Thursday 31 March 2011

Month 8: Here comes the sun! Customer Care Portal

Outside the towers there is nothing but soupy gloom. The fog has laid and stayed, but the memory of those fleeting days of blue sky and sunshine are enough to lift the spirits. Well, that and the fact that our software has gone booooooooooom!

Before this month, we'd seen very good results and we'd been pretty happy with it to tell the truth. This month we uploaded some new files and they have just gone ballistic. The activity levels have been great but the commitment from the customers, their willingness to enter card details, and the conversion from promise to payment, has been way beyond our expectations. We are well and truly collecting, online and hands free, and if this continues, it's going to bode well when we get more data pushed through (still waiting for some clients to get going).

This month was the first real roll-out of the customer care portal. We're using ZenDesk software for case management and we're also using it for forums. We've created three forums so far; one for clients to give us development ideas, one for FAQs, and one as a kind of blog from our development team about what we're developing and what we're releasing.

We reckon that customer care goes way beyond setting up the software though, so we've created "Future Fridays". It's a commitment to spend every Friday afternoon reviewing the ideas the clients have given us, plus our own ideas. We respond to every one and mark it as planned, done or not planned. If the idea is planned then we add it to our long term development page that shows rough development times. It means that our clients can see the detailed description of what we are working on and also a general idea about what will come next. So far it works well.

Our tips for customer service?

  • Design your product to supports itself through intuitive design
  • Test your product well so you don't create failures
  • Provide self-help resources in up to date and searchable FAQs
  • Keep clients updated when the system changes
  • Pre-plan regular maintenance periods so clients have plenty of time to prepare
  • Answer support cases accurately and promptly and share those answers in your FAQ
  • Include clients in your development process

Excitement levels:  Off the HOOK (but holding some back for the sunshine)

Office music this month:  The Glitch Mob

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Month 7: Have principles


February has been a good month. Mike has signed up more clients, we've created a lovely case study for a trade magazine, we've launched our customer care portal (more on that soon) and we re-wrote the system. What?! Well, not exactly re-wrote, but we learnt loads of lessons from how customers were interacting with the system, and re-designed it so that it worked better.

A good example of the re-design is how loads of customers were saying that they would like to make a payment but didn't have any money right now. We added a new feature that allows them to put in their card details and then takes the payment on the date of their choice. Although we were a little sceptical whether people would want to do that, we shouldn't have worried. On the day we deployed the new feature, we had people using the new functionality. Nice.

We had some time to consider what sort of company we want to be this month. During our roadmap lunch we considered some basic principles that we think could be applied. For example,

"Thou shalt not lie"

OK, I used biblical terminology a little unnecessarily there, but try getting everyone in your company to agree to it.

  • No sales people lie 
  • No support people lie 
  • No managers lie 

You'd be surprised just how much such a simple statement affects your company. It's still work in progress, but over the next few months, we hope to create our Code, and then use it as our foundation to ensure we make a company we're proud to work in. Fun times.

Excitement levels:  Building to a frenzy

Office music this month:  Little Comets