Lessons in Customer Support
A few days ago, I wrote a post titled, Caught in a Geek’s Gravitational Field. The truly unimportant post just outlined the geeky stuff that I have been working on and the fact that the mess I have been making has gotten me into an infinite loop of debugging, fixing and re-breaking many things simultaneously. In describing the my dilemma, I mentioned several products that I have been having particular difficulties with. Surprisingly, within hours, I began hearing from representatives of a couple of these companies expressing concern, making suggestions and offering services.
I was shocked for a variety of reasons . . .
- First, and like most people, I don’t expect to get good support even when I ask for it and I certainly don’t expect it to be offered without me asking
- Second, the post was created on a Saturday morning on the East Coast and I had responses that morning
- Third, the people who responded were not regular readers of this blog so they were searching for people like me
- Fourth and perhaps most surprising, the two products I got virtual immediate responses about were free versions of the companies’ offerings
You can see some of the interest shown by these companies – Telligent, the creators of Community Server and VMware, the creators of a wide range of computer virtualization products – in the comments following the post. Both followed up further via email as well, making sure they closed the loop. Needless to say, I was extremely impressed with both companies’ efforts.
So, if this isn’t an indication of how the business world is changing, I don’t know what is. Here I am, an individual using free software, getting offers of support from companies on a Saturday morning. I didn’t complain or bad-mouth these companies. I didn’t advise that others steer clear. I completely understand the fact that the solutions I was using were free and I get exactly what I pay for. Nonetheless, these companies or, at least, their representatives, understood the value of a happy customer (perhaps especially one who blogs). They were actively searching for me to make sure that I had support and to get feedback about how they can make their products better for people like me the next time.
This is how you create loyalty folks. Time to step up the support efforts if you want to compete.
The whole situation is even more impressive for me in light of the horrible customer support experience I’m having with another product/company that has been part of my geeking activities. As part of my server rebuild project, I chose a new 3Ware RAID controller. The documentation sucked, but the installation was fairly straightforward. The RAID array (initially 3-750GB drives later to be expanded to 4-750GB drives as part of the project) was slow to initialize and get running, but it was reasonable enough. Extending the array with the fourth drive took 5 full days. Even though this is entirely out of whack, I didn’t complain nor put in a support request. Now, however, I can’t get the Windows Server 2003 to recognize the larger array and this is a problem. I put in a support request on Saturday and didn’t hear back until Monday. After explaining my situation in detail via email, the response I got was a terse sentence telling me that the 3Ware controller was right and Windows 2003 was wrong.
That’s it. That was their response. Not how to fix it. Not where to go to read more. Not even a request for more information. Just, we’re right and they’re wrong. Very helpful (dripping of sarcasm). I took a deep breath and replied politely that the response I got wasn’t very helpful and repeated my problem using words that an 8-year old might understand. To this, I got another response telling me that I’m calculating Kbytes incorrectly (1,000 vs 1,024) and that I shouldn’t eexpect more space when adding a fouth 750GB drive. I’ve just responded again suggesting that being off 750GB in a 3TB array could not possibly be because I’m miscalculating the size. You get the idea here. I’m frustrated and I’m not holding out a lot of hope for getting this problem resolved.
Would I acquire another product, even one I paid for from Telligent or VMware. You bet. From 3Ware, I don’t think so. The guys I’ve paid $0 are supporting me like a valued customer. The vendor that I’ve paid loads of money to is putting the least effort into support possible.
There’s the reality of quality customer support.