Elance - Customer Service and Support
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Responsiveness and Flexibility
This is one place where Elance still has a lot of room for improvement. While support options and response time are better, the actual quality of customer service responses is still average at best.
One of the biggest problems in this area is the dreaded “form letter response”. Elance customer service reps unfortunately respond to too many specific questions by sending back boilerplate replies that are just copy/pastes from the Elance help system or policy manual. This is extremely frustrating, because it not only doesn’t help, it tells the customer that he or she is not being listened to. I’ve read testimonials from clients and contractors who have had to go back and forth several times in the ticket system before getting their questions answered. This is exasperating and negates much of the benefits of fast response times.
Elance also tends to be rather inflexible when it comes to most of the company’s policies. A good example of this that I elaborated on in the feedback discussion is the refusal to extend the 60-day feedback window, even when there is good reason for it. It is possible that asking for a manager would yield better results in these situations, but I haven’t any experience with this myself.
Elance offers a forum that it calls the Water Cooler, where customers can interact, ask for and receive assistance and advice, or just discuss issues related to the use of the site. There’s also a section of the forum for off-topic social chat.
The Water Cooler is open to all customers but is heavily dominated by contractors; few clients post there. It also is not representative of the average Elance provider, since the nature of the venue tends to favor certain types of people. Most participants are from the United States or Canada, with a disproportionate number of them in the writing and design categories.
Elance itself used to avoid the Water Cooler like the plague; if you asked a question there, the chance of an Elance employee weighing in was close to zero. This, combined with the poor state of their primary support methods, led to criticisms that the company was leaving their customers with only mutual help as an option. They recently have made an effort to be more responsive to questions asked in the forum, and have even hired someone—an Elance provider, of course!—to answer questions and provide assistance. That said, there is no guarantee that any question posted in the forum will get an answer, and response time can often be rather slow if you get a response at all.
I don’t recommend using this forum for specific questions on Elance policy; use the formal support channels for that. The Water Cooler can be very handy for asking for advice, though, especially for newer freelancers. There’s a lot of experience and wisdom there for the taking, if you take the time to read some of the better threads.
Finally, don’t expect much from a technical perspective. The Water Cooler runs on custom forum software written by Elance, and it is rather crude compared to proper forum packages. There are no advanced features like the ability to embed images or subscribe to discussions. Threads with more than 50 posts get split into multiple pages and become hard to follow. The search feature for the forums is also very crude, and worse, very slow.
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