Customer service chat is an integral part of most online retailers. Instead of pulling up a phone app, figuring out which number to call and waiting for hours, the response time of a chat system is usually much faster. The design of these systems can be quite awful for the workers behind them, and The Verge recently published an exhibit on what it’s like to work as a chat representative for Samsung.com. The story paints a picture of an exploitative system that forces employees to work for free.
At the top of this article, you can see what Samsung’s chat system looks like. After just a few seconds on Samsung.com’s website, a “Chat with an expert” box appears, and with a single click, you get connected to someone. This pop-up appears on almost every page of Samsung’s website, and at a glance it looks like a customer service bar. Verges report says that this is actually a system that is exclusively full of salespeople who are “commission only, with no hourly rate.” If they do not make a sale, they will not be paid. On closer inspection, the wording reads “Chat with an expert for our best deals“easily communicates the sales intent behind this pop-up. Still, it’s not hard to imagine that most users will see it as a customer service line, especially since it’s ubiquitous on Samsung’s site.
These employees are technically not supposed to handle customer support inquiries, are not trained in customer support and will not be paid to do a customer support chat. However, none of the people who visit Samsung.com know this. The official documents instruct salespeople not to respond to customer service requests and instead direct people to Samsung’s support page and close the chat. The catch is that customers can also judge sellers by this interaction. Employees tell The Verge that not doing customer service for free leads to lower satisfaction scores, and low satisfaction scores lead to being fired. Employees say they are also encouraged to make these free customer support calls by both Samsung and its partner in this chat company, a company called “Ibbu.”
Even the days that are supposed to be big sales days do not always work well for Samsung’s ordered chat staff. The report says the Galaxy S22 launch was “built up like it was Christmas” for chat representatives, but Samsung’s website was down most of the launch day so sellers could not make a profit.
Samsung.com has a customer service chat system, but it only shows up if you specifically go to samsung.com/us/support/. Support chat is similar to another chat system, and because it is concerned about overloading its staff, it starts with an automated help menu before connecting you with someone, as opposed to the sales chat. Samsung could connect the more prominent sales chat system to this support system when users request support. Samsung could ask proactive users in the entire site chat pop-up whether they are looking for sales or support (and this would actually reflect the way most business phone systems work). However, if Samsung did any of that, it could not get its vendors to work for free.
List image of Getty Images / Smith Collection