Monday, October 08, 2012

Online Automation of Services (RANT)

First let me say that I am a very strong advocate of automated and online services. The fact that they are online mean you can access them from any connected device, typically 24 hours a day. The fact that they are 'automated' typically mean there is no need for 2 person interaction which usually means you, the user, can get to the service directly without being slowed down (or blocked) by some other human being that doesn't know exactly what it is you are wanting to do and you must first explain yourself. This is generally how I see any service that I would normally be able to handle myself, without the need of some other "Live Human Being". Not that I want to sound as though I am being unsocial, quite the opposite actually, if the website or service I am using does utilize social services then there is a good chance that I may be communicating with everyone else using the service and this is generally a good thing, since I too would have the ability to control just who it is I wish to socialize with.

Where I begin my rant is when you sign up for a service online using the website's secure server and give your personal information including credit card which they have no trouble processing. It is when you wish to change the service to the point that you no longer want a certain service and are told to contact their toll free number or a 'consultant will contact you' in order for you to cancel. Real Audio is a good example of this, where you can sign up for their services that are billed monthly, semi annually or annually, but when you want to cancel, you have no choice but to contact them directly where they will usually attempt to keep your business and also upgrade the services, quite often free of charge for a period of time, instead of cancelling. I am sure this methodology works for many companies where the shopper ends up buying more instead of canceling all together, however this is something that should be up to the individual, especially since the impulse buying using a credit card doesn't require any human interaction, it should be the same when you want to stop using said credit card. Fortunately for me, in the recent cancellation of the Real Audio service this year, it was now done automatically by logging in to my account and choosing to cancel the subscription.. after 14 seasons of paying for the Big Brother package, this is the first year that they (Real Superpass) has made it 'normal'. The same can't be said for such services like logmein however, as I have learned through my attempt to change and/or cancel services with them. I took advantage of the 'online chat' option which allowed me to speak to a live human being at their end through a text chat, only to learn that in order for my services to be canceled, that 'they would have my account representative contact me'? I'm sorry, 'account representative'.. is this supposed to make me feel important enough to have some dedicated human being deal with my services, all of which are automated since I signed up using my credit card, which they have on file, and go ahead and renew without any warning, even as much as a simple email stating that the annual renewal is pending and that this charge will be taken from my credit card shortly? This happened last year and was held up simply because my credit card had expired and in order to complete the transaction I had to update my profile. But nothing has changed... this company still takes advantage of having a credit card on file, which remains active on the assumption that you may buy additional services and want to make it 'easier for me' not having to re-enter my information. I'm sorry but I would rather not have this information stored.. but I have no option of this and as it appears, in order to take advantage of any special discount coupon you may have, you first have to get the account representative to credit your card that has already had the annual fees removed from it and then re-purchase the service at the discounted rate. It seems to me that all of this could have been prevented if a simple email was sent out to me prior to them automatically taking funds from my credit card. Not only was I perturbed by this customer service chat person telling me that they would have "my account representative contact me immediately"--which was changed to tomorrow after spending almost 15 minutes in a chat back and forth, but when I questioned all this BS service, stating I didn't find this appropriate since I could sign up for the service without the need for an associate contacting me, yet when I wanted to get a charge reversed on my credit card, the fact that the online chat wasn't good enough, when I did this same thing the previous year and it was done, I was told that my entire account would be banned if I bypassed this accounts rep and went directly to my credit card company. So all of a sudden this so-called great service that this company is providing me, by having a 'live chat' option on their website where you can actually communicate with another human being has turned in to a bitch session back and forth, to the point that my only options were to say 'thank you' and hang up on the chat, stating that I would be in contact with this 'accounts consultant' on my own time, or to accept the fact that the services will continue as normal, at the rate that they have set because it had already been taken from my credit card. The only problem is this human interaction and lack of reverse automation of purchases.. the actual service that logmein provides as a remote conduit is the best.. but certainly not invaluable to the point that it is priceless, as there are numerous other remote services companies available and all this negative human interaction has done for me is make me start to re-think my remote services options by consulting with other available services...

If there is one thing that can be learned from reading this rant, it would be simply be aware of just what services you may be signing up for and question things when they want to keep your credit card on file. Since you are usually buying a service for a set amount of time, there should be no reason to keep your credit card on file. Understanding such services like the Apple Store will want an active credit card is fine, since you are at your own free will to buy apps whenever you want and note you can cancel this at any time!