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Customer Service Archive
About two months ago I wanted to print some very simple round stickers for CloudContacts. In the past I’ve used Sticker Robot which produced some absolutely awesome vinyl stickers for CN. This time I just wanted something basic – the CN logo and it didn’t need to be die-cut or on vinyl.
I decided to place orders from both Zazzle and VistaPrint for the stickers. I would have ordered all of the stickers from Zazzle but I had a Living Social voucher for VistaPrint and so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to compare the stickers and the experience from both companies. Zazzle was sending a ton of coupons to their newsletter subscribers although that well has seemed to dry up since the holidays are over.
Since VistaPrint offers a lot of “free” products, it’s important to understand that I paid full price for the stickers. Based on the overall experience, I won’t Vistaprint again and am completely disappointed that they continue to send me printed matter in the mail including an offer for Google advertising today. I never asked to be contacted post-purchase or to be added to their mailing lists. While I could understand that with their free products you are opening yourself up to be spammed with their co-branded marketing offers, I paid for the stickers.
Summary: In every aspect from design tools to after-purchase contact, Zazzle kicks the ass of VistaPrint.
I’ve been a fan of web analytics startup Clicky since the beginning. This week they announced a new partnership with Olark that will allow you to chat with your customers and users in real-time. Olark is a Y-Combinator startup that offers a widget which you can place on your site to allow for chat with your customers and/or users.
In all of my years dealing with web analytics, I can’t remember ever seeing an integration like this new Clicky/Olark functionality. Clicky offers a real-time analytics monitoring service called Spy which offers you the ability to watch your traffic in real-time. It can be very addicting, especially if your blog post or startup get some good links or press.
There are plenty of companies that offer popup customer chat windows – I know when I visit the Rackspace site I try to login very quickly so I don’t get hit with a popup chat box.
The new service makes it possible to chat with your customers or users by clicking on their link in the Spy.
A simple use case for this new service is watching a potential customer move around the site and then clicking to chat with them to close the sale. Another use case would be watching a user navigate through a number of pages in your support documentation — click to chat with them to directly answer their questions and be a hero.
To use the new service, you must have a premium account with Clicky (starts at $10/month) and you must have an account with Olark. Olark has a free account which is limited to 20 conversations a month and their paid subscriptions start at $15/month.
Group buying service Groupon is certainly expanding at a rapid pace. Back in January, Groupon launched their 30th city, Cleveland, Ohio. Today they have announced more city launches, pushing their total markets to over 250. The new cities added to the Groupon lineup are: Fairfield County, Connecticut; Savannah, Georgia and Greenville, South Carolina.
At the Startup School event last weekend, run by Y Combinator, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason provided a presentation that looked back at the original concept, The Point, that eventually morphed into Groupon. During the presentation Mason noted that they have over 1,600 salespeople in the company. This number represents 75% of the total Groupon staff.
One of the interesting areas regarding Groupon that I’ve been thinking about recently is customer service. Let’s say you purchase an item at the Gap’s website. If you have an issue, you go to the Gap to report the issue and hopefully get help with the purchase. When you purchase a “deal” on Groupon for a coupon you can use at the Gap, you now have two avenues to seek help if there is an issue.
Here’s a perfect example of this scenario: over the past week Groupon offered a deal for movie tickets. It appears from the 12+ page discussion on SlickDeals, that the Groupon deal noted that the movie tickets were good for tickets up through $14 in value. However many people are reporting that at least one of the vendors are limiting the ticket value to $10. Customers are now creating customer service tickets with both Groupon and the movie ticketing company.
On the positive side, nearly all of the forum threads I’ve read related to Groupon deals note that the company is very responsive in dealing with any deal issues. This level of quick and positive customer service will be critical as Groupon looks to expand their base of markets and to keep customers loyal to their service. Deal hunters are more demanding and require more customer service than average consumers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the total number of customer service employees at Groupon rises to 35-40% of their sales staff.
If you aren’t from the south, you may not have ever experienced eating at Chick-fil-A. The chain is well known for their chicken sandwiches and their usage of a cow as the company mascot. I prefer the chicken nuggets and lemonade to the chicken sandwich but do enjoy their “cow usage”.
Over the past few days, many of the coupon forums and sites have listed a promotion for a free Chick-fil-A 2010 calendar. It’s on Spoofee (deleted), Fatwallet (deleted), Coupon Saving Game and over 120 comments on SlickDeals. The calendar promotion is also listed on moms sites including KnoxMoms. There’s just one problem…the promotion is fake – was sent by someone outside Chick-fil-A.
When you click on the link to order the calendar, you are greeted with the image below and the following text, “Incorrect information has been circulating on the internet regarding the 2010 Chick-fil-A® Cow Calendar. Chick-fil-A is not authorized to distribute free calendars nor to register those who log on to www.shopchick-fil-a.com. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.”
While Chick-fil-A had nothing to do with the fake promotion, they lost an amazing opportunity to turn a negative experience into an amazing moo-ving experience. From my perspective, the message they provided above was fine – it’s the truth. But why not offer the users something? A simple coupon off their next purchase or a free ice-dream with a combo…something! At an absolute minimum, offer the customer an option to signup for future (real) offers and savings. I can only imagine the influx of traffic that the calendar webpage received over the past 24 hours – and instead of capturing and getting more customers in the store, they let the deal hunter go away empty-handed.
Chick-fil-A does such a great job normally with promotions and coupons. Their coupons never expire and you can use them anytime.
The reason I am sharing this story is because it could happen to you and your startup one day. Make sure you never let a potential customer, and more importantly a spokesperson for your company, walk away with nothing.
It’s not too late Chick-fil-A…the links will be out there forever so offer something to the customers and create a positive social media and customer experience.
Open source customer relationship management software provider SugarCRM has announced the beta release of the 5.5 edition of the application. There’s an online demo version available on the SugarCRM web site.
Some of the new features in the 5.5 release include:
- mobile studio editor
- dynamic teams
- enhanced web services framework
- advanced password management
- themes framework
The ability to create and manage themes seems to be the hot topic on both CRM and CMS offerings. Thanks to a relatively simple structure I was able to convert a theme from Drupal to WordPress very easily.
Matt Heitzenroder has more information on the Sugar Developer Blog. Matt discusses the API updates and the new themes framework.
Over the past few weeks I’ve had customer service/support issues with Twitter, Google and Amazon. Each handled my issue in a different manner to a different conclusion and I thought it might be interesting to share the results. I also want to note that it’s disappointing that it seems to get support you have to know someone who knows someone. In two of the three cases below I was able to get a direct contact on the inside who was able to at least get me on the right path for help. Sadly I only was able to get a resolution on one of the three issues.
I posted some issues I had (am having) with my Twitter account for my startup. I still have not received any sort of reply from Twitter staff to my post or my trouble ticket in their system. I asked Twitter investor Fred Wilson for an update and he told me to go to Get Satisfaction as "some users seem to like it".
I had an issue with Amazon Web Services and after clicking help, I posted a message to their customer service form. About 24 hours later I received a very generic reply that the person was going to have to investigate my issue further but he did note that I can’t reply to that email. So that left me with nowhere to turn as the days clicked by without a resolution.
After multiple days I turned to my friends and asked for help. I was able to chat with an Amazon executive (who actually helped me on the weekend while he was on a business trip!) and he got the case moving. I can say that the issue has been resolved to my satisfaction. I would suggest that Amazon look at how they handle support emails on the web services side – it’s a bit odd to me to have such poor email customer service on the web services side when the product side (normal amazon.com) has always worked so well.
Update: one note, the email from the support person who resolved the issue also comes from a no-reply mailbox. I have a follow up question regarding how to handle part of the problem and now I am back to square 1.
I realized about two weeks ago that I never received a required form from Google AdSense. I headed over to the support section for Google AdSense and was promptly told that there is only "limited" email support for Google AdSense. I honestly have no idea what limited means but I learned that I will never know. No matter what I tried, I was never able to reach an email form to even ask for help – all I got was the run-around inside Google’s supposed help section.
After a friend provided me with an email address for a person in the AdSense team, I sent off an email and received a reply pretty quickly stating that I would get a followup from someone who could help me. It has now been 10 days without a response.
I do wonder (especially on Twitter) if the so-called celebrities receive actual support when needed. Does Shaq or Britney have a hotline for support when or if there’s a request?
If you read CN you know that I put customer service at the top of the list when it comes to a product or service. One of the first posts on CN was a web apps customer service face-off (Dogster received the only A grade). It’s certainly disappointing that it seems like to get any sort of help from the companies I’ve listed you need to know someone.
When I was a young kid trying to make a buck, I quickly learned that the most important thing I offered was my service. I actually got more business just by providing great customer service and that made me just continue to increase the service I provided. Whether it was selling newspapers, coding HTML for a client, buying millions of dollars in media or processing business cards, service has always been my differentiator. When I work with startups, I stress the importance of providing the best possible support at all times.
I’ve heard stories about how tough it is to actually get any help from Twitter’s customer service but until recently I haven’t had a need to contact them for help. In January, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone heralded their great support department on the Twitter blog so I was certainly hoping for a quick resolution to my issue.
Here’s an overview of my issue and why I’ve contacted support for help. I am having an issue with my @cloudcontacts account. For some reason, I can’t get the account to work correctly. Half of the time when I load twitter.com, I get a login box which won’t let me login. However if I just refresh the page enough times (never the same number), eventually it lets me in. Direct messages never show up correctly, and when people try to access the page for the @cloudcontacts account, they too get a "That page doesn’t exist!" message but if you refresh that page, you eventually get the account too (although today the account seems to not show up as many times as I refresh). I can’t reset the password because it gets stuck in this "no account/yes account" problem. I’ve tried to create a new @cloudcontacts account – the registration page says it’s available, but on submission, it says it’s taken.
I went ahead and submitted an issue ticket (which was hell because they want you to be logged in which as you can see above only works on random loads). I received a quick auto-reply with a message about passwords but nothing about what happens next. I replied to that message asking for additional help but heard nothing back. This week I submitted another ticket with more specific details about the issue after the research I did. This time I didn’t receive a password auto-reply, instead, I received the following reply:
Your request has been received, and is being reviewed by our support staff. Twitter Support is currently experiencing a backlog: in some cases, it may be 5 to 7 business days before you receive a reply. Problems and issues will be investigated first, followed by general requests and questions.
Does this mean I will receive any help? My issue is certainly a "problem" and not a general request or question. Based on the people who emailed me after my first tweet about the issue, the answer is "who knows". Orli Yakuel of the popular Go2Web20 directory has a good post about the (lack of) support that Twitter provides. She’s waiting over a month as are countless others pleading for help.
I’ve tried twittering/messaging to the Twitter founders but they haven’t replied either.
Here’s a company that is in their honeymoon period where blogs and mainstream media can’t get enough of the service (more on that later). Twitter has raised $55 million dollars in funding. If there is a backlog of support issues as the auto-reply states, why not take a tiny bit of cash, hire 10-20 support people for a week, and get the backlog resolved? I am willing to bet that the majority of support issues would take minutes to resolve or answer and more customers would be satisfied.
Let’s forget about the customer for a minute and think about if we were working at Twitter. How great would it be to get the queue cleared out so we don’t have to see a backlog everyday and could focus on the product?
The interesting thing here is that Twitter is heralded as this great platform for providing customer service with major companies like Zappos, Dell, Comcast, Mosso and JetBlue using the service for support. Yet the underlying platform company doesn’t provide the same level of support for the companies who use their platform.
I am sharing this long story for one reason: for you to take a moment and think about the support you provide on your web applications. Are you making sure each and everyday that your customers are satisfied with the support you provide?
My hope is that the issue listed above is resolved expeditiously so I can use the account to communicate with my customers and during the SXSW festival. I will report back once the issue is resolved.