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Contact forms and idiot corporations

Every now and then I must get in touch with a company whose client I am. With that I mean that the company has my record in their customer database and that I can log in to their webpages with the associated account.

Since companies generally don't consider their clients' comfort, they'll usually make you click about a dozen times through mazes of silly questions until you reach a HTML form you can use to send your message on the way. If you take a wrong turn anywhere in the maze, you'll be dropped into a list of frequently asked questions and have to start from scratch your quest for the contact form.

I understand the motivation, which is to shield the understaffed customer support department from just those frequently asked questions. However, never has my issue been adequatly answered in those shielding documents.

For instance, with Lufthansa, I've had to request ticket changes because they had screwed up (and not my travel agent), or request replacement member cards.

And in the Case of Cablecom, I've been trying for months to hear their statement on why my 3500/350 kbps cable connection only ever delivers around 1500/250 (as established in a long-term trial over almost seven weeks), and to get them to stop sending several pages of advertisements about the same products with each and every invoice I get.

In none of these cases could I find any useful information online, so I had to embark on the painful journey to the contact form, formulate my request into a tiny text box that would often not even be able to show start and end of a single sentence without scrolling (this is German after all), nor respect line breaks, and then hit the "send" key with a drop of sweat on my forehead because you never know what kind of crack the CGI on the other hand had smoked just a minute ago.

What pisses me off most of all is, however, that in the two cases of Lufthansa and Cablecom (this list is not exhaustive, I'm sure, Sunrise is another offender), you have to login to your customer account in order to be able to fill out the contact form, where they ask you for all your contact details again. I don't understand why they want gender, birthdate, postal address, phone number, email address and whatever else for a simple support request — one means of contact so they can get their answer to you should be enough. But what I surely don't understand is why they can't just use your login cookie to retrieve all those data from their data store.

It sure seems like they're not really in control of their own infrastructure. And this list is not exhaustive.

NP: Dredg: Live at the Fillmore

Update: Lufthansa is a special bunch of geniuses. I just filed a complaint on their website, taking ages to navigate through their menus only to be sure to select the right reason for my complaint, only to receive a reply:

"We cannot give you any information because we are the technical support group for the Lufthansa.com website."

HTML forms and form elements are cheap, so why not put some extra hassle on your customers and ask a million questions only so you can then ignore them?