Step 1-through-infinity: offer the worst support ever. Nothing can make up for it.
A little bit of background for those who haven't read Steve's latest article. Atalasoft has purchased quite a few of ----------'s (Company That Shall Not Be Named) peripherals over the years, as well as some of us buying them for personal use. In our server room, we have a collection of dead peripherals -- all of them failing in the same manner (the peripheral would fail intermittently, increasing in frequency until it didn't turn on at all). Steve wrote to ----------, explained the issue in appropriate "that's why he's an expert" language, and asked for reasonable suggestions for repair, replacement, or recycling. The response back? There's a reason why Steve asked, "This is a joke, right?"
The response he received from ---------- was the epitome of bad support. Whoever was responsible for it:
1. Didn't read the initial email.
2. Didn't take the email seriously.
3. Gave inappropriate (and insulting) advice.
Here's the summary. They gave these troubleshooting directions:
1. Make sure the computer is on.
2. Make sure the peripheral is connected.
3. Try a different cable.
4. Make sure the laptop can handle this kind of peripheral.
5. Try a different computer.
6. If the menu is available, try blah, blah, blah...
7. Try turning it off and on again.
Then, they gave the instructions for sending it back. To add insult, here's a quote: "I care about your concern and I am glad that you took the time to contact us."
The failure here really lies in expectation. Apparently, whomever designed ----------'s support team/department thinks they will save time and money by having a first level, out-of-the-manual response. Honestly, if your support structure is sufficient, you NEVER need someone to read out of a manual. The first line of defense is self-help, and they reference that in the email -- there is a place online where we can go to get troubleshooting tips. If a person takes the time to look up how to contact you and then sends you an in-depth description, chances are they are the kind of user who has tried a number of things already (or they're too lazy to RTFM, but that's another article). Also, telling someone to make sure peripherals are on and connected? Seriously? If that's not the first thing a person checks, they need to put it back in the box and use carrier pigeons.
At Atalasoft, we try to set an expectation of support that anyone can call us and we take their problem seriously. A recent survey by our marketing team let people rate our support in five categories: response time, product knowledge, professionalism, caring about the problem, and self-help options. In most categories, we ranked 89% above average. It's what makes us a differentiator in our space, and many times it's why people choose to buy our products.
The result of Steve's emails about the peripherals? He figured out that the problem with each of them could be fixed in about 40 minutes with a piece that costs 28 cents. He also decided that ---------- lost all of his future business, and because of his stature in our company (and others), they also lost business from everyone he influences. That is the price of bad support.
(A followup: I'm not mentioning the name of the company in this article. Why? Because, to reference Carly Simon, if you think this song is about you... it is.)
About the Author
Elaine Gorham is the Training & Support Manager for Atalasoft. Her background in development started with Byte magazine and Basic in 1982 on an Atari 800, plus copying (to his displeasure) anything her big brother could do, and taking apart his Lego cars. She holds a BS in Mathematics from the University of Houston (and was this close to a second degree in English).More Content by Elaine Gorham