Wal-Mart Ends Phone Option For Online Customers

    October 4, 2007

Wal-Mart is taking a step backwards when it comes to online customer service. The retail giant said it would no longer offer its customers the choice of being able to speak to a customer service representative if they have problems with an order.

Wal-Mart Ends Phone Option For Online Customers
Wal-Mart Ends Phone Option For Online Customers

A Wal-Mart spokesperson says the company has improved its online customer service features and that users will be able to find the information they need without having to call a customer service representative.

"We’ve recently launched an enhanced online self-help tool that enables customers to more efficiently manage and track their orders online, and includes an improved ‘help’ section to easily search and find immediate information and answers to questions,"  Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amy Colella, told Computerworld. "With the new online self-help tool, we’re no longer publishing the toll-free customer service number on our Web site for online-related orders."

Colella said the majority of the calls to the online customer support number dealt with inquiries concerning order tracking. Wal-Mart thinks the new online self-help tool will offer its customers all the information they need.

Bruce Temkin, an analyst at Forrester Research sees it another way. "This doesn’t make sense, because our research shows if you ask consumers, even online consumers, what channels they prefer, there’s an overwhelming bias for preferring to talk to a human being with any customer service issue," he said. "To turn a blind eye to the enormous preference that consumers have, I think, is a big mistake."

Customers who shop in Wal-Mart’s physical stores will still be able to call 1-800-WALMART for help but Temkin says that will lead to frustration for Wal-Mart’s online customers and cause the average handle time for calls to increase. Instead he recommends that Wal-Mart should have slowly integrated the new feature online and phased out the customer service number as customer became familiar with the new system.