"Thank you for taking the trouble to complain"

One of the reasons why Robert Scoble is liked and respected is that he puts his hands up when someone highlights a problem with some aspect of Microsoft or its products. If someone says “Microsoft sucks” – he doesn’t say “No it doesn’t”, he says “Why do you think that, and what can we do to make it better?”

I had a bad customer service experience this weekend and it really annoyed me!

What was unusual was that the customer service issue I had was with a very new, U.S. based, company, in the Web 2.0 space. I would have expected any company in this space to be particularly customer focussed – that was obviously a little naive of me!

It started when I signed up and paid for use of this application. I saw a bug in the program and I posted about it. One of the founders of the application advised me to go to the program’s support forums to report the bug. I went to the forums but I was annoyed that I had to create a new account on the forum to login and report the bug (I already had an account for use of the application). I have enough logins and accounts across the different sites I use without having to create a second account for this application!

When I raised this unnecessary extra login with the application founder, his only response was:

If we did that, we’d have to limit forum users to only active application users.

I thought this was a bit short – I tried to suggest a few ways of fixing the issue:

There are ways around that too – for instance, anyone registering for the forum – put a flag on their account when they register (if they don’t have an application account) and check for that flag as part of the login process.

To which I received the increasingly snarky response (remember, I have paid money to this guy, to use his application. I have spotted a shortcoming in his application and I am trying to suggest ways this shortcoming can be fixed):

Ok, then what happens when someone registers for the service and wants a username that is already taken in the forums? What forum account should we create?

Finally, in response to a comment I made where I said I was getting tired of the discussion (because any suggestions I made on how to improve the application were simply being shot down with no effort to say “hmmm, you know that’s not a bad idea, let me think how we can …” or somesuch), he said:

If you don’t want to engage in a discussion of a “problem” like this, please indicate that your question was rhetorical and I will not waste both of our time trying to engage in the discussion.

My question wasn’t rhetorical. I had a genuine beef with his products which I think others would find annoying too. I tried to suggest ways to improve the products and all I got back was “No we can’t do that; no we can’t do that; If we did that, then what would we do here…”

Now, I believe that if a customer complains about your product or service – you should thank them for taking the time and effort required and for making you aware of the deficiency in your offering. Most people would simply walk away having said nothing – or worse, tell their friends “Don’t use that application, they can’t even figure out how to do single sign on across two applications!”

If someone goes to the trouble of giving you feedback, don’t go out of your way to antagonise them (espcially if they are a paying customer), swallow your pride, admit that your product is not perfect (yet) but also say you are striving to make it so, and thank them for helping you along that road.

It is a tenet of the service industry that a customer who has complained and has had the complaint handled well, is going to be a far more loyal customer than the customer who never had an issue in the first place!

By the way, I have purposfully left the name of the company involved out of this post because I think the focus of this post shouldn’t be the company but the lack of customer service. If you do want to see my original post and all the comments, you can here.

UPDATE:
To see how to create a positive customer experience, follow Ben and Jackie’s Church of the Customer blog or read The Cluetrain Manifesto (or both!).

16 thoughts on “"Thank you for taking the trouble to complain"”

  1. Wow that’s surprising, and it was easy to guess which application you were discussing even without the link.

    Customer Service should be at the top of anyones agenda regardless of your product. Lines of communication are far too quick now and word of failings spread pretty quickly. But when you are operating in a space where there are established competitors or people can use offline equivalents … customer service is all you have to make you stand out.

  2. I was content to let this issue die, however since you seem so keen on continuing the discussion, I will add a final comment.

    My comments may have been brief, but they were not rude. I challenge you to go back and re-read the entire thread. I believe that you are the one being antagonistic in the conversation – I am merely pointing out issues and asking questions.

    If you would like to continue any discussion of FeedLounge features, etc. I invite you to do so in the FeedLounge forums where I will be happy to respond to you. I am happy to let my 712 posts in that forum speak for me as to my attitude towards those who “take the trouble to complain”.

  3. Thanks Gary – I wondered for a minute if I was imagining it!

    Alex – I never accused you of being rude however, if we suppose that you are correct and that it was I who was being antagonistic in the conversation – that’s how people who complain frequently are – antagonistic. It is because they are having a problem. If the vendor is ignoring their issues this only serves to make them more antagonistic – not less Alex!

    If you don’t know how to deal with people who are antagonistic, then you need to hire someone who does. Fast.

    If you are too proud to take advice – either on how to improve your application or on your people skills – then you are in trouble.

  4. Again, it’s sad that you bring up such a small topic. They are offering a service that takes up a lot of processes.

    If you think of it in another way, by registering on the forum AND it being linked to the user database for the actuall service, you are slowing down the entire service for those forum users.

    Think logically next time, until then you’ve motivated me to discuss this on my website and discuss you.

  5. Hi again Anthony!

    They are offering a service that takes up a lot of processes.

    You mentioned this in your other comment and the answer I gave there was:
    I agree Alex doesn’t have to spend his time responding to my discussion – if Alex had simply said at the start – “you know that’s not a bad idea Tom – we’ll take that into consideration. Right now we’re swamped but next week/month when things quieten down a bit we’ll revisit this issue. Any other problems, feel free to contact me.â€?

    This would have taken 2 minutes and it would have immediately ended the issue – instead Alex chose to argue the point. The funny thing in all this is that all the time I was striving to help Alex!

    by registering on the forum AND it being linked to the user database for the actuall service, you are slowing down the entire service for those forum users

    Anthony, c’mon, seriously. Even if that were likely to be an issue, there are ways around it. Single sign-on across applications has been done by loads of companies before now. Alex and Scott just haven’t gotten around to integrating the forum software they are using. If your point were an issue, then we’ll have cause to complain when they do integrate the logins!

  6. Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment, because I’m going to try this one more time…

    if Alex had simply said at the start – “you know that’s not a bad idea Tom – we’ll take that into consideration. Right now we’re swamped but next week/month when things quieten down a bit we’ll revisit this issue. Any other problems, feel free to contact me.â€?

    This would have taken 2 minutes and it would have immediately ended the issue – instead Alex chose to argue the point. The funny thing in all this is that all the time I was striving to help Alex!

    You’re right, I could have responded with some patronizing or dismissive comment. Instead I chose to try to explain why we had not done what you were asking for. I guess we can agree to disagree over which style of response is best.

    Alex and Scott just haven’t gotten around to integrating the forum software they are using.

    I’m afraid that assumption is false.

    If you would like to request this as a feature, and or discuss the merits of said feature, we’ve got a forum for that.

  7. Alex do you not realise the damage you are doing? I’ve NEVER heard somebody publically say they must be a “glutton for punishment” for dealing with a customer. Stop trying to drive the conversation to the forum for gods sake, you take up the conversation where ever the customer wants it to be. I’ve flown from one end of th country to the other for an hour meeting with a customer – because they were the customer!

    Seriously, you aren’t demonstrating a good client/customer attitude. Your attitude belongs more the the WP forums if you want honesty. I’ll certainly not recommend Feedlounge after this.

    Thanks for writing about it though Tom.

  8. Maria – thanks for stopping by and commenting (nice plug 😉 )

    Gary, I think you are absolutely right. It is a pity really because FeedLounge has a nice interface and if you ignore the significant performance issues, it seems quite a good app.

    However, I can’t recommend a service unless they fundamentally believe “The customer is always right” – and from reading Maria’s blog, I know she agrees with me too!

  9. Not to sound incredibly crude, but the issue of having to sign up for an account to their forums sounds like saying ‘I bought toilet paper and I expected it to wipe my ass’.

    Having worked in retail in the past, I can categorically state that the customer isn’t always right. Companies shouldn’t live by that motto either. I think the term customer service should be abolished and replaced by customer experience. Rather than dealing with complaints, I think companies should go out to make their customer’s experience as excellent as possible. So in this instance, maybe companies should realise that an automatic account for their support forum should be part of their registration policy. However, I don’t think the lack of an automatic login is grounds for a complaint. I can’t think of a single purchase online where I’ve haven’t had to create an account for their forums.

  10. Hey Piaras,

    Thanks for commenting on this discussion.

    I understand your point about the customer always being right but I have a feeling you are taking it a little too literally. My understanding of the expression is that you never disagree with the customer, you never tell them they are wrong, and you never argue with a customer (especially on a public forum!).

    As for the forums sign-on issue – it really isn’t a biggie. What is more disturbing here is the companies attitude to their customers – instead of trying to delight their customers they are trying to antagonise them! This is like the anitthesis of what Ben and Jackie would espouse on their Church of the Customer blog and it certainly goes against everything I have read in the Cluetrain Manifesto.

    Then again maybe Alex knows something about customer service or the customer experience which Jackie, Ben, Doc, David, Chris, et al don’t.

  11. Read something in the newspaper at the weekend that reminded me of this thread. It’s the ‘W cubed’ philospophy of customer service which relates to ‘Whatever, Wherever, Whenever’. I can’t remember hearing it described that way before and I think I prefer that to the well worn “The customer is always right” adage.

  12. There are ways around that too – for instance, anyone registering for the forum – put a flag on their account when they register (if they don’t have an application account) and check for that flag as part of the login process.

  13. There are opportunities for great Customer Service everywhere.
    Customers will notice, even if what you are doing could, should, or used to be the standard.
    Little things make a difference.

  14. You’re in business. And in business you don’t have to take every deal. You can draw the line at abusive behavior by the customer. You can draw the line at customers lying to take advantage. You can draw the line at customers stealing. In fact, you can draw the line anywhere you want. There are stores not letting people in because they don’t look rich enough. Fair enough, if they don’t expect them to get in later when they do.

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