Condescending Customer Service

When Gmail recently added IMAP to its features, I sent a note to the customer service box of the web-based email service I use for personal mail to ask whether IMAP was coming to that service. I received the following reply:

I understand that you are want to use IMAP. I welcome the opportunity to assist you with your concern.

So far, so good.

Jimmy, I regret that the feature is currently not available but I appreciate that you have given us a wonderful idea to improve our service. I hope that the feature will be available in future. Since, you have given us this idea, only your brilliant idea will be the reason for this.

I guess I’m not entirely surprised that IMAP wasn’t coming any time soon, but that final sentence really bothered me. Was that sentence necessary? Was it going to satisfy any customers? Or was it just condescending? I thought about that for two seconds and went back to my life.

As it turns out, that email vendor also hosts a non-O’Reilly-related website for me. A few days ago, the site went down. So I wrote again to the customer-service box, reporting that attempts to reach any page on my site was resulting in 404’s. The problem went away several hours later and the next day I received an email from customer service.

I am sorry that you had to go through this unpleasant experience and I apologize for the inconvenience that you are facing with this issue. I welcome the opportunity to assist you with this concern.

Again, so far, so good. The email did have some useful information, including the results of some pings and what I might want to do if the problem continues. And then…

Jimmy, I visited your site using three different web browsers and found that you site is resolving at a normal pace. Moreover, it is one of the most attractive site [sic] which I have ever seen. I am sure that other visitors are also able to access your website properly.

This time it’s the next-to-last sentence that set me off. First of all, it’s a lie. The site is attractive much in the same way Alfred E. Neuman is attractive: i.e., not at all. Worse, that condescending tone casts a shadow over the whole interaction.

Two interactions with a company: In one, it claims that it can’t help me despite my “wonderful” idea being “brilliant.” In the second, it ruins a perfectly useful response by delivering empty flattery. At a time when the switching costs between email and web-hosting services are not all that high, why is a company presenting such off-putting scripts?