It’s all to easy to make grand claims, and then fail to follow through on them. A common example is to claim to offer fantastic support; who doesn’t want fantastic support? So many companies offer less than stellar customer service that, on the rare occasion an email is answered swiftly or competently first time around, it’s a cause of celebration.
The thing is, though, that if you fail to live up to your claims, your users won’t just be disappointed: they will be bitterly so.
By way of example, let me introduce PayLane, a payment processor that claims to offer extraordinary support. The first time I read their website, I was filled with optimism: not only do they look professional and cool, they’re also in Europe, so I can apply! Take a look at their startup site - lovely stuff! Pretty, useful writings, and the tone of their writing is absolutely delightful. No more having to use PayPal? I was sold.
I was so sold, in fact, that I was already working out how to write a module for my invoicing system – nBill – which I would then open-source. nBill’s developer was happy to provide a development license, and things were starting to look pretty exciting: finally I could feel like I was in charge of my own billing destiny, move away from PayPal, maintain the branding on my billing site, and generally run a much more professional operation!
And then it al went wrong.
“Extraordinary support” could imply a lot of things, and to me it implies two basic ideals: my emails will be replied to on the same day sent; and I’m not going to be ignored or forgotten about. Sadly, PayLane failed on both of these.
The initial application form on their website is a quick “we’ll get in touch with you”-style form. It took two days for PayLane to send me an email with a link to the full application form. I eventually filled out a couple of forms, informed my contact that I’d be away for 10 days, and asked her to proceed with the application during this time so no time would be wasted.
I returned to an empty inbox. When I sent an email asking for the current status, I received a reply 3 days later, asking for details of the currencies I wanted to accept. I replied, and was told I’d receive more information ASAP.
A further 10 days later, I sent yet another request for a status update. There was a nasty pattern starting to emerge, but I remained optimistic. A day later, I received a reply, asking for more details, and another application form. Fair enough – we were making an application to a different bank that would apparently better serve my interests, and I started collecting and sending all the various documents required.
I had a couple of outstanding questions, my contact told me “I’ll be in touch,” and the final line of my last email was: “Once I hear back from you, I’ll take care of the certified copy of my passport (and registration document, if required).”
A week later, not having received any information, I sent another status update request, only to be told “We’re still missing these documents that I sent you [list of documents]” and “Please check my last emails.” So that was a frustrating waste of a week.
This is where the story ends. After the above, I could only conclude that either PayLane are liars, or that they simply don’t care for my business. I had a question regarding one of the documents, but rather than ask yet another question and get frustrated all over again, I gave up. OK, that’s not strictly true, in fact I set an unfair challenge in my head: I wouldn’t reply to the latest email, and would wait for PayLane to get in touch. If I received just one minor indicator of interest from them, a single “Hey Tom, how’re you getting along with this?”-type email, I’d resume and hopefully form a happy business relationship.
That was on the 5th of December, and as you may have guessed, no such email arrived. I did receive a “Season’s Greetings from PayLane” email on the 19th though, which was slightly galling. So here we are, the 4th of January, and nothing.
Here’s what you should take away from this: without all of PayLane’s claims of “extraordinary support” and “we are super,” would I have written this blog post? Would I be quite so very bitter when asked about them? Would I actively and strongly recommend against applying with PayLane? You know the answer: absolutely not. Had it not been for these claims, I would be a lot more forgiving: people make mistakes or get overworked, and it’s easy to fall through the gaps. There are probably many happy customers out there. For me though, I will have a considerable grudge against PayLane for the foreseeable future.
In short: if you make such claims, you need to be incredibly on top of your game.
As a brief counterpoint, my accountants here in Poland make no such claims for support, and yet they absolutely rock: emails answered within a couple of hours, in a foreign language, often unintentionally littered with broken grammar and/or slang phrases. Heck, they even pretend to enjoy my jokes. Consequently, I sing their praises to anyone and everyone who will listen to me.
I’m sure the best solution lies somewhere in the middle. The more claims you make, though, the more you need to back them up for all customers.