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Former Robinhood Employees Call Attention To Inadequate Customer Support

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Brooke Lynch
02/11/2021

Robinhood

Former Robinhood employees are coming forward to denounce the company’s previous customer service practices, stating that agents were not qualified to offer financial advice to customers. After news of a wrongful death lawsuit, from a family who blames the trading platform for their son’s suicide last year, employees are exposing the company for its inadequate, and in this case, alarming lack of support.

20-year-old Alex Kearns’ suicide was allegedly linked to a false notice that claimed he owed the company $730,000. The family noted that their son received “no meaningful customer support” after the company never provided a response to 3 separate emails he sent seeking resolution. Additionally, there was no phone number listed on its website to speak to a Robinhood agent, leaving Kearns with virtually no access to the company. 

Former Robinhood employees are now claiming this level of service was fairly typical for the brand. According to one former contractor on the app’s phone support team, agents were not prepared to answer a majority of inquiries, many of which required assistance from licensed brokers. However, the brokers were apparently of little support; in times of need they were consistently busy and often unreachable. She noted that there were so few areas they could assist with, that their main intention was to answer enough questions to ensure that the customer would eventually just hang up. These claims are supported by the 650 complaints received by the FTC regarding slow response times with the brand, according to documents obtained by CBS News. 

Beyond slow response times, the company didn’t offer access to phone agents at all by the time Alex requested support in 2020. Robinhood actually removed its hotline from service in 2018, according to the Daily Mail. This total lack of assistance is troubling, especially in an interface that promotes amateur trading. The brand as whole advocates for accessibility through its simple, self-serving platform. The idea is to provide customers with ease of use, giving anyone with a smartphone the ability to handle investments without the fees and broker gatekeeping that previously barred beginners. However, with this freedom, comes some responsibility -- in terms of support. 

Because the service is geared toward more novice investors, it makes sense that this type of customer may elicit a higher amount of retroactive support. Without full knowledge of the industry, these customers will likely require assistance with their investment activity. Therefore, it seems unfair for Robinhood to completely neglect customers for extended periods of time. 

Additionally, this seamless and highly convenient platform attracts customers used to a kind of ‘instant gratification.’ In an interview with Kearns’ family on CBS This Morning, anchor Tony Dokoupil demonstrates how simple it is to sign up for the service. Customers are able to make meaningful trades and investments almost instantly. Because of this, users are, understandably, under the impression that support should be accessed with the same level of ease. Since Robinhood is promoting these values in its platform, customers expect them to be extended to service as well. 

Also, even if Robinhood improves the gaps in its digital service, it is still not exempt from having to offer live phone support. Just because customers appreciate a brand’s digital-first approach, does not mean they will never require more personalized, live assistance to troubleshoot their issues. We’ve seen in past examples where companies lacking a public phone number or access to live agents can, at times, infuriate customers. And Robinhood recognizes this; a spokesperson told CBS News that it eventually did reinstate phone support for customers utilizing its more advanced options trading feature. However, they still lack a public phone number for other inquiries, which should be accessible if its digital framework proves inefficient. 

In all of the mistakes made, the story is truly tragic and it illustrates the often-overlooked importance of customer support. In cases like these, agents not only provide straightforward answers but genuine relief to customers in distress. In instances with high-stakes outcomes, customer support acts as the first line of defense, giving customers guidance in navigating complex issues. Companies cannot take customers’ patience for granted and delay responses, because in a case like this, the failure to react had a critical impact. Some inquiries will undoubtedly require expertise that may extend wait times, however, customers expect some sort of support to ease their minds. Additionally, any customer service model that promotes customers hanging up as a method of resolution, clearly isn’t valuing their customers time or emotion. 

It ultimately prompts an important realization of the more critical consequences of poor customer support. Since the pandemic began, businesses have become much more aware of emotional considerations in their overall support efforts, but they still need to be amplified. Customers now need to be supported on all levels, and the weight of their concerns may very well extend beyond a standard inquiry. 

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