Over the years I witnessed the never ending debate between practitioners of Customer Service/Support and Marketing over which one of them is more critical to the delivery of outstanding Customer Experience. The debate itself is a testimony that these practitioners are more focused on their self importance than on their customers’ needs. As long as you debate which is more important – the food or the utensils – your guest goes away hungry. The most amazing product cannot thrive without at least reasonable customer service. The most amazing customer support cannot keep customers from abandoning inadequate products, and without retaining the customers there is no path to sustainable profitability. I want to illustrate this point with the following story:
A few years ago we started to use a web site building software from GoDaddy.com (WebBuilder) to take control of our marketing needs from IT specialists. Our experience was very good as GoDaddy provided very reliable hosting service and outstanding tech support. However, as we wanted to make our website better we started to realize severe limitations of the WebBuilder editor. GoDaddy acquired this technology and did not keep investing into it to keep it competitive with other products available. Eventually we realized that the reliability and support could not overcome the inadequacies of the tool.
Enter Weebly with a much snazzier platform. Last year we moved one of our web properties to Weebly. It looks much better, engages visitors for longer periods of time, and helps us improve the rate/cost of customer acquisition. Unfortunately, our reliability experience took a hit as Weebly’s hosting makes our site unavailable 5-6 times per month for a period of 2-8 minutes each. When we brought this problem to the attention of their tech support, they outright denied it and no amount of documented evidence could make a dent in their conviction. The overall customer support quality is much lower than the one from GoDaddy, and even though the “product” is much better, the reliability issue made our customer experience unsustainable. We did not want to move any other of our properties to the Weebly platform and started to look for yet another alternative provider.
WIX.com’s tools blew us away. They are so much more creative and powerful than Weebly’s, and the WebBuilder looks like it belongs to the era of horse and buggy. In no time did we re-design another one of our properties to look and feel amazing and were ready to publish it. It took us twice as long, so far, to find the way to upgrade our site into production and start paying to WIX.com for their amazing “product”. It is so painfully difficult to give them our credit card info that we started to look for help from customer support just to learn that there is no way for us to contact them. We started to think that the company doesn’t really want new customers and their money, until we noticed their promotions offering 50% discount from the monthly fees. However, every time I clicked on the Upgrade button I got
The links on the bottom do not lead anywhere and the Support Team phone number answered with generic voice mail. WIX customer forum is littered with messages from the frustrated customers who threaten cancellation, and the only response they get from the support is how to cancel their account, not how to remedy their problems.
Customer experience is a tree legged stool: Product + Customer Support + Leadership = Growing Profitability. How long can you seat on a stool with a missing leg?
The relationships amongst product, support, and reliability are quite complex. If we center our view on reliability we see that it is mainly affected by one thing, but it influences all.
If your product is inherently simple (code and infrastructure) it is bound to be reliable. We know that reliable products generate fewer support calls, but with a simple product you don’t go long without users asking for more features. GoDaddy’s SiteBuild fits this category.
Then there are Wix and Weebly. Both are considerably more complex both when it comes to code and the required infrastructure. More moving parts means a higher chance for issues, this, obviously, impacts reliability. Lower reliability translates into higher support volume, but users don’t inundate you with feature requests.
Now, you note that your Weebly site is/was down for “5-6 times per month for a period of 2-8 minutes each” time. Let’s do the math. We’ll say that the average month is 30.4375 days (365.25 days/year, accounts for leap years) On the low end, 5 times for 2 minutes each, your site is down 0.0228% of the time (up 99.9772%). And on the high side, 6 times for 8 minutes, 0.1095% down (99.8905% up). In the world of the internet those numbers are actually really good. There are a lot of multi-nine SLAs, but those usually belong to transit and transport providers which have 100% uptime unless there’s a problem… And those problems take hours to days to fix.
So in the grand scheme of things 2-8 minutes 5-6 times a month isn’t all that bad. You need to choose your battles. “Features. Reliable. Cheap. Choose two.”