Product and Service Review, Ramblings, Reflections, science

Help Bots Not So Helpful

Twenty-eight years ago at a state fair I’d signed up for the credit card to get the free t-shirt and other gifts they were handing out. Twenty-three years ago I’d moved from one of their credit cards to another one that gave me points for every purchase. I’d noticed that I had to leave purchases on the account for longer than I wanted in order to earn the points. Over the years I’d used the card. A lot. Enough that they kept automatically raising my credit limit. I had to fight to get the limit lowered; and frozen in place. It took me a long time to pay off that credit card. Since then I’d use the card and most of the time pay it off before they charged me interest. I’d paid them a lot in interest over the years. When I’d call to talk to them on the phone their customer service often admonished me about my lack of making purchases, carrying a balance, and paying interest. One agent flat out told me I had to use it more and pay interest or they’d close the account.

In short I wasn’t making them enough money. Despite the veiled threat the account remained open. I made sure to use the card once or twice a year.

During the pandemic, I like a lot of people, changed how I did things. I gravitated toward doing things that were simple. I also took a look at different things. I checked the interest rates on my credit cards. The credit card I have with my regular bank has a few things going for it: a much lower interest rate, easier website to navigate, and payments are applied immediately. I only have to sign into one location to check everything and am done for the day. I might not be earning points or rewards for every purchase, but the interest rate I have makes it worth it.

I forgot about the other credit card account; and didn’t use that card for over a year.

That was until I got the email with the subject line, “We closed your account.” At first I thought it was a spam email, and I wondered if once again my account with that company had been compromised. I have a file of all the times it’d happened; all of them their fault. I clicked and saw the rest of the email; “Click here to sign into your account to read the letter we wrote.” My eyebrow rose and I shook my head. I typed their website address into my browser and signed into the account. I’d never been thrilled to try to navigate their confusing account pages. They made it difficult to find even the simplest information; like the interest rate. The one feature that I did love about the card was how they allowed me to create a virtual account number with limit and expiration date. I could use it for some online purchases if I needed to. I’m not sure if they still have that feature. It took me ten minutes just to find the location of the letter that they’d written.

The matter of fact letter informed me that during a routine review they’d closed all inactive accounts. It also said that I would no longer have access to the online account. The very account that I had to sign into in order to read the letter. I’d not received any notification or alert during that year that my account was considered inactive. There wasn’t anything to tell me to use the card in order to keep the account open. Just a notification that they’d closed the account. It didn’t matter that I’d been a loyal customer for twenty-eight years. Even after all the times they’d compromised my entire identity; I’d stayed with them. Nope, I hadn’t used the card in over a year and they closed the account without so much as a warning.

That was when I decided to contact their customer support. I clicked on the options to contact support. It took me to a chat bot screen. I scoured the website for a phone number. But none was listed that I could see. I had to deal with the bot. On the screen it said that I could type 3-5 words total. The bot on the other hand wasn’t limited in word count for its responses. I started with an inquiry about my account being closed. It responded with information on how I could close my account. I tried a few other options and got basic responses. It seemed that it would scan my question for a key word or two and toss up a response. When I asked why my account had been closed, it read “close account” and responded with “here is how to close your account.” When I asked about re-opening that account it responded with; “Click here to apply for a new account.”

Frustrated at the 3-5 word limitation I asked to speak to a human. The bot responded by telling me that it was capable of providing me with all the assistance I needed, and we needed to roll up our sleeves and get to work. My eyes opened wide at that response. I asked to talk to a human and it told me no; I had to deal with the bot and only the bot. I realized that this bank had replaced it’s basic customer service workers with the AI Chat Bot. I didn’t bother finding a phone number online for the credit card company. If they’d replaced the customer service agents online with the AI Bot then they’d have done the same with the phone calls.

At that point I was frustrated. I then went and had some ice cream. I also talked to people and found out that most had bad experiences with that company.


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