customer service

$100 Drupal Site Series: Part 5 - Support

Through out this series, the cost of labour has been identified as one of the biggest risks for this project. As most people who have run a tech business know, support can turn into a massive black hole of wasted time. Today we will look at how to manage support in a way that helps you avoid any direct customer contact for support.

Documentation and Online Resources

People like documentation, or even better videos, to walk them through a process. Invest the time up front to create documentation to help your customers use your platform. Only offer a single admin theme, such as Root Candy or Rubik or something you create yourself, this way the UI remains consistent and users are less likely to get confused. When developing the documentation, assume the user has no Drupal experience and talk in generic lay person terms, not "Drupal babble". You should include links in the Drupal interface back to your help system, so people can access contextually appropriate help. Consider having a FAQ for each discrete piece of functionality so people can get some idea of what it does without having to play with it for half an hour.

A lot of the documentation you generate will be specific to your business and only available to your paying customers, but some of it will have generic value to the Drupal community. For the more generally useful content, publish it in a public place, such as your blog, company website or contribute it to the appropriate section of the documentation on drupal.org. You will be benefiting greatly from the work of the Drupal community, you should be looking for opportunities to give something back.

The flexibility of Drupal means that you should be able to build a documentation system that suits your needs. You probably want to start by extending the book module.

Forum

From time to time people won't be able to find what they need using your online documentation. If you have a solid user base, a forum can be a good way of crowd sourcing your support resources. This doesn't mean you can just put up a forum and hope that your users will all help each other solve their problems, you need to be in there responding in a timely manner too. If you have some users who are contributing regularly in the forums, acknowledge that in their profile and even offer them some free time on the service - after all they're saving you money.

Support Tickets

Some users will want a more personalised approach to support. This will most likely involve email. When a user emails support directly, they will expect a timely response. This has the potential to add significant costs to your business, especially if you have a global customer base. One way to deal with this additional cost is to charge for it, offer packages of X incidents per month for Y dollars and put them on recurring billing. Most customers will forget to remove the recurring billing, but stop asking questions once they are up and running. There are various support systems available, I'll leave you to find the one which works best for you.

Chat and Telephone Support

Real time support channels such as chat or telephone can really eat into your bottom line. You need to have people sitting there waiting to take the "call", whatever time the customer contacts you and they may not call for a day. Accents and cultural issues can make it difficult to communicate effectively via the telephone. I would avoid offering any telephone support to customers.

Mailing Lists

A mailing list can be an effective way of communicating with your users. I'm not suggesting something like MailMan or Google Groups, I am talking about a one way announcement list. Check out MailChimp or Campaign Monitor to take care of this for you. Each month send out a newsletter with some useful tips, new features or announce other improvements to the service. Consider including case studies in the newsletter, which you can also feature on your sales site.

Customer Service

The cheapest way to build a business is through referrals or word of mouth. You need to look after your customers, so they become your sales team. Manage their expectations in terms of the support you offer them. Don't be afraid to cut a time sink loose, apologise, give them a refund and encourage them to find another solution. Support vampires can cost you a lot more than they're worth.

What's Next?

We are almost in the home stretch now. In the next post I will cover some of the business considerations in terms of what you offer to customer and how to upsell. The final post in the series will come later this week and will be a summary of the previous posts.

Making My Nokia SMSes Stop

This is a public service announcement.

Tracy Postill, Corporate Communications Manager at Nokia Australia sent me this response when I enquired as to why it had taken more then 6 months for me to be unsubscribed from the My Nokia service.

There are a number of very simple processes to unsubscribe:

- sending "stop" to +61416906978

- through My Nokia application in phone

- online at www.nokia.com.au/mynokia

- request "unsubscribe" through [email protected]

- Nokia Customer Care (Carline or email support)

This information is presented to consumers in multiple ways:

- after signing in via phone, customer receives a welcome message and information on how to opt-out (SMS)

- ~20% of scheduled SMS contain opt-out information (SMS)

- in every sales pack, there are the T&Cs for MyNokia including all the details of how to opt-out

- My Nokia FAQ on https://my.nokia.com/appmanager/AustraliaEnglishMY_NOKIA_AUSTRALIA/Login?SAMLart=AAQAAYU6%2FZbJFfjRP3cckEAJmxKhSmx8sqF8q2CNtVwZBvZUL6lb%2FBg%2Fmio%3D&RelayState=qh8DL4DVL1Qp9q612ncWTwWvRp6QQKYB52xh1226HJJ1RP14NvQr!-432133733!1266205653496#faq14

My signup text message and terms and conditions were returned to Optus along with everything else that came with my N97. None of the txts I have recieved from My Nokia has contained any opt out information and the FAQ requires a My Nokia account to be able to access it.

I explained to Tracy that I think Nokia has major issues with their processes for unsubscribing from My Nokia, she has "sent this email to our head of care and asked him to follow up on this". I will post a follow up if I receive a response from "head of care". I hope this saves others the hassle of trying to unsubscribe from the service.

Update 25-Feb-2010 The txts have stopped. What an ordeal! Hopefully if you are reading this the options above work for you.

Nokia and TXT Spam

Last year I bought my 4th Nokia phone in a row, a N97 on contract from Optus. What a mistake that was. The phone would drop every second call and the user experience was less than I expected from Nokia. Telstra allow customers in the bush to test drive a handset for a few days or so to make sure it works where you need it, Optus on the other hand will sell you the handset but offer a "Coverage Satisfaction Guarantee". After about 2 weeks, I bailed out of the contract with Optus through the CSG, returning the handset to Optus and eventually not having to make any repayments on the handset.

When I first turned on the phone it gave me the option of activating My Nokia tips and special offers or something like that, I thought I would turn it on and see what tips and offers I could get. It turned out the tips weren't very useful and there were no offers, let alone anything I would call special. When I returned the phone I completely forgot about the My Nokia txts. I was to discover Nokia hadn't forgotten about me. About twice a month I continue to receive messages from My Nokia.

Back in September I got fed up with receiving the text messages, which contained no option for opting out, so I filed a complaint with ACMA. 6 weeks later I was advised by ACMA that they had contacted Nokia on my behalf and asked them to unsubscribe me. I assumed this would be the end of the matter. The messages continued, so I contacted ACMA again. Two weeks later I was told again that Nokia had been told by ACMA to unsubscribe me. The following day another text arrives. In early January I received the following response from ACMA.

Thank-you for your email, I have tried to unsubscribe you from receiving messages from My Nokia.

I received the following from a Nokia Email Support Executive on the 16 December 2009.

Thank you for contacting Nokia Careline. I have searched our records using the phone numbers that you have provided and I find that all of them are not present in our system which means that they have not contacted us even once. We will not be able to unsubscribe an account without the direct consent from the owner of the account. If the customer is having difficulty to unsubscribe from the service, they should contact us first so that we can assist them. There are several ways to unsubscribe from the My Nokia service.

These are as follows:

1. Using a PC, Login to My Nokia and click on Edit my Details

2. Using the phone, open the My Nokia icon and select "Unsubscribe"

3. Click the link at the bottom of the email message sent from My Nokia

Should you have any questions regarding our product or if we can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact one of our friendly Technical Support Executives on 1-300 366 733 between the hours of 8am and 8pm, AEST, seven days a week. For online assistance, please visit ‘ASK Nokia’ at our website

Have you attempted the above to unsubscribe from this service?

As I explained to ACMA, I have never installed any Nokia software on my PC, so option 1 is out. As I no longer have the handset, option 2 is out, it is txt not an email so option 3 wouldn't work, so I decided to call Nokia.

I called Nokia on the number listed above. After 15 minutes or so on hold, I got to speak to someone in a call centre on the sub continent. The line was appalling, to make matters worse the guy I was dealing with seemed to be the work experience kid on his first day. I would talk to him for a minute or 2, then be put on hold for 5 minutes or more while he put me "on hold for a minute while I check something". I don't think that there was a sentence I didn't have to repeat. In the end he terminated the call when I lost it after being asked to spell "Nokia" to him for a 3rd time. Almost an hour of my time wasted.

I called Nokia back. This time I was kept on hold again for around 20 minutes. As soon as the call was answered I demanded to speak to a supervisor. After further time on hold I got to speak to a supervisor. First he tried to tell me it was coming from Optus not Nokia and that I needed to contact them. Next I was told to use the My Nokia menu option, which I explained I didn't have. Finally he suggested that he could login to the My Nokia website and unsubscribe me - finally I was getting somewhere! Then I was asked for my password, I explained I didn't have one, "that's OK sir, you can go to the website and sign up for one". It was clear after almost another hour lost this was going no where, so I cut my loses.

After getting off the phone I looked at how much information Nokia wanted so I could sign up for My Nokia. There was no way I was going to give any company that much information just to stop them spamming me - they have the identity theft jackpot questions all there.

On Wednesday I phoned the person at ACMA who was handling my complaint. They claim ACMA is complying with the letter of the law as these are not unsolicited commercial messages, but rather factual services messages from a company I have a relationship with. Apparently you can spam people in Australia if the messages are factual. As these are factual messages, Nokia isn't even required to have an opt out option. Although such actions may be legal, I don't think they are a good way to build customer loyalty and confidence in a brand.

I'm not happy with this situation. Based on some quick math, I have spent 4 to 5 hours chasing this, which is time I wasn't billing clients. This means I am pretty much down the cost of a new phone outright. As things stand now, I am not feeling like recommending Nokia to family, friends or clients, instead I am more likely tell this story and discuss the lack of customer service. I am now also very unlikely to buy the N900 I have been admiring on amazon, let alone attend Forum Nokia Developer Conference 2010. Instead I am likely to import a Nexus One or some other open phone.

I hope someone reading this works for Nokia or has a contact there who can resolve this. If anything happens I will post an update.

Below are some of pearls of wisdom I've received from Nokia:

Tip: Automatically adding location information to your pictures means you'll never forget a place. In camera mode, select Options > Settings > Show GPS info

Tip: Find out if a surface is flat by using your device as a spirit level. Download the free Level Touch app by visiting http://nokia.mobi/os/leveltouch

Tip: Share your favourite places with Nokia Maps. When viewing a map, select a saved place, press Send, and then choose your preferred sending method.

Tip: Use the self-timer to make you don't get left out of the next family portrait. In camera mode select the Capture settings icon and select Self Timer.

Tip: Listen to music in stereo sound and manage your calls with the Nokia Stereo Headset WH-500. Visit [...]

Update 15-Feb-2010 @ 13:00AEDT I emailed Tracy Postill, Corporate Communications Manager at Nokia Australia, a link to my post. She raised the issue with Nokia Care who called me on Freiday evening and told me that they had tried some things, but it would take 2 weeks or so before they knew if it worked or not. I sent a follow up email to Tracy asking why was it so difficult to unsubscribe from My Nokia. I am still waiting on a response from Tracy.

Vodafone Service Enquiry Response

Yesterday afternoon I received a txt message from my CALLscreen. service. The message was as follows:

ERIN FROM VODAFONE RE JUST WANTED TO ENSURE YOUR HAPPY WITH YOU SERVICES

That was it. No "call me back on 555 1234" or "will call you back later on today". Notice the use of your and you instead of you're and your?

Here is a list of issues I currently have with the service:

  • About 10% of my calls go straight to CALLscreen, even when I not on the phone, no missed call or anything. My handset is a SE v600i
  • My Nokia 6280 which was purchased under a 2 contract is almost useless yet my contract has 11 months to run. The warranty ran out at about the same as the phone stuffed up.
  • I would switch the phone I have on the Talk&TXT plan over to the $29 Jumbo Cap, but this is only available on prepaid.
  • 3G enabled the Tecoma tower, so I can get 3G call the way home from work
  • The Delight offers every 12 months is a nice touch, I am looking forward to getting a swiss army knife and magazine.

I would also be interested in seeing if I could get a better deal than the following, all postpaid on one bill.

  • The old $79 Super Cap (the one with CALLscreen included) with about 11 months to run
  • Talk&TXT with a monthly spend of about $40
  • 1Gb UMTS mobile data through Virgin $30 per month
  • 365 Plan prepaid mobile for sending the occasional txt message when a server falls over, this one isn't important

I have an ABN if that makes any difference to what can be offered.

If anyone has any ideas please feel free to leave a comment.

I would have been happy go through all of this Erin yesterday, but I wasn't given the opportunity to do so.

PS If you want to give me a Nokia N95 I will happily accept it and review it here after 2 weeks of use. hint hint :)