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Sun Jan 30 2011 22:22:09

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay recently replaced the "Contact Us" and "Help" links that used to appear at the top right of pages with a "Customer Support" link. You can see eBay Canada's traditional "Help" page here, and eBay.com's new "Customer Support" page here.

The new link features the "Chat with Emma" virtual customer support system that made its first appearance on eBay Australia in 2008 as part of a pilot test, and then debuted as "Sarah" on PayPal. Emma seems to have made her debut on eBay.com - at least for some users - as early as October.

Emma is an automated system that matches your question to stock answers along with links to more information. You can still search the help system yourself, called "Self Service," and you can click on the "Contact Us" link and obtain a phone number and code good for 15 minutes after clicking on it.

I asked Emma a few questions, including how to cancel a transaction - Emma responded by asking me for my item number. When I told her I forgot it, she told me where I could find the item number.

I also asked Emma, "Are you a real person?" to which she responded, "I'm a virtual agent, created by VirtuOz. If you'd like to learn more about the technology behind me, you can check the VirtuOz Website."

But, not one to be distracted, she asked again, "what is your item number?"

eBay being eBay, it also states on the new Customer Support page, "We'd like your input! Tell us what you think about our new online customer support." If you click on the link, it brings up a survey that asks, "How easy or difficult was it to find an answer to your question," offering a five-point scale from "Very Difficult" to "Very Easy."

Let me know if you've met Emma and if she's been able to help you answer your questions, and what you think of the new support hub.




Comments (37) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Joey

Sun Jan 30 23:46:35 2011

Creepy, but I suppose it could be worse... a Griff Virtual Assistant would give me nightmares for a week.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Rick1313

Mon Jan 31 00:07:43 2011

First of all, Ina, you got more direct answers from Emma than I did from eBay phone support, last time I was able to call them (back in August).

That being said, the link does show when I log into eBay.com. And (surprise! surprise!) I also get a phone and pin number from the CONTACT US link. Haven't been able to ever get that since eBay terminated the 800 number I was using (August again). However...

eBay still insists on not putting a link to send them an email. Only Live Help and phone support.

I refuse to use Live Help as it is a lot of wasted time (speaking from experience).

Any communication with phone support will have to have them sending me an email about the phone conversation (if applicable). And it must be in my mailbox before phone conversation can be terminated.

So, to me, unless it is an emergency situation, to spend time on the phone to get a reply that they will have to send in an email is just wasting my time and their resources.

I'll try playing with Emma later on today, time permitting, and get back. Should prove interesting.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Mon Jan 31 01:03:38 2011

I've got two dadgum charges on my ebay statement that shouldn't be there!

Peggy will be reading the same tired, canned, scripted responses you get from email and phone support.

Another swell idea from the bean counters looking to fire more ebay employees.

Maybe The Ho is a Virtual Ho after all.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Digby
Web Site

Mon Jan 31 03:02:08 2011

This is so that they can outsource all the offshore support staff to cyberspace.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Mon Jan 31 03:16:05 2011

Are they serious, a "virtual" assistant? Funny, I thought all those boilerplate responses were coming from a virtual assistant. Were they actually being output by a real person previously? Obviously, these pathetic Bain & Co shills are becoming more and more desperate every day. What will these idiots think of next to ensure their continuing journey down the toilet?

eBay/PayPal/Donahoe: Dead Men Walking.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: funny thing

Mon Jan 31 06:18:04 2011

Virtual Emma = customer service that went out for a beer and didn't return.

Customer service is non existent and if happen to get a real person, the information they give you is canned.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Kal

Mon Jan 31 08:36:16 2011

So now we have an automated robotic lier! Ha! That's funny!

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: My Own Website Not Quite Paying My Bills Yet

Mon Jan 31 08:58:00 2011


You know where a company is headed when it views customer service as an expense rather than an investment.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: John

Mon Jan 31 09:22:56 2011

Vincy K in Drag

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Mon Jan 31 09:53:35 2011

Emma, Sarah.... what's in a name?

MBA that are so easily hypnotized by things like their Blackberry find an auto responder facinating.

Call it Emma, Sarah, HAL,  or call it Captain Dunsel, it is just a search function and it does little to resolve the majority of questions it is asked other than to post links.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Wake-Up!

Mon Jan 31 10:01:54 2011

I wonder if you have to inflate these virtual Stepford wives every morning?

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Rick1313

Mon Jan 31 10:58:19 2011

Well, I decided to give it a try and (surprise) I took using the term ''free shipping'' to see what Emma has to say on the matter. But first...

1. I asked the question, ''Are you free tonight''.

Response: ''I'm sorry, could you rephrase the question''. I took that as a ''no''. So on to free shipping...

2.Question: ''Free shipping''. That's it. Nothing else.

Response: A link to how to print shipping labels. Hmmm, answer not related to the entered topic and no asking of rephrasing the question as in my #1 date question.

3. ''Can I offer free shipping''.

Response: A link to the shipping calculator. Again, like #2, nothing to do with the entered input or request to rephrase. Onward I press to satisfy my burning desire to quench my thirst from eBay's fountain of information.

4. ''What is free shipping''.

Response: Same as #2. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

5. ''Free shipping option''. Can't get more direct than that. However...

Response: Like #2. Is eBay (not) trying to tell me something.

6. ''Offer free shipping''. Two referrals for this one.

Response: Link to ''what if your buyer wants to pay outside of eBay'' and (everybody can join in) same as #2.

It would appear that Emma is reluctant to talk about free shipping and playing hard to get.

So I decided to go back to the old system (via eBay.ca) and use the HELP link.

Alas, what I said last night in my first post on this thread still holds true.

I am sent in endless loops of clicking on subject matters, with no link available (they are greyed-out) to try and contact eBay Canada.

Wonder when Emma will decide to take a trip up north?

Maybe then she'll have a free night available.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 31 11:44:56 2011

Awww come on....they should have given her a deep male voice and named her Peggy - she'll do just as much good.  Yet one more aggravation in a ton of aggravating changes Donahoe has made.  Soon they can put the whole site on auto pilot and go home!

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Red Ink Diary This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Mon Jan 31 12:01:48 2011

I played with Emma (tortured her) when she first debuted on eBay Aus. I was underwhelmed.

eBay's voluminous rules, regs, procedural 'suggestions' and just plain ''we like sticking our fingers in your business because we can'' make the task of programming a virtual assistant overwhelming. As usual the ''it will do'' syndrome has trumped.

GIGO rules!

The question for me is:

What makes eBay think that the customer who can not or will not read the description is going to understand that Emma is an eBay help thing not an Ask the Seller a question link?

On second thought that was a silly question! eBay doesn't think, or care.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: James

Mon Jan 31 12:39:34 2011

Just another attempt to circumvent having any real customer service. It provides the same answers to multiple questions.

Informed us it was a program developed in 2002 which is the dark ages technologically. Way to go eBay. Another idiotic idea that fails in so many ways.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Mister Tubbles

Mon Jan 31 14:04:21 2011

Customer disservice. Just one more way to discourage small users from selling on ebay.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: BeAware

Mon Jan 31 14:12:04 2011

Please be aware that, when you use certain services on eBay (like ''Emma Virtual Assistant'' powered by VirtuOz; TurboLister; Sales Reports; etc.), these services may add a Third-Party Authorization to your account (according to eBay: ''Authorize third parties to act on your behalf'').  You can find these Third-Party Authorizations by going to your Site Preferences and scrolling-down to find the ''General Preferences'' subject line and, below that, finding Third-party authorizations'' and (on the right) clicking on ''Show'' to see all you have.  If you have any concerns about Third-Party Authorizations by which a third-party may have access to your account, then make your own decisions about revoking such authorizations.  Manage your control of your account (and the access you provide to others) with due care.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Average Bowler

Mon Jan 31 14:53:22 2011

It's just a glorified search engine that displays the same old vague answers and links that were available before. Nothing to see here folks... move along... move along.

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Curious Cathy

Mon Jan 31 14:54:46 2011

Why is she Caucasian?

Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay   Emma Virtual Assistant Comes to eBay

by: Digby
Web Site

Mon Jan 31 16:00:53 2011

They should have made it a male and called it Griff or John


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