Monday, October 16, 2006


Heaving Peevishness

Ever use an online service, have trouble with that service, write an email asking for help, and get no response?

I don't know about you, but this throws me into a state of heaving peevishness. I froth at the mouth, spit, swear, cry in frustration, and about go bald pulling tufts of hair out of my head. An aneurysm threatens to form and burst in my brain.

Why does this situation cause such a visceral reaction? Because it is a massive slap in the face - an outright refusal of assistance - the ultimate in disrespect.

I had an attack of heaving peevishness this past weekend. The culprit? Haloscan, my commenting and trackback service for the blog. For some odd reason, the comment and trackback links were not appearing with my blog entries. I went to Haloscan for answers. Before asking for help, Haloscan requires users to look through its Forum. I obliged and found that other users had the same problem, but no real solution was given. I wanted to post to the Forum so that Haloscan could see how wide-spread the problem was. I was already logged in to my Haloscan account, which should automatically give me access to comment on the Forum. The Forum, however, insisted that I was a guest and asked me to sign in. I tried signing in and got the following message:

Sorry, the password was wrong. All passwords are case sensitive

Understand that I entered the very same user name and password that had already logged me into Haloscan. Entering and re-entering this data got me the same response. Now I had two problems, so I decided to contact Haloscan via their email address, which is practically impossible to find on their website. Somehow I stumbled upon it, but it comes with a warning. No one is allowed to use it for commenting issues, which was exactly the trouble I was having. WHAT!?! You have a contact email address, but people aren't allowed to use it to get help? What kind of customer service is this? Instead, we are redirected to the Forum, where we are supposed to sift through about 473 posts and comments in order to find a solution.

Being persnickety, I used the email address anyway. I haven't gotten a response. More heaving peevishness.

Haloscan isn't the only culprit in the no response game. I've had the same trouble with Technorati and PubSub. (I wrote about PubSub in my Newbies post.)

Seth Godin is forever pushing companies to become remarkable. Well, not a single one of these online companies will be remarkable until they take customer service (including responding to individual emails) seriously. I don't care if they have a staff of two. I don't care how hard it is for them to get their work done. I don't care if the service is free to users and they think that non-paying users are less important than paying customers. Without making customer service an essential piece of their business model, they will never be great businesses. (Frankly, I'm not asking them to do anything I wouldn't do myself at my job.)

An online business that gets it right is Blogger. Every question I've ever had about the interface is built so intuitively into their Help pages that I have never had a need to contact Blogger. Then, to be sure each Help page is truly helpful, Blogger asks at the end of each topic if it was helpful to you. Bliss!

If you're trying to become a remarkable online business, here's my advice to you:

1. As you're designing your website, think about how you're going to handle customer service. Make it a priority.

2. Make it easy to contact you. Make your contact link or button obvious and put it on every page in the same location.

3. Respond to email queries. If you can't cope with bad feedback constructively, learn how to do it. It's inevitable. Deal with it gracefully, and your ticked off customer will start praising you.

4. If you have Help pages on your website, make them easy to use. Don't shunt us off to Forums, hunting and pecking for answers. Put your FAQs on a FAQs page and make the page easy to find.

5. Don't expect everyone to be web savvy. People don't always think to look at Help pages or FAQs, so don't get bent out of shape if they contact you via email when the answer is already on your website. When heaving peevishness hits, people are even less willing to hunt for answers. They want something done NOW and email is the quickest way they can think of to ask their question.

'nuf said.

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