A Note to Customer Support

Right now, I’m stuck somewhere between tech purgatory and tech hell. I use Evernote (and pay for a premium subscription) to track my work projects and store all my notes, associated files, clipped Web pages and other data. Although Evernote is an amazing application in many respects, it also serves as a poster child for everything that’s wrong in business and technology today.

At the heart of the problem: strange functional limitations and mediocre customer support. Once you get past the beautiful interface and drop-dead simple functionality of the application, you may encounter some serious problems.

For example, a user can’t create more than 250 notebooks that sync through the cloud; it’s impossible to turn on and off syncing for individual notebooks; and import and export features are clunky and problematic.

Things really went downhill in my world when the program broke after an update, and I suddenly couldn’t create new project notebooks. Getting answers and resolving problems is an incredibly slow and ineffective process at Evernote. It’s impossible to speak with a live person on the phone because there is no phone support.

Consequently, chat sessions and emails expand what should be a 15- or 20-minute fix into a ‘supportapalooza” that stretches out over days and dozens of messages. Reps are pleasant and try their best, but resolution is painfully slow.

Unfortunately, this is the new normal in the tech arena. Although devices fail and things are bound to go wrong, half-baked products and subpar support models are the rule rather than the exception.

Too often, development teams don’t spend adequate time up front designing and building software and databases with the necessary flexibility. Then, when problems occur, the business views support as a cost center rather than as a long-term marketing tool.

CIOs and other business leaders should understand a couple of basic things: First, if the ongoing demand for customer service and tech support exceeds your ability to respond promptly and efficiently, your business and pricing model is flawed, and your product or service is probably doomed. Second, whatever metrics you rely on are meaningless if they don’t solve users’ problems and don’t lead to a higher level of engagement and loyalty.

The bottom line is that customers are all you have and you must covet them. There are no shortcuts to long-term success. Build great products, design great IT systems and deliver great customer service and support, and you dramatically increase the odds for success. Count beans and you will likely hemorrhage customers and revenues until there is no viable business.

I hope you are taking notes, Evernote.

Sam Greengard is a contributing writer to CIO Insight.


Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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