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August 20, 2008


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Scott Monty

C'mon, let's be fair - even a Wal-Mart greeter would be more helpful than that.


I'd say that 9 times out of 10 these automated agents don't work as promised, which is death-- they set your expectations too high (I can answer your question!) and then fail. Consumer gets frustrated, the brand is diminished, nobody wins. Ikea should be routing your question to a real person behind the scenes who can IM with you.

I'll bet a 3rd party service like ChaCha could get you an accurate answer regarding Ikea products more often than Ikea's website automaton. That's sad.


Maybe IKEA simply has too much business and wants to divert some of the browsers towards their competitors ;-)

Michelle Lamar

Okay---I want to move in next door to you and your wife. You guys are my kind of people. I laughed so hard at this post! I love the fact that you asked her if she was retarded-----it's so 5th grade----which is why I know you are my kind of people. FUNNY. Twisted. Perfect.

michael leis

Reminds me of Ms. Boo at boo.com. These things always work great in powerpoint slides in meetings.... In practice?Not so much.


Great post. At least you knew it was an automated assistant. I tend to get the real deal on the other end of a call that behaves like Anna. If the computer isn't telling them what to do... they freeze.

Julie Roads

That is hilarious. Great storytelling, fantastic business/marketing points...
Thanks for sharing.

Steve Kilroy

You do of course realise that you have caused a flood of queries to Anna looking for mischief.

This will be seized on by her creators as evidence of her viability.

Slightly alarmingly for me, she does look exactly like my ex-wife who was infinitely more helpful. Maybe she was abducted in a Tron moment.

Steve Kilroy

Oh, and I should add, the UK Anna is blonde. I'm sure a lot of marketing resource went into that decision instead of her ability to answer us intelligently.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks for all the comments! This post and the comments are actually quite entertaining.

I've found that the human-based Instant Message help services are quite good. In particular, I had an occasion to ask a question of Jive Software via online chat http://www.jivesoftware.com/support and got exactly the answer I was looking for in two minutes.



A lot more time was probably spent on deciding how she looks instead of how she'll answer simple questions. I love the fact that they programmed her to answer questions regarding her age and if she was retarded (and I love it even more that you asked her those questions) but for some reason she can't answer a question about matresses.
I thought IKEA was known as trendy and smart... maybe Anna should get on board.
Great post!

Jenni H

Great post. I have also had trouble trying to find things on their web site that I have bought! I emailed them about their navigation and that they should look into improving the web site overall but I haven't heard anything back. Their catalog is great but I usually have to go to the IKEA to see everything which is not an easy feat.

Hersh Bhardwaj

I have been researching using 'automated agents' for our website. One thing is very clear, this area needs a lot of R&D to make it work the way we want. But this is future. Its going to happen. Common a simple 'autoresponder' was a trial and error a few years ago.
Having said that, a lot of smart companies are using these agents successfully, but not as a all-in customer advisor, but in areas such as, shopping-cart abandonment and email-lists generation.

Joel Libava

Interesting post. However...
"Anna seemed to be quite perturbed that you wrote about her. She contacted her local NBC TV Station, and has requested air time to explain the way she answered your questions. The TV station is making the transportation arrangements to get her in studio. Should be interesting. Maybe she can do it virtual.
Joel Libava
Franchise Selection Specialists Inc.

David Meerman Scott

Joel, Interesting that we haven't heard from Anna or IKEA here, isn't it? David


Hilarious post! It's a shame though, because I was brand-brainwashed and was almost convinced Ikea could do no wrong.

mlle a.

The German Anna isn't any smarter either. For some of the information she offers, though, I learned that it's just like with the IKEA assembling instructions that come with each product: follow the instruction, don't think and argue. Just do it.

But apart from this, it's a known that IKEA mattresses are sold separately and that customers need to pair their mattress of choice with the bed of their dream.
The website, by the way, doesn't show all the products that are otherwise on-location or in the catalogue.


I recently had a horrendous customer service experience with IKEA. Beyond bad. So when I went to the IKEA website to find out how to contact them about it, I couldn't find any way on the site to report a problem. So in utter desperation, I typed "problem" into Anna to see what she said. Here's her smart-ass response, word for word: "I really don't have the time to discuss these sort of things. Please ask me something about IKEA."

I agree with the others: Retire Anna! (And add a way to report problems and issues while you're at it.)

Oh, and after the horrid IKEA experience and a pathetic $50 gift card in response (we're talking MONTHS of my time shopping to buy these items, which I still don't have), I am no longer shopping at IKEA anyway, so I'm hardly likely to notice when she gets retired. Other merchants -- West Elm, Pottery Barn, Home Decorators Collection -- are much more eager for my dollars ...

Oritseyemi  E. Madamedon

Hey David,

I think you just deeply hurt Anna's feelings!


The beds and mattresses are separate.

Ecommerce Expert

Maybe it wasn't automated, and more likely a call center in India? You never know.

Proposal Software

GOD!! i think they have automated answers and when you ask a irrelevant or rare question they keep on delivering you the same message. I could never think that such tools are also available in the market. Its shame i think.

free image editor

I never expected Anna to work as good as a real person would so at least she works somehow and that is great! It was interesting to read this post though! Thank you for posting!


I think virtual assistants are like anything else - there are bad ones and good ones. Alaska Air is widely renowned for their customer service, and their contact us page IS a virtual assistant- http://www.alaskaair.com/content/about-us/contact-us/online-help.aspx?lid=footer:contactUs

"Jenn" must get some things right...

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