My email to the client representative for a $10k portal software said:
“The edit RSS page for the portal is giving a page not found error for [I entered url] – what do you think would cause that? Thanks, Scott”
The reply from their customer service email:
“We don’t answer questions like that here, and don’t forward things to the support team as a policy. You need to fill in a support ticket for this. [link]”
The link was to a form that had 54 fields. I felt compelled to let them know who the customer was and went on with my day, pissed. It was all I could think of when we had a budget meeting about whether we should continue using the portal. We didn’t renew.
Was this kind of behavior the reason we cancelled a $12k/year support arrangement? Not sure, but I certainly wasn’t in the best mood when it came time for me to voice my recommendation for the renewal.
I know support ticket systems pretty well in the small-enterprise variety. I have had a few when I was doing hosting and have interacted with probably 20 different ones. My company has since moved to basecamp to give things a more human touch, and basecamp has recently followed some of the advice in this post. I am guilty of the things in the past. But to you, beloved reader, I will say I see the errors of my ways.
Let me be the first to say that if you have 100s of clients, selling a commodity item such as hosting, I recognize the workflow issues you’re facing. We all need to move support issues through the system as fast as possible when margins are razor thin. But if the support systems creators were a little more aware of the non-tech and/or busy customer community, perhaps things could improve.
So here’s my take:
What they SHOULD have said, in a human voice in reply to my email.
“Oh wow, I’ll check in to that. You’ll get a note from the team soon.”
Cool. Now… I would have entered the “humans are working on it” and “I’m getting my money’s worth” state of mind. I would not have been upset that a solution didn’t arrive in 10 seconds.
The process on the customer service side should be refined to support the remarkableness, transparency and joy of the experience, not just its efficiency.
On their end, here’s a sketch of what could have happened:
My email address should identify me – and my account – to bring up lots of relevant information about my account without me entering it. Relevant, but missing information can be flagged by the person monitoring the support emails. If I send a support email to the wrong address, it should be forwarded for me, without scolding but perhaps automatically insert a friendly reminder so I know next time. My email body should become the ticket body, automatically. Any flagged missing and relevant information should generate an email to me like this
We’ve got your support issue but there was two things we needed to know. Please answer these two questions and reply. We’ll get right on it!
Be sure and write the answers after the ‘>>’ below
Question 1: What is the browser type and version you’re using?
Question 1 Answer:>>
Question 2: Did you try clearing your cache to see if that works?
Question 2 Answer:>>
[do not write below this line - we won't see anything below it]
The other 48 friggin’ questions aren’t asked and I’m not a bit annoyed that they asked for this. I should have entered that before. Of course, the reply will feed the support ticket what it needs to proceed.
The old way of doing support tickets is to abuse customers by making them do menial form filling work with information they’d entered many times before. Scold them so your system will work better. After all, if it weren’t for their bloody complaints you wouldn’t have to go over these stupid emails.
The new way is to let computers do the grunt work, extracting that previous information and limiting the work required of customers to that which is truly needed. This should be done in a conversational pattern, not a computer tug-of-war. It is marketing, and it makes a big difference.
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