One of the few areas a smaller software company can compete with large software companies, like the Microsofts or IBMs of this world, is customer service.
Our customer service queries are answered either by me personally or by a software developer who can review the actual source code. It pays for us to have software developers answering questions but not just for customer satisfaction. Customers are, more often than not, helping us to make our products better. It’s amazing. They’re spending their time making our product better and then they thank US at the end of it. Simply because we’ve listened to them.
We never forget that we’re the main beneficiary of the correspondence. Who knows how many other people couldn’t be bothered to tell us about the issue/feature deficiency and simply uninstalled the product? As a rule of thumb I put it at around 1 in 100 will contact us, which highlights just how special each correspondence is.
However, there are a rare few people who can create problems and waste time. Suddenly customer support can become quite a challenge. Fortunately we only have one or two challenging users but I thought it’d be interesting to show you the correspondence with one of those users over the past decade to illustrate the harder side of customer service.
(For the sake of privacy I’ve paraphrased the communication, unless shown in quotes, but I’ve tried to keep the tone. I’ve used the fictitious name of ‘John’ and I’ve also removed all the ‘Thank you for your comment’ style introductions.)
It all starts nicely enough…
Sept – John: Will Agent Ransack be compatible with Win ME?
Mythicsoft: While I have not yet tested Agent Ransack there should be no compatibility problems.
Nov – John: How do I get a registration code?
Mythicsoft: I’ll send one to you.
Nov – John: How do I install the latest version of Agent Ransack?
Mythicsoft: You can just run the latest install which will install straight over the top.
Aug – John: How do I install the latest version of Agent Ransack?
Mythicsoft: Just install over the top
July – John: How do I use wildcards with Agent Ransack
Mythicsoft: Please see example below…
Sept – John: What is the equivalent to *.* in Agent Ransack
Mythicsoft: Just don’t put anything or put .*
And after using the product for five years…
Nov – John: “The program does not work at all. How would I MAKE it work?”
Mythicsoft: “What happens?”
John: “Nothing. There isn’t even an icon on the desktop.”
Mythicsoft: “So when you double-click the downloaded agentran.exe absolutely nothing happens?”
… No response…
Jan – John: How much does FileLocator Pro cost?
Mythicsoft: A single user license costs $24.95
June – John: When I click on a search result I get an error. How can I get rid of this error.
Mythicsoft: Were you clicking on a temporary file that has since been deleted?
John: No, it is neither a temporary or deleted file.
Mythicsoft: Does this happen in all folders for all searches?
… No response …
July – John: I did a search for xxx and received hundreds of results. Obviously, this is not useful. Please help with this problem.
Mythicsoft: Are the results wrong?
Aug – John: I tried searching for .txt but the results are wrong. What is the problem and how can it be fixed?
Mythicsoft: In FLPro set the type to DOS Exp and put *.txt and in Agent Ransack use \.txt$
Aug – John: It is possible to obtain an instruction manual.
Mythicsoft: Link for PDF manual sent.
Aug – John: I’m happy with Agent Ransack so I think I’ll give FileLocator Pro a try but first I have a few questions…
Mythicsoft: (Questions answered).
It looks like John wants to buy but there are some problems…
Sept – John: “You want me to pay by Visa or Mastercard. I have Discover. Does Mythicsoft want to make it impossible for me to purchase its products?”
Mythicsoft: “We do accept Discover, simply follow the Buy Now link and although it show the VISA and Mastercard symbol does accept Discover.”
John: Do I choose Visa or MasterCard.
Mythicsoft: Simply click the Buy Now button and follow the on screen instructions. Regsoft handle all the details regarding credit card information.
Oct – John orders FileLocator Pro – Great! It’s taken a while but we have another satisfied customer… or do we?
Oct – John: I have not received my registration code.
Mythicsoft: (Registration code resent).
How much goodwill and trust does free help and support over seven years buy you? Not much…
Oct – John: “YOU are a fraudulent organization engaging in illegal practices.
I PAID for FileLocator Pro because Agent Ransack was good and FileLocator Pro demonstration program worked well. So I paid for the program and I fell for the old “bait and switch” scheme.
I told you that the “registration” key that you sent to me did not work — actually, the key did not fit, so I requested a fully working copy. NO response. I requested the program…again no response.
Mythicsoft may be a small organization, but that doesn’t excuse its shoddy treatment of customers. You may rest assured that I will do everything in my power to besmirch your firm for its shoddy morals — if your firm and employees have any morals at all.”
Mythicsoft: (Multiple replies were sent using Mythicsoft and private email accounts without any response.)
Assuming that it was an unsuccessful purchase a refund was issued. End of story? Not quite…
Nov – John: “I apologize for being so nasty”. Your registration email went into my spam folder. The lazy and incompetent people at my ISP win again.
Mythicsoft: “No worries I’m glad at least one email got through. You’ve probably noticed that your original order was refunded since we assumed that you never received any registration code. Keep the original registration with our compliments.”
John: “Thank you.”
Dec – John: Your system is excellent. Could you recommend a search engine for web searches?
Mythicsoft: Google works for me.
Dec – John: Would you send the registration code to me? My computer fouled up and I need to reinstall.
Mythicsoft: You can download the registration key at anytime from the web site.
Jan – John: I would like to use a manual instead of a help file.
Mythicsoft: Link to manual in PDF format sent.
Feb – John: How do I search multiple drives?
Mythicsoft: Separate locations using the ; character. e.g. c:\;e:\
And then things start going wrong again…
Mar – John: “I bought the program [FLPro] because I was impressed by Agent Ransack.” You can understand why I was disappointed when FileLocator Pro missed something. FileLocator Pro found 13 items, yet not one of them was what I was looking for. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from occurring?
Mythicsoft: I would need to see the file it missed to understand why the file was not picked up.
Mar – John: “How would I get the EXACT match? My definition of ‘exact’ is just that…EXACT.”
Mythicsoft: Switch to regular expression and type: \bterm\b
Apr – John: “FileLocator Pro indicated that a document I was searching for was in the ‘c:\Documents and Settings folder. I looked for that folder yet it was not there. What is going on here?”
Mythicsoft: You probably have the folder hidden. In your explorer settings make sure that you show all items, including hidden and system.
May – John: FileLocator Pro is now running slowly. How should I proceed?
Mythicsoft: If you have switched on the extensions in the ‘File Type Extensions’ tab then it will be slower. If not then please provide some metrics. i.e. 3 searches of a 100MB took 10 secs etc.
Nov – John: “I bought FileLocator Pro about a year ago, after being impressed by Agent Ransack. Suddenly FileLocator Pro doesn’t work.” I searched for a word and it wasn’t found.
Mythicsoft: I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to. Are you searching through PDF documents?
Mar – John: “There are two questions, the answers to which are probably covered in your ‘Help’ file, but I must have quick answers:…”
Mythicsoft: (Questions answered)
More problems, this time with registration…
May – John: “I’ve used FileLocator Pro for several years (and before that Agent Ransack). Suddenly, FileLocator Pro disappeared. And now I get a message that I must register it AGAIN. I already paid for the program — after I saw how well Agent Ransack worked. Must I pay for FileLocator Pro again? If not, please send a version that works — or send a registration key so I may input it?”
Mythicsoft: I imagine that some sort of registry cleaner type program has accidently removed it. Please re-download the program from the MyAccount section of the web site.
John: I followed your instructions exactly. I got a message that the trial period had expired. What is going on here?
John: Please send an executable (the actual program, NOT instructions and NOT an installation file ) to me.
Mythicsoft: What reg code are you trying to use?
Request for a refund (it’s already been refunded!) with a few threats thrown in…
May – John: I have been using FileLocator Pro for a long time, after using Agent Ransack. Suddenly, FileLocator Pro did not work. The $29.95 registration fee may not mean much to you, but to me it is a lot of money. I would rather have the program running, but if you cannot fix matters, return the $29.95 to me.
“One thing you can be certain of: I will heartily not recommend MythicSoft or any of its products to my local association (350+ members) if you do not resolve this problem promptly.”
Mythicsoft: (More instructions on how to download and install FileLocator Pro).
John: Thank you, I have a few more questions on how to register the product.
Mythicsoft: (Repeat instructions from above)
Looks like registration was sorted out so let’s get back to using the product…
Oct – John: “How do I conduct a search on FileLocator Pro?”
Mythicsoft: “Please supply more information about what you are trying to do.”
John: How can I put in a search term and then get results for ONLY the term I input?
Mythicsoft: What are you getting other than the term you’re entering?
Nov – John: “I am finally getting around to reading your ‘help’ file. Do you have it in book/magazine format so”
Mythicsoft: Link to manual in PDF format sent.
After almost ten years of free continuous support and…
Nov – John: This program was supposed to be faster than XP search but it’s not. The help system is over blown and was no help. There was nothing about ‘faster’, ‘rapid’, or ‘speedier’ on it.
“I paid for this program. It is supposed to be even better than Agent Ransack. I don’t mind paying for a computer program that does something and/or is an improvement to an existing function. FileLocator Pro is a disappointment — it is not an improvement.”
Mythicsoft: (Through gritted teeth) “Thank you for your comments. We make every effort to make FileLocator Pro as fast and as functional as possible.”
Just to round of the year with a bang…
Dec – John: I downloaded the new version application: npp.src.4.7.2.zip
Nothing, absolutely nothing shows up. It has been over two hours since I downloaded the file.
Mythicsoft: “Any questions relating to NotePad++ should be directed at the NotePad++ team.”
And we all wait with baited breath for the next question…
What’s my point?
Customer service can be very rewarding and, at least in our case, company changing but it can also be very hard and sometimes even slightly distressing. When some people communicate without any face to face interaction they can loose all sense of respect and courtesy. Take our ‘John’ for example. He’s taken up hours if not days of our time without any compensation financial, gratitude or otherwise. But in some ways I quite look forward to John’s emails. It now always raises a smile and reminds me how truly special all our other customers are.