Yo Twitter, does the phrase 'eating one's own dog food' mean anything?

April 23rd, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Some weeks ago I had what to me was a serious issue. The two Twitter clients I use, Digsby and Mahtweets, weren’t connecting to Twitter. After troubleshooting for a bit, I got a bit paranoid and went into Twitter.com to change my password – just in case.

So I go through the change password steps, click on ‘Change’ and get an error. Something about an error with my profile. Try again, same error. Wait a while and return to it, still borked. Ok, now I’m really worried.

Hit up Twitter’s help link, prominently placed in the menu bar at the top and the bottom of the pages. It took me to a Googlesque search page. Tried a few queries, none that addressed my issue. Browsed their knowledge base for a bit, and got to the Known Issues page. Nope, nothing there.

Now, the thing about having a Known Issues page is that it signifies to me that I can submit an issue. That and the fact that there is a ‘Check your Existing Requests’ tab on the page. So now I search intently for a way to submit a request, and I can’t find one. Thinking I must be going blind – surely, SURELY there’s a place somewhere to do it – I spend about 1/2 an hour just looking for that. I even manage to find a past request I submitted last year listed under ‘Solved and closed requests’. No idea how I managed to do that – it was either a miracle, or they have made massive changes to the support system.

On to the final step – when all avenues have been exhausted, send the company an e-mail. Hit up the contact page, and the Customer Support link takes you back to their Help section. E-mail addresses listed there for Partners, Press and Law Enforcement, nothing for the pesky user with issues.

If this were ANY other product, I woulda ranted about it on Twitter upon exhausting all avenues. So I did, thinking, hoping, someone at Twitter would see it and get back to me. Nothing, nada, no response. Not that day, not in the following days.

What of the issue? I tried to change my password more than a week later, and the process worked.

So why am I bitching about it now?
Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. And I can’t let it go. It bugs me. It bugs me that I spent SOOOO much time trying to get help and I couldn’t find a single piece of information to aid the situation. It bugs me that I could see Troubleshooting topics started recently, but I couldn’t find an obvious way to start one. It bugs me that there might be people out there new to Twitter or long-time users slightly more n00b than I having issues and not getting the help they need. I understand their frustration.

And most of all, it bugs me that these days it’s almost a requirement for other companies to monitor Twitter as part of their customer support/care strategy. We call companies out who aren’t up to date with customer feedback coming in on Twitter, or those who don’t respond adequately. And Twitter seems to get away with not doing exactly that.

I was at Evan Williams’ SXSW keynote, where he spoke about being as open and transparent as possible both within and without the company. In my line of work, that means listening and responding to customers. In this context, it means monitoring Twitter for cries of help and reaching out. Not an easy task by any means, but one that needs to be done nevertheless.

So Twitter, hows about that dog food?

Join your troops on the front line

December 7th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

At the inaugural Product Mavens’ Meetup (#pmm) the conversation turned to support and the challenges we face in that area.

What really warmed my heart was the general consensus within the discussion that everyone in a company, large or starting up, should have a go at fielding support queries. On a personal level, attending to support calls is the single biggest stresser for me. I deeply dislike it when something isn’t working for someone trying to use our products. Usually, unless it is a major issue affecting a big population of your base, it is hard to convey a sense of urgency to the rest of the team. It’s always been my thinking that the process from receiving a support ticket to resolving it would be much improved if only everyone involved had a sense of exactly what is involved in responding to someone facing issues. Not only would everyone have a handle on the bits that are broken, but it supports your support people. And trust me on this – support peeps need all the backup they can get on the front lines. Things can get hairy out there.

Having a grasp of the issues one’s customers are having isn’t only about fixing bugs in the system. It is imperative for a good understanding of who is using your product, why they’re using it, how it fits into their lives, and consequently the direction your product should go in. Let’s be frank here, if your business based on a product, what can be more important? Knowing these things forces you to look at your product with different perspectives. For some, it is the reason they look at their product at all.

Which brings me to another point I think everyone in an organisation should do. Use your product. Simple, no? Yet I have observed a definite lack of practise of this. [I once had a conversation with a CEO of a startup about one of their features, and he had this blank look on his face. He had NO idea what I was talking about. He lost a few competency points in my eyes ;)] If you don’t know what you have, how can you possibly build upon it?

Now, my position is definitely coloured by my community management background. Using the product and answering support calls are part of what I do. I’ll admit that the reshuffle required in large companies for every cog to have a go at customer service is a huge task. There are ways to get around this. I remember someone at #pmm mentioning that there’s a company which makes all new employees serve a support stint before taking up their permanent roles. (Anyone got a name?) For startups, it could be as simple as getting everyone to check in on Jira or ~insert issue management tool of choice~. The point isn’t that everyone needs to be doing my job. The point is that everyone should have a handle on what’s actually going on with your product and customers.

What do you think? Am I off my idealistic rocker?

Oh, and before I end, heads up to the product peeps out there – there’s another mavens’ meetup on the 16th of Dec at the Trinity Bar. Big thanks to @mishymash and @schmediachick for organising!

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