Tech & The Web

Sometimes Customer Support Isn’t Supportive at All

Over the weekend, my mom had to call customer support for AOL when she had a login issue. It shouldn’t have been so complicated.

I remember a time when customer support departments actually supported customers in times of need. These days, it seems less and less common to actually get help from customer support people.

My parents are both nearing 80 in age. (She doesn’t read this blog, so I doubt I’ll catch much flak for saying that.) My dad isn’t particularly computer savvy. My mom is more computer savvy. But when there’s a problem, I’m the first person they call.

The email glitch

Mom primarily uses her iPad for her email, which is an AOL email account. (Yes, I’m working on that.) She also has a desktop computer, but the table she uses for the computer was the victim of a mishap and it took my dad a while to fix the issue. Mom just continued her email work on her iPad and didn’t think about it.

But when he finished repairs to the desk, she tried to log in to her email account on the desktop. Since it had been a while, AOL wanted to send a four-digit verification code to her “recovery email,” which was another AOL email address she hadn’t used in quite a while.

It’s a form of two-factor authentication many services rely on.

But it was so long, in fact, that she wasn’t certain what the full email address was at first. It gave her the first two and last two digits of the email username with a string of asterisks in between. Since she couldn’t log in to the secondary email address to get the four-digit code for the primary email address login, she called me.

I called AOL’s customer support line on a three-way call that included her, so that I could step in if necessary and explain the situation. It went fine until I had to speak up about something. The operator, who had a fairly thick foreign accent, asked who else was on the call. My mom, who had previously done the talking, told her that I was her son and that I was trying to help her get help for this issue.

The operator then apologized and said she could only talk to the person whose name was on the account. My mom would have to call back without me and go through the process again.

She called back and the second operator told her that if she was having trouble logging in to the secondary email, they would be happy to help…if she paid a fee.

I’m sure she was polite when she told them what they could do with that idea.

She finally remembered the secondary email

She was still able to access her primary email on her iPad. I didn’t want to mess that up.

She couldn’t access her primary email on the desktop without the code sent to her secondary email. So I signed in on her secondary email on my computer. Since it had been even longer since she signed into that one, it wanted to send a six-digit code to her landline phone. So I had to wait for her to call me back when she got that call.

I was able to get signed in to her secondary email, then give her the four-digit code for her primary email.

She was back in to her account.

She’s livid about AOL wanting to charge to help her get access to an email account she’s used for years. Their customer support blew a chance to do good will. Mom likes having email…but she’s not at all in love with AOL.

The perfect postscript for this customer service fail came the following day. AOL sent Mom a survey about her recent encounter with customer support. It asked typical questions like, “How would you rate the experience?” and “How likely are you to recommend AOL to others?”

Mom gave them zeroes. Quite happily, I might add.

AOL may choose to reach out to her for more details.

But I wouldn’t do that if I were them.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.