Every so often, someone asks if I provide phone support. The short answer is no, and there's a good reason for that. Spending all that time on the phone would actually make my support pretty lousy.
Imagine with me, if you will, a typical call to a support center. The first thing you hear is almost always a recording followed by the dreaded:
Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed.
Those menus seem to change a lot, don't they?
After you journey through a labyrinth of options, you eventually get to wait on hold. It's frustrating. It doesn't make you feel like the "valued customer" the recording says you are. How many times do you hit zero repeatedly until someone picks up?
If and when you get through to a human, you immediately get the same canned greeting:
Thanks for calling __________ where customers are number one. My name is _________. May I have your account number please?
After all, you've just spent five minutes trying to get ahold of someone. Now you have to spend five more validating your account and describing your problem. I hope you remember your favorite teacher, the make and model of your first car, and your mother's maiden name.
That's why I use email instead. It may sound crazy, but it's so much better for this type of thing. Here are four excellent reasons why my support remains legendary even without the dial tones.
Email is faster
When you need help, it's just a click or tap away from any page. Just type your problem and hit send. You don't need to waste time on hold. You don't need to validate your account by telling a stranger your pet's name. Because you're logged in when you submit your request, I know exactly who you are.
While speaking with someone on the phone might seem to be faster, that's not always the case. It usually takes longer to tell them who you are and describe your issue than it does to send a simple email.
Think about it. I need to know things like which webpage you need help with. It's faster for you to copy and paste a link than tell me letter-by-letter over the phone. It's also faster for me to click on it! The same goes for screenshots and attachments. These little time savers really add up.
So maybe email isn't technically faster than a phone call, but it allows a small number of individuals to help a large number of users without sacrificing the quality of support. And by quality, I mean:
- You will always hear from me within 24 hours (weekends and holidays are no exception)
- You will never get a canned response from me
- You will never speak to an outsourced person who doesn't know what they're doing
So even if email isn't immediate, it does save a lot of time and it let's me help a lot of users. And it doesn't play annoying music while you wait on hold.
Email is more detailed
Having a detailed description of your issue is critical to finding a proper solution. Asking questions over the phone means I have to write things down or keep it all in memory while you're talking to me. This leaves room for error and causes confusion.
When you submit a help request, I know who you are. I know what website you're having trouble with. With a few clicks, I can see exactly what you're seeing. That makes it easy for me to identify and resolve your issue.
Having everything in an email also gives me history to work with. Everything that comes in or goes out gets archived so it can be referenced later on. You'd be surprised at how useful this can be.
Email is accessible anytime
I have users all over the world, so it's impossible for me to keep a phone schedule that works for all of them. Email, on the other hand, can be sent, read, and replied to at any hour of the day.
Believe me when I say any hour of the day. It's not unusual for me to answer help requests in the morning, during lunch, on the weekends, just before bed...any time is fair game for support.
Email is also available anywhere. It's on my laptop and my phone. Email can come with me to places where a headset cannot.
Email is cheaper
By now you know that I'm a one man show, but that doesn't stop me from providing support for lots of users. The cost of setting up even a mediocre call center would require a significant increase in the price of the service. Most of my users are happy with the way I've been handling support for the last five years, so there's no need to start charging them for something they don't want.
The truth is, even if I did set up a call center, the people who would answer the phone won't be people that work with Surreal on a daily basis. They'd be hired help fielding basic questions that you'll find just as easily in the docs. They would just become a layer between the problem and the solution, which means support won't be nearly as good — or as fast.
Sure, I save a lot of money by using email for support, but that's not why I do it.
When you email me, you're connecting directly with person who develops and maintains Surreal CMS. As a result, you get helpful resolutions faster than most companies will even pick up the phone.