oDesk - Customer Service and Support
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Methods of Communication
oDesk offers only two primary mechanisms: its own ticket system and live chat. This is fairly limited compared to some of its competitors, and given oDesk’s size and complexity, the lack of phone support is cause for criticism. However, the company does a pretty good job with the two options it does provide.
Primary access to support is well-implemented. At the top of every page you’ll see a question mark followed by the word “Help”; hovering over this brings up a menu with four options, the last of which is “Contact Support”. Clicking this link brings you to the main support page. There you’ll see some general tips and guidance, along with a drop down box for choosing the topic you need help with. After selecting a topic, you are given a new subtopic menu. Choosing from this displays a set of help topics relevant to what you selected, along with a search box for the help feature. This is a nice system: it is obviously designed to help reduce unnecessary support requests, but is done in a way that is helpful rather than obtrusive.
In addition to the help topics displayed, buttons appear on the right side of the screen to let you choose between live chat or a support ticket. oDesk seems to actually promote live chat, since it is faster and thus likely more appealing to users who need help immediately. In fact, it is arguably a satisfactory substitute for phone support, though critics would rightly point out that while both offer “instant gratification”, chatting is much slower than talking.
oDesk’s ticketing is fairly typical of the systems found on most larger sites: it’s a form of private messaging similar to email, but is implemented internally to allow for better management and security. Each ticket has a “thread” of postings by the user and by customer service agents who respond to it, and it’s easy to go back and look at past conversations. oDesk even pops up a box when you’re reviewing a ticket, asking if you want to open a live chat session to discuss it—a thoughtful touch.
Secondary support can sometimes be obtained via the oDesk community forums, though not reliably (more on that in a moment).
oDesk’s support response time is excellent. I have always received a response the same day I put in a request, even on weekends. Even if the initial response doesn’t always answer the question (see below for an example), I appreciate the willingness to respond quickly to indicate that I was heard and the problem is being worked on.
I have to give top marks here as well. oDesk handles queries with a level of responsiveness and professionalism that many other companies should aspire to.
One of the trickier areas that I’ve tried to assess in this guide is how each site deals with chargebacks. In most cases, this information is not made clear in the site’s terms of service or help documents. So I use this issue as an opportunity to check out how customer service deals with a difficult request.
In the case of oDesk, I actually did a bit of a “torture test” in this regard, by sending in the question on a Sunday morning. As mentioned just above, I received an initial response immediately, telling me that they were working on my problem and would get back to me. On Monday morning I received an actual reply to my question, but it wasn’t sufficiently clear, so I replied back asking for clarification. The discussion took a few iterations until I was able to get all of the answers I needed, and at each step was handled courteously and professionally. All of the correspondence was with the same agent, but it was pretty obvious that she was consulting with managers and others at oDesk to get the information I needed.
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