Hacking OWN support

OwnWebNow, Shockey Monkey
2 Comments

For the past two days I have been working on hacking OWN support, or to put it more specifically, trying to do proactive technical support for questions you haven’t asked yet.

While this problem is easily fixed by saying “RTFM” we find that doesn’t reflect too well on our customer satisfaction. Saying it politely doesn’t work either “Could you please, please, please read the documentation?” and the bloat of trying to reach people in the way that they expect the information to be presented is starting to grow. There are videos, whitepapers, frequently asked questions, blog posts, wikis.. the reality behind this approach (as disorganized as it may seem) is that it’s as such by design because both of our customers that read the documentation don’t actually read it but scan the page for the content they are looking for. So jamming everything in a single place, single location leads to information overload and effective shutdown of the nervous system which then leads to a support request anyhow. While we have built a templated response system of canned responses, its pretty demotivating for the support staff to work on problems that have already been solved a thousand times. It also reflects very poorly on my organization because it kills the problem solving skills:

“If you don’t feel stupider by the end of the day you aren’t doing your job.” –Vlad Mazek, June 12th, 2008

Who would want to work under those circumstances? It takes me about 10 minutes to get back to the complex things I generally work on after I’ve had to explain to someone how the Internet works in their lingo and technical competence. And people ask why OWN doesn’t do retail work or answer sales calls – it’s a filtering mechanism folks – it separates people that can read and click on things from the people that need the following:

DRaaS

I am calling it Documentation Reading as a Service. Basically once a new order is processed by Shockey Monkey the system will look to see if this is the first order of this type. If it is, the system will generate an appointment request in the partner account managers system and shoot a copy to the customer as well to negotiate a time for DRaaS to be rendered. In addition to the email coming out with all the documentation, FAQs, PDFs and other filler nobody will ever read, we’ll now have an appointment for the OWN drone to call the client and render DRaaS:

OWN: Hi, this is _____ from Own Web Now, you just signed up for ____ and I wanted to give you a call and thank you for your business.

Client: Wow, you’re not an Indian?

OWN: Thank you very much so kindly. Now listen, I wanted to give you a ring and introduce myself and just go over a few things with the service that might save you a lot of time and a lot of grief as you go along. Do you have maybe 3 minutes?

Client: No, but I know you’re going to call me back so I’d rather talk to you now than dodge the callerid for the next month. Shoot.

OWN: Ok, so you signed up for ___. Now just like with all of our products, the support is free and unlimited, you can open as many tickets as you want and we’ll respond within two hours. If its urgent you can set a higher priority for a few $ more and we’ll work on it immediately. Now, I see that you got _______ service, are you familiar with it?

Client: Yes, I’ve been in IT for 200 years, actually Pascal stole my idea for a calculator and the queen saw right through him when he tried to show it off.

OWN: Wow, that is fantastic! Amazing story. Ok, well, I won’t take up too much of your time, just remember when you’re doing ______ – read the entire FAQ title section in a hyper exciting voice.

Client: (God, I hope she didn’t call my toll free number)

OWN: So thats pretty much it, you’re now an expert at ______.

The big idea with DRaaS is to answer the support questions we know we’re going to get and also give them an idea of how the whole system works so that they at least have a starting point when it comes to documentation. When people see a 30 page document they do what every 8 year old does – there are no pictures in this book! So if the DRaaS gives them a jumping point to at least realize how the system works they can look up details on their own. You can read more about it in my upcoming book, DRaaS Encyclopedia, available as a preorder at $49.99; Just one page, for the busy professional on the go! But since you’re reading my blog I am going to give it to you for free:

draas

The other aspect hidden behind DRaaS is that it sets expectations right away. If we’re about to lose a customer because they didn’t know what they were getting into or they sold something we don’t make its probably better for both of us to pull out before we end up in a nightmare scenario of trying to do something custom (expensive) and both losing.

Jokes aside…

Looking at the statistics, it’s painfully obvious that most support requests are not just originated out of the clients ignorance but our own inability to communicate and set the expectations. The documentation sucks because the clients don’t read it and expect it in both encyclopedia that can be Googled and the short FAQ form that they will not comprehend because they have 101 level understanding of the underlying concepts which are supposed to be answered by the documentation originated by the dude that wrote the software and was translated into plain English by someone that drank too much in college. It’s a cycle of incompetence in which everyone loses money – we answer questions over and over again, client base is frustrated that it has to ask them to begin with, the end customer is getting billed for it all along and nobody gets to prosper because the system is broken by design.

I’m sure people would love using our software far more if they didn’t have to learn how to use it first.

Let’s hope DRaaS can fix that. I’ll give you an update a few months from now and let you know how it goes. If someone can think of a better name than DRaaS please post it in the comments.

Now off to monster.com to find someone with a sultry voice that men and women would want to listen to.

2 Responses to Hacking OWN support

  1. Jim Maher says:

    Is it all customers that are a problem, or just a small minority? If just a small minority, you addressed that last month – get rid of the losers. The cost of all that documentation, support and angst doesn’t match the amall profit. Om the other hand, if it’s the majority . . .

    Are the customers really idiots, or is the application not very good? I’m sure the application does (almost) everything you intended. Is that what the customer wants? Or just what you think they need? Does it work the way the customers want and understand, or the way “it should”?

    I’m not really very technical and my understanding of technical matters is just deep enough to claw my way out of trouble (and my understanding is probably flawed). And I wish to God I didn’t have to understand the little bit I do understand.

    I don’t want to understand technology; I just want it to work. And I find that all my clients want exactly the same thing.

    So I try (and fail) to insulate my clients from “How to” and focus on “What to”. When I do a good job (statistically, it has to happen by chance occasionally), they get what they want. When they get what they want, they don’t call for support, they don’t ask for documentation and there are no questions that get asked “frequently”.

    If its a “right customer”, unless the client is asking for something new, every question they ask us is an indication of a failure in our service provision (or application). If we did it right, they wouldn’t have to ask.

    Are you sure you have both the “right customers” and the right application?

    j

  2. I think it’s funny you haven’t added “Mazek” to the dictionary yet! Just sayin’.

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