Support… Access and Desire

Posted by: Tim Martin
Date: March 30, 2009
Categories: Culture, The Office

 

Welcome back! Yeah, that’s right, it’s been nearly two months since I posted on the blog.  Pathetic, right?  Well, we’ve been writing a lot, it’s just spread out all over the new site.  So, I’ll beg your forgiveness and get on with some new writing.

Time has treated us well.  We’ve passed 90 implementation of the SCORM Engine around the world, and frankly that means we’re supporting a ton of SCORM transactions on a daily basis.  We’ve asked a few of our clients (literally, 5 of the big ones) for details on their usage, and we see more than 300,000 registrations per month across the distributed SCORM network.  That’s 10,000 people taking training via the SCORM Engine every day.  We’re pretty psyched about that, but it does come with certain responsibilities.

Support

As we’ve evolved from a company with a couple of developers who built software to something bigger, we’ve changed our staff to accommodate that.  We now have a “support department” responsible for taking care of our implementations and support requests.  To the degree that it’s possible, we’re making every effort to nip support requests in the bud by answering the questions before they’re asked.  We do this in a few ways: documentation, simple code, compatible code, and now, via a support portal.  We’ve gotten to the point that we’re actually publicly posting answers to questions as they come in.  As a customer, you’re not obligated to search for your answer before you get in touch with us, but you’re more than welcome to do so.

Last week, I had an experience with a couple of consumer companies that got me to thinking about what we have to do well.

My Support Adventure

Last year, we [intlink id=”steppin-up” type=”post”]set up everyone[/intlink] at the office with 30″ monitors and Macs.  While I am was not an Apple fanboy generally, I have been converted.  I recently decided I needed to finish the conversion at home and elected to move from a PC to a Mac, and I simply couldn’t do without the 30″ monitor.  So I ordered the Dell monitor (just like at work) and one of the new Mac Minis.  Long story short, the monitor and the Mini arrived, and I set them up excitedly.  I had read rumors of problems with the Mac Mini and the 30″ monitors via the new connector, but figured that would never happen to me.  When I set the pair up and the monitor couldn’t render the image, I was bitter, and got after Apple support on the subject.  In the end, I concluded with the support rep at Apple that it wasn’t a doable configuration, and I was going to be able to return the computer, so it was tolerable.  I would just run out to the local Apple store and buy an older Mac like the ones we have at work, a setup I knew would work because it works at, well, work.

Well, I got home with the Macbook Pro (yes, more expensive) and guess what?!  It didnt’t work either.  Ugh.  Ultimately, I took the Mini to work and discovered that it does work in this configuration!  The problem was entirely the Dell monitor at home.

So, the calls begin.  I called Dell and spoke to literally 13 support reps in succession, and not once because I asked to speak to a supervisor.  Each was convinced that I had purchased the monitor in some other country and bounced me around because of it.  When I ultimately got to someone willing to try to address my problem, the best he could do we send a replacement “sometime in the next 20 days”.  Not one of these people seemed to have any real desire to make my problem go away, nor did they make any effort to understand the problem in any real detail.

Compare this to the Apple experience, in which I spoke to a total of two people, and only because I had to call back.  Each of them seemed to want to solve my problem.  (In this case, the problem was that I was trying to return the Macbook Pro because I no longer needed it.  It was, fundamentally, a problem that they hadn’t caused.)  Each of them sought out the part of their organization that could address my registration problems.  They asked if they could put me on hold, they dug through the options, and they got back to me in real time to work through the problem.  Ultimately, I was able to return the extra computer at no cost to me.  This was great, but the lasting impression was they wanted to help me and they were equipped to talk to the right people to solve problems.

My Conclusion

OK, I totally get that this is nothing new.  I get it.  But this is what I walk away with.  Whether you call us, email us, or create a ticket through the support portal, these are things we’re aspiring to:

  • Access.  The person who receives your request, typically Joe, will have access to people with answers.  We’re loaded with smart people who know our niche products well, and everyone of these people makes themselves available to Joe at the drop of a hat.
  • Desire.  Because we have a niche product, we have to be exceptional.  While LMS vendors see SCORM problems as tangential and annoying, we see them as fundamental.

Feel free to call us on this if we fall short.  If you walk away from an incident with us feeling like I did after talking to Dell, I want to know.  If you feel like I did after talking with Apple, then we’re doing OK.  (I wouldn’t mind hearing that either…)