I like a good customer service experience. I don’t normally ask for assistance from customer service at a company - I’m a big fan of self-service - but when I do need help, it’s not like I’m making up some imaginary need.
I’m trying to troubleshoot an issue where a user on our intranet gets prompted to log in when they visit the intranet home page. Internet Explorer should automatically log them in, but it’s not doing it. I found that they have some Segue Software products installed, so thought I’d search the knowledge base over there to see if there are any known issues.
First, they make you register to read the knowledge base. Normally I don’t have a problem with this, but they do it in a sneaky way: They show you a form where you enter your email address, desired username, and desired password, then you click a register button… just so you can fill out a second, longer form with more personal information. Fill that out, click the register button again, and you get told that they have to “confirm” your account, so you can’t access the site until you get an email from them with a confirmation link.
That wouldn’t be too bad if the email showed up quickly, but it takes half an hour to get to you. Once you click the registration link, it validates your account, but you still have to log in.
So you log in, go to the knowledge base, and enter your search terms. Clicking search gets you nowhere, though, because you have to select a product name to search articles about that product. Here’s what you see for the list of products:
At this point, I’m pretty irate. I decide to contact the support people directly to tell them there’s a problem with their knowledge base and it needs to be rectified:
I’m trying to search your knowledge base but it tells me to “select a product from the dropdown box.” Problem is, it doesn’t POPULATE the dropdown box with any product names, so I CAN’T.
Please either fix the selection box or remove the requirement that I select a product.
Pretty reasonable request, right? Here’s what I get back:
Thank you for contacting us with your request. Please provide your customer ID so that we may open a technical support call for this issue.
Please also include your customer ID in any future correspondence with the support department as it allows us to track your issues more efficiently.
What? You want my customer ID and all that because your site is broken? I don’t want you to open a call, I just want your fucking site to work so I can do my job. I’ve been fighting this thing for a while now, and I’m fresh out of patience.
God forbid you just fix your site and make it usable without opening a tech support call and asking for all the serial numbers. I’m not the end user of the product; the guys in the QA department are. I want to find out if you have any KB articles on effects that your products might have on [insert long technical problem description here]. I don’t have the actual customer ID number or product serial info, I’m just an IT guy trying to troubleshoot a potentially related item.
Thanks for the lack of help, I’ll see if I can get the QA guys to log me in on the site with their accounts or something.
I figured it was over at that point. One of the QA guys logged me in and, wonder of wonders, the product selection box populates, things seem to magically work. But their tech folks aren’t letting up.
When you contact technical support you will always be asked for your customer id number so that we can confirm your entitlement to support whether that be information or more in depth technical help.
With regards to access to information on the support website you should note the following.
In order to log into our site you must first create your own user profile. During the registration process we must validate your entitlement to create that profile. One of the ways we do so is by confirming your customer id number, and that, that number is tied to a customer with valid maintenance.
Further if you are not listed on our customer database as a bona fide contact for that customer id, then you will not be able access any of the secure areas of the support website. (from your correspondence it appears that this is the problem you experienced).
Since when has the knowledge base been a “secure area?” An even better question: How come I can get to the “secure area” but have some broken form so it looks like a technical malfunction in the site as opposed to a conscious decision to deny access? God damn, these people stepped on my last nerve.
I find it fascinating that accessing a knowledge base, granting access to which costs you nothing and would actually probably SAVE you in support costs, is considered support that I might have to qualify to be “entitled” to. You might take a page from Microsoft or IBM, reasonably successful companies, and provide online, self-help style support without qualification. I can see denying access to forums or other interactive support, charging for personal attention from a technician, but the knowledge base? What if I download an evaluation product and want to search the KB? Looks to me like I’d STILL be denied, and I wouldn’t have a customer number to provide you.
Assuming that you don’t provide support without qualification, you might want to either actively disable the knowledge base search form or put something on the site somewhere so it doesn’t just look like you guys messed up when a non-qualified user logs in and tries to search. If I’m not allowed to search the KB, I shouldn’t even be given the option. Instead, I get taunted with a form and end up in a ridiculous email chain like this.
Consider me unimpressed. I have since gotten a QA guy to “loan” me an account so I can actually search the knowledge base, so I suppose the point is moot. I know what recommendation I’ll be making if and when they ask me about what software company to go with, though.
And that’s where it stands. Here’s a message to all those companies out there who require people jump through ridiculous hoops to get self-service support from your web site: You’re turning away potential and, in many cases, existing customers.