June 8, 2023

The Disappearing Art of Customer Service…  

As companies continue to move to automation (hello, ChatGPT) to save money, one thing is getting lost: the kind of customer service that only a human can give. I realize that companies who process thousands or millions of inquiries a day cannot have humans deal with each and every one of them. Many customer inquiries can be handled by automated responses (e.g., “track my order”), and for the most part they do a pretty good job. But when you need a real person to handle a more complex issue, being stuck in the chat bot loop of doom is incredibly frustrating.

I recently had this exact experience myself and it reminded me of the importance of excellent customer care and service when people are spending their time and money with a company.  

Customer Service Interaction between two women
Customer service interaction between two women
Customer Service Interaction between two women

I started handmaking cards a few years ago. It gives me the creative outlet I need and I can easily lose myself in my craft room for hours. Over the course of the last several years, I’ve found my favorite sources of die cuts, stamps, inks and inspiration. There is one company in particular whose products I love so much I decided to join their monthly subscription program.  

Without giving it much thought, I jumped on their website, clicked on their monthly subscription button, and quickly pressed all the buttons through the check-out process. Immediately after completing the order, I noticed that I had the wrong ship-to address. I looked to see if I could edit the order or cancel but couldn’t find anything. But the site had a chat bot and I was sure the bot would tell me how to correct my error.

25 frustrating minutes of back and forth later, all I had was a link to store policies saying that orders could not be edited and I gave up. I was frustrated and I realized that the bot could never really understand the problem and certainly couldn’t solve it. The whole experience left a bad test in my mouth.

One of the things that I do at WMarketplace is answer our customer chat app. I love the surprise and delight at the other end of the chat when the customer realizes they are speaking with a real person and not just receiving canned responses, that I am decidedly NOT a bot. In the course of a day, I’ll offer product suggestions for customers looking for something specific, re-send tracking information, help a customer process a return, or link them to other team members if they need other assistance. And I always strive to let them know they really are talking with a real person and that everyone at WMarketplace cares about their shopping experience.

When I experienced less than stellar customer service, it reminded me that what all customers really want is excellent, personal, customer service, to feel that their inquiries are being heard and not to get the run around (or given a link to the company’s policies). In short, the touch that only a human can give. At some point, we will need to figure out how to manage the volume of customer service that a large marketplace inevitably demands. But until then, shoppers can be assured that when they “hit the chat”, a real human will answer.  

Written by Carmen Martinez

Customer Service Lead at WMarketplace

Carmen Martinez, Customer Service Lead at WMarketplace


Carmen Martinez, Customer Service Lead at WMarketplace

Carmen began her career at another startup, this time it was Microsoft in the late 90’s, where she managed projects and launched key partner initiatives for the company for over nine years. After several years of freelance consulting and raising her two girls in the San Francisco area, along with her husband, Carmen joined WMarketplace as customer service lead. Carmen brings a keen eye for detail and a deeply rooted sense of customer support to her role at WMarketplace. Her creativity and eye for detail are on display in her own WMarketplace online shop, “Cards by Carmen”.! 

Launched in 2020, TheWMarketplace is a nationwide e-commerce marketplace for women-owned businesses to sell their products and professional and personal services. Offering favorable terms to its sellers, it also is a supportive community of women entrepreneurs that have access to learning opportunities through the trademarked HER-Commerce™ programs. With over 500 women-owned businesses selling 4000+ products and services ranging from home goods to coaching, in over 35 states, TheWMarketplace empowers shoppers with a new way to find the communities they want to support, including Black-woman owned, Latina-owned, AAPI-owned, Veteran woman-owned, and more. The Her Story Q&A is one benefit TheWMarketplace provides to sellers.

Guest Voices: The Disappearing Act of Customer Service by Carmen Martinez