Having recently dealt with both extremes of support from software companies – very good and very poor – I have been thinking about what makes for a good experience. As a consultant on a number of products, and a user of even more, I am often trying to receive support from vendors and to provide good support to my customers.
Of course you always want to be able to fix the customer issue but that alone doesn’t make for a good experience. Even when something can’t be fixed, you can give good support.
First an example of good support, and and example of bad support, followed by my list of the top factors that make up good support.
Recently I sent a product suggestion to Software Technology Inc., the makers of Tabs3. This was a suggestion on a feature I would like to see in the product. I received a standard email that my suggestion was received. A few days later I receive a phone call from a technical support rep that there was already a way to accomplish what I wanted. I wasn’t at my desk so a message was left with a name and phone number for me to call back. I called and was connected to the rep. While I was given clear instructions, the solution would work but wasn’t exactly what I was requesting. The rep updated my suggestion to clarify what I was recommending in view of the additional information. To me this was excellent support.
Contrast this with my recent support experience with SpalshID. I have used this password program for a number of years. The software allows me to access my passwords securely from the cloud, my desktop or my iPhone. Periodically my database records seem to lose their type assignment. Usually I can restore and get it back. This time I ended up with duplicate records on my iphone, records in the cloud with no category and records in my windows application with no type. A mess. I have now spent 2 weeks emailing back and forth with support to get this fixed. So far it’s still a mess and unusable. No phone support is available, even at an extra cost and each time I email I have to wait 24 hours or more for a response.
Aside from the fact that my “poor support” experience involves a problem not yet fixed, what makes for good support.
- Timeliness – When my customers or I have a problem or question we want an answer in a timely manner. Having to email and wait 24 hours or more for an answer is not timely.
- Responsive – Was my question answered? If I submit something via email, did the responder read the information I entered and provide a response to the question. It can be very annoying to type a detailed email and then be asked for information that is in the email. If more information is needed, be specific about what is needed so that a clear answer can be returned. For example, if you need a version number don’t just ask what version but say please go to x screen and provide the detailed version/release number. If on a phone call listen to the exact question and then provide a clear answer or ask questions to clarify. The customer and the support rep may be using terminology differently, so if you are not sure clarify.
- Accuracy – Is the information given accurate? A wrong answer is as frustrating as no answer at all. If you are providing support and don’t know the answer that’s okay. Just say so and make a commitment to get back with an answer. If the answer is, it can’t be done, it’s better to know that. Sometimes a work-around can be provided. It may not be ideal, but it shows effort and caring. If you do promise a call back, make sure you follow through.
- Tone – On the phone it is important that the support person be pleasant as they try to help. Tone is more difficult in an email but it should try to be supportive and pleasant. Emails are easily misconstrued so straight forward answers are the best.
- Attitude – When you are speaking with someone on the phone or in email recognize their skill level. While this may be harder in email, assume a degree of intelligence. In my email exchange I was told to go to account settings – logout then login with my new account information. When I wrote back that it didn’t worked I was sent a screen shot and asked if I am sure I logged out and no other instructions. Maybe I am wrong, but I found this insulting. It also means I have to wait another 24 hours to get a suggested solution. It’s almost like it was a delaying tactic because they don’t have an answer.
- Real feedback - I don’t know about you, but I find most post support surveys that ask a few standard questions silly. If I don’t say you were perfect can I give information on what went wrong? Does anyone really read it and care? If you are going to ask for my feedback, then ask for meaningful feedback and make me feel that it is used. My time is valuable and I am happy to provide feedback if it will serve a purpose but too often the answers don’t’ seem to have value beyond the clicking of a corporate box that says, “we get customer feedback”.
Not every support experience is going to be perfect and the bad make you appreciate the good. Perfection is something to strive for!