The HotLine Magazine Archives
For The Profession of Cloud/SaaS Product Support
By Mikael Blaisdell

— It Will be Exactly Too Late.

The e-mail was very specific, beginning with the subject line.  Warning!!  Don’t Use [Product-X]’s New Upgrade — High Risk of Data Loss!! (I recognized the sending address, and so knew that it was safe to read.)  Inside, the warning text alerted me that the latest “upgrade” for a certain vendor’s software product was very flawed.  Using it would put your existing notebook data at risk of contamination.

Unfortunately, there were two aspects of the message that I found very troubling.  The first was that it came too late — I’d already installed the upgrade and had indeed lost data because of using it.  The second was that the e-mail didn’t come from the manufacturer.

Thumbs downI learned from that unfortunate incident, and others like it, never to trust that manufacturer again.  I will never buy another product from the company.  I don’t install their “upgrades” for the tool I still have until I’ve thoroughly checked the online forums (not their own, of course, for they arrogantly discontinued that form of “support” some time ago) to see if there are any known problems with it.  And as soon as somebody else comes out with a Mac based notebook program that has the specific features I require, I will gladly dump the product I’m currently using and switch.  Further, I’m very definitely what the Net Promoter Score people call a “Detractor” when it comes to that company.  I always warn people away from the software manufacturer where appropriate, giving very specific reasons and links to the published experiences of others.

Lessons Learned

There are larger lessons in the above experience; it illustrates a fundamental disconnect common to the overwhelming majority of all software manufacturers.  They are about selling a technological product, when what customers such as myself really want to buy is a relationship based on increased productivity.  Further, once they’ve sold their product, they’re essentially done with the customer.  The consistent behavior of such a company clearly proves that their overriding focus is on finding ever more new customers rather than on profitably keeping the ones that they have.

The whole reason for the “upgrade” in the example was to add new features so as to make the product more competitive, more attractive for new buyers.  Since the new buyers didn’t have any existing data, they were not put at risk by the new version.  While it’s possible that the company’s Support group might have wanted to send out the alert to the customer base as soon as they realized the danger, they would have known better than to even ask.  The Sales team would have instantly vetoed any such move, lest it discourage the incoming stream of new customers.

The Meaning of a Transaction

The person who sent me the alert knew that I was a user of that software product.  They’d been burned themselves, and so wanted to help their community to avoid the same fate.  This is the essence of relationship, the parties acting from the awareness of an ongoing mutually beneficial connection and the desire to perpetuate it.  The individual sounded the alarm about the flawed upgrade, not because they themselves would personally profit immediately from the specific action, but so that the prosperity of the community would be enhanced and its members be there to possibly return the favor in the future.

The surest indicator of the values that drive a person or a company is the consistent pattern of their behavior over time.  Do the specific actions taken, or consistently not taken, fit together in a way that makes sense?  For example, does the software manufacturer make it easy for customers to access and use the knowledge inventory of the customer support contact center?   Are the individual representatives focused on resolving the problem or on just closing the case?   Does the company take the initiative to reach out to the customer, or is the burden left on the customer to always take the lead?

Any company can claim to be customer-centric, and many do.  The truth of the claim, however, will be proven in the interactions between customer and company over the course of the relationship; it cannot be hidden.  What does the process of your company’s customer contact center say about your true focus?  If you’re uncomfortable with the answer you get, and want to make a change, call me.

August 28, 2008