Difficulty in reaching The Post: a case study
Ah, the irony. The weekend brought a wave of e-mails from online readers who said they couldn’t find a way to report a technical glitch involving my Sunday column about how hard it is to notify The Post about problems. In this case, readers were trying to alert The Post that when they clicked on the Opinions section column by David Ignatius, they got mine instead.
“I clicked on 'Help' and 'Contact Us' but found no easy way to report the error,” complained Jerry Shapiro of Plantation, Fla. A number of others half-jokingly suggested this was a test concocted to see how long it would take for the problem to be corrected after readers reported it through the online Customer Care Center. (The bad link was fixed Sunday afternoon after I notified The Post’s Universal Desk, which processes print and online content.)
As Sunday’s column noted, the ombudsman’s office has received a sharp spike in customer service complaints in recent months. In researching the column, I learned that the Customer Care Center for the Web site also has experienced an increase during the same period.
Some of this is due to breakdowns caused by outdated technology. There should be improvement once The Post upgrades its technology in the coming year. But Raju Narisetti, the managing editor who oversees the Web site, said increasing Customer Care Center staffing also can help.
Online assistance aside, one immediate way to improve customer service would be to revise the recording for readers who phone The Post’s main number: 202-334-6000. As Sunday’s column noted, a recorded menu offers access to more than 20 departments, but fails to include the Metro section, which has the largest staff and is responsible for all local coverage.
And some of the recorded options aren’t even geared to the reading public.
For example, callers might think the “Help Desk” option will give them technical assistance. Wrong. This Help Desk is only for Post employees who are experiencing tech problems.
Similarly, readers having online technical difficulties might think they can get assistance by being connected with the Information Technology department. Instead, they get a recording that says those “interested in sending us your company’s materials” should mail the information to The Post’s downtown headquarters. Those seeking other assistance are urged to hang up, redial the main number and ask for an operator.
The main number’s recorded options also offer “Employee Travel,” which is intended for Post employees who need assistance with travel arrangements. Does that really belong on a phone message geared toward the public?
With newspapers fighting to retain every print reader and grow online audience, superior customer service is critical. Readers are not only sensitive to whether they get a timely response, but also to the quality of the response. Several have written to complain about grammatical errors in e-mailed customer service replies. A reader recently shared The Post’s customer service response after he reported a problem with a page on the Web site. It read: “Thank you for your email. We was having technical problems with the page.”
And readers frequently complain that when they phone The Post about problems with newspaper delivery, they are routed to an overseas call center.
To cut costs, The Post in 2004 outsourced its home delivery call center to APAC Customer Services, Inc., headquartered in the Chicago area. In 2008, calls started going to an APAC center in the Philippines.
That’s unsettling to many readers. Some are philosophically opposed to overseas outsourcing. Others have said they feel disconnected from The Post when they must talk to service representatives half a world away.
With The Post continuing to struggle financially, like so many newspapers, finding a cheaper alternative for home delivery service calls makes sense. Post officials have said the quality of service remains high. APAC’s Philippines call center answers 80 percent of calls within 20 seconds, they have said.
| June 21, 2010; 1:22 PM ET
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