Customer service chat is a staple of most online retailers. Rather than pulling up a phone app, figuring out what number to dial, and waiting on hold for hours, the response time of a chat system is usually much quicker. The design of these systems can be pretty awful for the workers behind them, and The Verge recently published an exposé on what it’s like to work as a chat rep for Samsung.com. The story paints a picture of an exploitative system that pressures employees to work for free.
At the top of this article, you can see what Samsung’s chat system looks like. After just a few seconds on the homepage of Samsung.com, a “Chat with an expert” box pops up, and with a single click, you get connected to a person. This pop-up appears on nearly every page on Samsung’s website, and at a glance, it seems like a customer service line. The Verge’s report says this is actually a system exclusively full of salespeople who are “commission-only, with no hourly rate.” If they do not make a sale, they do not get paid. Upon closer inspection, the wording “Chat with an expert for our best offers“Lightly communicates the sales intention behind this pop-up. Still, it’s not hard to imagine that most users will see it as a customer service line, especially given it’s ubiquitous on Samsung’s site.
These employees technically aren’t supposed to handle customer support queries, aren’t trained in customer support, and won’t get paid for doing a customer support chat. None of the people visiting Samsung.com know that, though. The official documents instruct salespeople not to respond to customer service requests and instead direct people to Samsung’s support page and close the chat. The catch is, customers can also rate the salespeople after this interaction. Employees tell The Verge that not doing customer service for free leads to lower satisfaction scores, and low satisfaction scores lead to being fired. The employees say they are also encouraged to do these free customer support calls by both Samsung and its partner in this chat enterprise, a company called “Ibbu.”
Even the days that are supposed to be big sales days do not always work out well for Samsung’s commissioned chat employees. The report says the Galaxy S22 launch was “built up like it was Christmas” for chat representatives, but Samsung’s site was down for most of the launch day, so sales reps couldn’t earn.
Samsung.com has a customer service chat system, but it only pops up if you specifically go to samsung.com/us/support/. Support chat looks like a different chat system and, because it’s concerned about overloading its staff, starts with an automated help menu before it connects you with a person, unlike the sales chat. Samsung could connect the more prominent sales chat system to this support system when users ask for support. Samsung could proactively ask users in the site-wide chat pop-up if they are looking for sales or support (and this would actually mirror the way most corporate phone systems work). If Samsung did any of that, though, it could not get its salespeople to work for free.
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