I made a payment earlier in the week. Called them up, guy on the phone claims, no, we have no record of payment. After arguing with the guy, (pointless I know, but when it comes to my cash, I get a little bit discombobulated when greeted with such idiocy.  ) he informs me that I made a mistake, not them and they would tack on a $30 bounced check charge.  Once I got reconnected, I went online and checked my account and whadda you know, I was credited with 2 payments, with a credit of $4.40, but pending charges? Went up an additional $20 from what the guy on the phone told me.  So yes, I am anticipating a clusterfuck. A buddy of mine in California found himself the victim of a hard disconnect from Comcast. Even Comcast admitted there was an error on their end and a neighbor of my friend was supposed to be the one that got disconnected. You would think they would fix his service right up. Nope.  They insisted that he pay a reconnect fee. He insisted no way in bloody hell. This went round and round for a couple of weeks and the situation only resolved itself when he phoned up an attorney pal of his.  Needless to say, after Comcast got that call, they fixed him right up and gave him six months free.

Corey
Corey

Try finding the number for your health insurance provider, when you have an emergency.. Same deal, I should start a website with all the applicable numbers in one place, update it daily so instead of the rhetoric you have a one stop answer to avoid this BS corporate  bureaucracy.

Flash
Flash

It's because most of the time you are calling to cancel service. In the old days I called Microsoft's tech support three times a day for about two months to ask a bunch of stupid questions about Access.  I was working on a pretty complex database for my employer.  No menus, no hassles.  They just answered the phone, walked me through whatever it was I was trying to do, and said "Thanks for calling".  Then I'd call back in a couple of hours for more help.  They completely taught me Access. Try that now. 

David Houston
David Houston

Good article!  Pretty much sums up the issue.  I figure that companies like AT&T and Comcast are trying to squeeze every penny (that they can) out of you.  Once they are into your bank account they don't care what level of service you are getting, so long as the direct debit keeps coming.  In AT&T's case, as I discovered, they will even be rude [I posted my experience under Steve Jansen's story.]  If you can walk away and get another service, do it.  I worked in Customer Service (IT) for years, and at least I can say I was never rude to anyone, and always gave the best service I could.  I've grown sick of being shunted around switchboards (often in Bangalore) and feel that if they (Banks, ISP's etc...) don't want or care for my custom that much, then maybe I shouldn't be their customer anyway.  One thing I recall about one of my calls to AT&T when they asked me for a death certificate (whenever (the customer service associate said) my elderly m-i-l dies - she's still alive incidentally), I asked the woman 'who the heck do you think you are to say something like that', her reply was 'who the heck do you think you are', my reply a paying customer...  Hard not to lose the head with rude people like that, I'm only thankful my wife didn't make the call at a time when she was going through such emotional turmoil with her mother in a coma. If I learned one thing in my career it's hard to win a new customer but darned easy to lose one, and once that customer is gone, he's gone.  AT&T have lost my custom, I'm gone...

Jason
Jason

If the cost of the phone calls is bothering them, they should move away from 800 numbers.  800 numbers are treated like any regular number when calling from a cell phone.  With the dominance of cell phones and rapidly diminishing landline base, there is no strong reason to offer 800 numbers for contact any more.

No
No

Everyone at ConocoPhillips thanks you for that important clarification. Or at least I think so, since I couldn't call and ask.

autumn
autumn

Conoco has not been a company since 2002. ConocoPhillips is the company you are referring to. 

big red
big red

The surest way to get through the automated systems, especially the ones that ask you to speak the answers to the questions they ask you, is to cuss like a pissed off sailor . When they as the general area of your question, your answer should be "you m---f---ker, give me a g-- d--n son of a bitch right now, a--hole." It is therapeutic to scream into the phone if you can. Most systems have some kind of detection system and you get sent immediately to a live person. Now in the case of some companies, like comcast, it is a short lived victory since most of them have their head up their ass.

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