Thursday, January 25, 2007

Flawed Customer Services (Part 2) - Alienating the Customer

In part one of this three part article it was shown that a particular supplier failed to make a sale because they had made it unnecessarily complicated for a certain category of customers to locate the required information to purchase the product. Because they also failed to gather any feedback the flaws in their procurement procedures are likely to remain undetected and unresolved.
This second example does receive feedback but as you will see it is feedback that is going to the wrong person, if the 'problem' is also the customer services channel then problems can exist that are not apparent to the company.

Example 2 – Alienating the Customer

While in travelling in South Africa I found myself wanting to watch a DVD on my notebook computer but when I tried to access the DVD through Microsoft's Windows Media Player it displayed an error which advised me that I needed to purchase an add-on before I was able to access DVDs.

Windows Media player directed me to a list of suppliers and I chose one who greeted me with the marketing line, 'You are five minutes away from watching a DVD on your computer'.

Mistake 1 – No trial

Not providing any free trial for commodity applications is unusual as it benefits the manufacturer and the customer if the software can first be tested to ensure it works and meets the customer's expectations.

With a trial offer if there is any problem with the application potential customers do not generally mind if they have had the chance to try before they buy.

Mistake 2 – Un-documented and Unnecessary Restrictions

Because of the relatively low price of the product I completed the online order form and received an email order confirmation giving me a link for the download. I clicked on the link and my download accelerator kicked in that allows me to download files quicker by splitting the download file into smaller files and using simultaneous downloads.

After a few seconds the download failed and I found that I was unable to restart the download. I looked at the email confirmation and found instructions on how to log onto the suppliers website and check the progress of an order and in doing so I found a download button. Unfortunately when I clicked on the download button I received a message informing me that I had exceeded by download limit which was set at five and therefore was left with no option but to email the suppler for assistance.

I received an automated response to my email to notify me that my email query had been received and that they would deal with my enquiry using their first come first served support policy.

After several hours I received a response to my email informing me that they had reset the download count and then, as an aside, also notified me that their download procedure did not support download applications that allowed the download to be restarted and/or accelerated.

Turning off the download accelerator I was able to download the file without too many problems.

Download accelerators are common and allowing restarts only sensible as it reduces the download traffic where some unreliable connections are concerned. However, if there are restrictions that do apply, then not displaying what they are prior to the customer clicking on the download link is inviting support problems.

Mistake 3– Falling between Sales and Support

Once the download was complete I installed the software and when loading the DVD that I wanted to watch a DVD I was asked to register the product online which I did.

Once I had completed the online registration and created an account to allow me to receive technical support the application started and the application read the title and gave me the options to 'play', 'reset' or 'eject'.

I selected 'play', the screen went blank and then it returned to the same menu, no error message. No matter how many times I tried, even after restarting the computer I could not get past the 'play' option.

I visited the supplier's website and navigated to the support page and entered my account details but the password I entered was reported as being incorrect. After a few attempts I took the option to have my password sent to me again. A message came up to say that an email had been sent to verify the password and I was able to see from the displayed message that the verification email was being sent to the correct email address.

After several hours and multiple attempts at having the password re-sent no password confirmation email was received therefore preventing me from being able to register my problem using the proper technical support procedures.

Mistake 4 – Not understanding the Customers query

I sent an email explaining the initial problem with the download that I confirmed resolved and reported that I now had a problem with the software and was also unable to access the technical support page to report the technical problem.

After several hours I received an email reply that simply gave me instructions on how to download the software.

I replied pointing out that the problem was no longer with the download but with the software and also not being able to access the online technical support.

I then received an email confirming that I needed to register the product to get technical support.

I replied to say that I had registered the product, that the registration was confirmed because when I tried to log on to the support I was receiving a message to say that although it recognized my login ID the password was incorrect. I was able to request a password confirmation, that appeared to be being sending it to the correct address but I was not receiving the email. I confirmed to them that I was therefore unable to log on to technical support and register the problem.

Mistake 5 – Annoying the customer

I was naturally annoyed to receive a reply to say that they were unable to deal with technical support calls and that I needed to contact the technical support by telephone. A basic rule for good customer services is that you do not get the customer to do a company's internal communication.

In my reply to them I pointed out that the cost of the software was not worth the cost of the international phone call in trying to call a technical support line in the USA. I requested that they notify their own technical support team on my behalf or perhaps they might find it easier to offer me a refund.

Mistake 6 – Making the customer really annoyed

I received confirmation that they were unable to deal with technical queries and again listed the procedures for me to register the product to obtain technical support.

I took my time to reply and spell out clearly that they really needed to read what I had previously written and that we were now beyond the technical support stage and that we were now in the commercial decision stage where I would like then to agree, or advice otherwise, to a refund.

Mistake 7 – Loosing the customer

I finally received an email offering me a full refund and a partial apology for the problems. The refund was received once I had agreed to delete the downloaded software which I was more than happy to do.


By offering a full refund the supplier resolved the problem to my full satisfaction but made no attempt to fix any of the reported problems, either as to why I was unable to access the support area, why I was not receiving the password confirmation and why the software did not function properly.

Whatever personal criticism I might have with the people who were responding to my emails, there was no alternative channels open to me to contact the company's management so that I could alert them to my growing frustration.

When one customer experiences a problem it is often important and useful to understand the cause of the problem even if the final solution is to offer that customer a full refund. In this particular case there seemed an unnecessary demarcation, and no internal communication, between sales and support preventing customer's problems, that fall between both camps, to be addressed.

Requesting customer feedback that is then channelled through to management is not a new idea. Hotel and restaurants chains have for years often had feedback cards that are not handed in to the staff but posted directly to head office, ensuring that negative comments are not lost and positive comments genuine.

To view a number of other articles relating to customer services and customer satisfaction surveys please visit Survey Galaxy Knowledge Base.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Flawed Customer Services (Part 1) - Not closing the sale

Ask most businesses to rate how important it is to them to have satisfied customers and few would say anything other than 'essential'.
From a company's own perspective their customer services procedures might appear to tick all the right boxes but what appears to be a good procedure can sometimes fall short when viewed from a customer, or perhaps more importantly a potential customer's perspective.

Some would argue that customer service has been in decline as the growth of automation and the need to minimise overheads has eroded the human side of customer service. There is no doubt that the type of personal one-on-one customer service that was so common throughout the USA and Europe in the 1950's is a relic of the past with technology steadily replacing people.

Some automated technologies have proved more successful than others, call centres, especially when they are situated in far flung countries, can come in for criticism that may or may not be fair. Although the economics make sense it is easy to see how customers can get frustrated when the technology and savings drivers are put above customer experience.

What can often be missing from many a customer service procedure is the canvassing of regular and effective customer feedback, not for the sake of ticking another box, but because a customer's real-life experience is possibly the most important metric available to any business, large or small.

This three part article was inspired after I recently experienced first-hand problems with three separate suppliers that resulted in them either loosing a sale and/or frustrating me, a potential customer.

What struck me was that all three had what appeared at first to be well established customer services procedures that would be able to handle my query and resolve any difficulties in an efficient and professional manner, yet all three failed and for different reasons.

Automation is not the enemy, but automation must be carefully thought through as being frustrated by a machine is universally despised.

Example One – Not closing the sale

This first supplier offers one of the most popular FTP applications and a thirty day fully functional risk free trial. Emails are sent to 'remind' the customer at about the halfway stage and then towards the end of the trial period to that has the effect of encouraging those that have not yet purchased the product to both fully test the application and hopefully make a decision to purchase the product.

However, for this US supplier I was working outside the USA and when after a successful trial I went to click on the link to purchase the product the price I was quoted was in US dollars.

The US dollar is a global currency, no, it IS the global currency and I, like many others, are not often put off, certainly when it comes to low value commodity items, if the currency is not our local currency but on this occasion there was a notice that stated, 'for international customers please click here'.

Mistake 1 – Planting doubt and causing hesitation

For anyone seeing the message from outside the USA it would naturally cause them to hesitate, which I did, thinking perhaps that I should just check that there might be benefits in purchasing the application locally.

On clicking on the option I was requested to select my country, which I did, and then I was provided with a list of perhaps a dozen or so local, but unfamiliar, suppliers.

Since none of the names were familiar and other than their address to go on I chose one, a choice based on nothing more than arbitrary reasoning.

Mistake 2 – Going backwards

When clicking on my chosen link I was taken not to the product page but the local supplier's website's home page and greeted not with information about the application I was interested in, but general information about the supplier who it turned out provided a number of software applications and IT services.

Because of the extensive range of services and products they provided it took me some time to first locate a general list of available applications, then to navigate to the correct section where I found a number of the FTP supplier's applications. From the list of five products I was finally able to select the FTP application that I was interested in.

Mistake 3 – No 'buy now' option

Having spent time locating the product I was to be disappointed further because there was no price, nor 'buy now' button, just another offer to download a 30 day free trial.

Because I had already trialled the software I was ready to purchase and I wanted to know the price.

Mistake 4 – Not making it simple

I decided to go back to the list of local suppliers and choose another name from the list but my experience was the same, I was faced with the problem of locating the application and this time I was not advised of the price but instead given an offer to request a quotation for what I knew to be a $40 commodity item.

Mistake 5 – Loosing the sale

It was at this point that I thought I would just go back to the original screen and purchase the product direct from US manufacturer as had been my first intention, but because I was feeling that I had been sent on a wild goose chase I then decided that I could actually do without the product and so cancelled my order.

Mistake 6 – Not learning

The final mistake that the manufacture makes is that where at the end of the trial period when I do not take up the option to purchase the product they make no effort to find out why.


This supplier has a good and popular product. They offer a 30 day free trial of the software that can be purchased online direct from the manufacture. By offering local suppliers they would be able to provide local support that some customers might prefer, or find essential.

In failing to get feedback, they are missing an opportunity to not only validate their procedures but maintain contact with potential customers who are perhaps undecided as to purchasing the product.

Simple and clear pricing is important, especially for a commodity item and although a free trial is commendable it still requires a commitment from the customer who will often want to know the cost of a product before they invest the time needed to test the product.

Their biggest mistake is that they do not integrate their own products tightly enough with their distributor's websites. If the manufacturer has potential customers that are being referred to a local supplier they are in a position to link directly to their products on the local supplier's website and should insist that the local supplier ensures that the pricing is clear and the order process is simple.

To view a number of other articles relating to customer services and customer satisfaction surveys please visit Survey Galaxy Knowledge Base.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Net Neutrality Debate

In August 2005 a decision was made by the US Federal Communications Commision to put the high-speed Internet Services Providers(ISPs) under the same regulation umbrella as phone companies. The ISPs interpreted the decision as permission to charge websites a premium for faster networks and also suggested that the more successful companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo and Google should contribute financially in improving the internet infrastucture.

However, opponents argue that a multi-tiered Internet would be against the fundamental principles of the Internet and stress the importance of maintaining a level playing field and are wary that with the wrong legislation the telecom companies could hold companies hostage, or have an unfair advantage over rival companies.

Some argue that there is already a tiered systems in place where people have access to the Internet via dial-up modem (slow) and high speed broadband connections that range in speed from 2MB to 16MB and beyond.

Although the telecom companies point at the more successful websites not paying their fair share, net neutrality supporters say it is the masses that are making use of the successful websites so penalising the larger successful companies would effectively penalise the masses.

For a short promotional video that explains in simple terms the essence of the pro Net Neutrality argument visit Save The Internet.

To see the views of those people that argue that Net Neutrality is a myth and that the proposed legislation rather than degrade will only improve the Internet please visit Debunking Net Neutrality Myths.

Who will get your vote?

Participate in this weeks open survey The Net Neutrality Debate

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Gerald Ford, 38th US President - How will he be remembered?

Gerald Rudolph Ford the 38th President who served between 1974 and 1977 died on December 26, 2006.

Gerald Ford has been the only person to have been appointed to the US Vice Presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment when Nixon's Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned.

When Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal on August 9, 1974 Ford became the only person to hold the Presidency without having been elected either President or Vice President.

Gerald Ford was to occupy the White House for just 896 days where although he sought re-election where he narrowly lost out to Jimmy Carter.

One of Ford's first act as President was to controversially pardon Richard Nixon, an act that some say lost him the next election.

With the resignation of their President, Ford assumed the role of President at a time when the US economy was in disarray, a worsening energy shortage and where there was great division throughout the country.

How do you view Ford's Presidency? Was he right to pardon Richard Nixon and do you think he pardoned Nixon after striking a deal with him prior to Nixon's resignation?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Survey Galaxy's - Tutorial Video Centre Updated

We are pleased to announce that all the Survey Galaxy tutorial videos have now been updated to reflect the websites latest look and feel.

All the training videos require Flash player which is often included as standard in most browsers but if necessary can also be downloaded free from Adobe.

A number of new tutorials have also been added that cover the online Results Analyzer facility.

For more information or to view the videos please visit the Video Centre.