More and More … it’s about Support

I’m in process of switching away from a program I’ve liked for many years. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but a bad support experience was what pushed me off the fence. The support people weren’t rude, or even hard to reach; they just didn’t know the answer to my question, said they’d find out and get back to me, and never did.

More and more, I’m basing my buying decisions on support. I dropped Vonage for VOIP because their support was clearly outsourced and had no idea what they were doing. I don’t mind outsourced, but I do mind not giving support people enough information to answer questions, or enough authority to solve problems. I’ll never buy anything from Dell again for the same reason. Their PCs are fine, their prices can’t be beat, but their customer service people can’t fix a problem, and can’t even escalate it to someone who can.

For software – I have to be able to get support. I depend way too much on software working to put up with no reply to my email messages, no followup on problems, or no way to know my message has even been received. My work, my personal info, my conversations: I depend on software, and on the safety net of knowing I can get help if I need it. I won’t buy a bad product with good support, but there’s a lot of good software in the world. I won’t – and don’t have to – settle for anything but good support.

We do phone support here – tollfree in the U.S. – and while it’s one of our biggest expenses, there’s no way we’ll drop it. Yes, it takes more time to talk to someone on the phone than to email them, but when someone needs help, we want to provide it, whatever it takes. And email is not always the best way to communicate, or even always a reliable way. No matter how good our email sending is, if someone can’t receive it, the communication doesn’t happen.

Kevin and Lee - our friendly and helpful support people

I’m proud of a number of things we’ve accomplished in the last 10 years, and high on the list is the killer support we provide. I’ve heard some of the conversations, and I’m always impressed. If every company – software or otherwise – had as good support as we do, things would be a lot easier for everyone. And I think that many, many people – the people who actually use, need and call the support lines – would be a lot less stressed and angry so much of the time.

10 thoughts on “More and More … it’s about Support

  1. Kerim Satirli

    I have to say that, whenever I needed to get in touch with someone at IS, I always received a quick and helpful answer, no matter what the topic of the mail was.

    Just about every mail is followed up and if need be, forwarded to the right people.

    Yes, support is important but heck, even if you guys would slack off for half of the time, you would still rock a lot more than 90% of the companies out there.

  2. spmwinkel

    Something to be proud on! I can’t remember ever needing support from IS, but I did have (for my standards) quite some contact with Julie. And if Support has the same level, I totally agree Kerim. ;)

    So even though I didn’t need Support in the past, it’s great to know Kevin and Lee are available just to keep us happy customers! Thanks!

  3. Brandon

    While I’ve never had to call you folks (and honestly I hope I never do) I’m glad to hear you plan on keeping phone support.

    I work in a NOC and while the majority of our support is done via email, I agree that sometimes you just need to pick up the phone and solve the problem 1 on 1.

    As for training … try being the one on the other end of the line who has their hands tied or doesn’t have enough training. There’s nothing more frustrating for me than when a customer calls me for support on an array or a tape device and I haven’t been trained on the gear they are calling about. Drives me up the wall… and we’re talking about $50k+ devices. It’s never a good situation!!

  4. Ron Campbell

    I applaud you guys for appreciating and giving due resources to one-to-one customer support. But as this post points out, in terms of creating goodwill among your client base… it’s sort of a heavy effort / low return model.

    Those people who need to contact you get the good service but you have to rely on them to get positive word-of-mouth out to the community that you’re bankable guys. While you end up with a hardcore group of people with good customer service stories – it’s small. I’m surprised that you don’t have an active forum running where the customer service interactions could be observed by a much wider audience and you have the benefit of building a knowledge base that helps the broader community sort out their problems before needing to contact you directly.

    For example, I’ve had really good forum exchanges with Softmaker about their PPC and Windows apps. Whether it’s an upgrade question or a technical issue they always have tried to work through the board first and then gone to private email (or phone) if the problem can’t be resolved there. But more often, I can simply search the messages to find the info I want without having to contact the staff directly. Happy customer – happy company.

    This blog is a great channel to hear from your staff about what’s on their mind and the directions you want to take the company in. But to make the conversation more two-sided I’d strongly suggest you guys set up a moderated forum.

    It takes time and you always run the risk of having to deal with cranky posters but it really is a great way to get immediate feedback from your users while demonstrating your commitment to customer service. (And heck, make it a closed forum that requires product reg numbers to join certain sections if you are worried about the warez kids soaking up the free support).

    Thanks for listening.

  5. Marc

    First I want to say that I second Ellen’s comments. I also want to extend my personal thanks to our excellent support folks. They really do an amazing job and I appreciate it.

    As for a forum, we’ve tossed the idea around and weighed our resources. Right now we feel like spending the time answering every call and personally responding to every email is the best use of time from the point of view of helping the customer, but we haven’t ruled out a forum for the future! It’s certainly something we’re considering.

  6. Matt Coddington

    You guys ROCK! I have come to you for support numerous times over the past several years and your helpfulness & speed of service is incredible! Ilium is ALWAYS spoken highly of at our User Group meetings! THANK YOU!

  7. buzzard

    I have had nothing but excellent support from Ilium. I recently added eWallet to my PocketPC although I already owned a similar product from a competitor but the reason I bought eWallet (which is an excellent program) is because of the extremely rude email responses I received from the other software support personnel. The result was I stopped using the other company’s wallet type program as well as their PPC calendar. I was able to purchase eWallet during the $10 sale week awhile back and a new calendar product at 50% off. I didn’t want to spend the money but I have no intention of working with a well known software company and get sarcastic answers to simple questions to their support team.

    Thanks Ilium for your continued excellent support.

  8. Rob

    Hi, nice to read all the positive comments. So far I’ve received prompt email replies when I’ve initiated it from my end. So kudos to them for this. However, at the moment, I’m supposed to be waiting for an update status email from them. No email yet from them and it’s been a week.

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