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Stupid Usability #94

When Growth shrinks Customer Service

Written By: High Monkey
Posted: 3/30/2015

From the mind of Virgil Carroll, Principal Human Solution Architect at High Monkey:

I have probably been wanting to write a post like this for a long time, as this is a situation we have all faced time and time again.  This post is going to have to do with really bad customer service.

The unique angle I am going to take on this post is to discuss something I have seen time and time again in technology…the growth of a company compromising the customer service it provides.  For the past 17 years I have spent a lot of time moving different services from provider to provider and the number one reason this is needed is because organizations cannot adequately scale the level of customer support needed as they grow their services.

This is nowhere more apparent than when you work with some of the enterprise companies we all have to deal with on a regular basis.  Who has not had a bad experience with the cable, telephone or utility company?  Who has not tried to get technical support on something, only be passed around to people with little to no experience who ask you basic questions like ‘have your turned your computer off and back on again’.  These type of issues that arise in customer service can be attributed to many things, but I think one of the more important factors is when an organization grows too fast.  Thus the topic of this post.

This post is to share with you some stupid usability around a recent experience I had with Microsoft’s Office 365 customer service.  Where Microsoft has been around for a long time and should be well practiced at customer service, when it added the Office 365 suite of services (and they became very popular) it needed to add a lot of additional support staff to help handle all the requests it was going to get.  Where in theory this made sense, in practice this became a very difficult thing to accomplish which was very apparent in my recent interaction with support.

High Monkey had purchased a 3rd party app for our SharePoint Online environment through the Office Web Apps store in Office 365.  I signed up for a subscription, added my payment information and was off and running within about 20 minutes.

Where this app had some great qualities, after a few months of using it we realized we wanted to move in another direction, so it was decided we would cancel our subscription to stop the payment process going forward.  So I deleted the application, selected to have it removed from our SharePoint environment (which all went well) and selected to cancel the subscription (which did not).  At the end of the cancellation process the first time, I received an generic error (i.e. not a clue what it was from or what it meant) at the end of the process.  So I went back and attempted to complete it again and this time it ‘appeared’ to go through, though I did not receive any type of cancellation confirmation it appeared it had been successful.

So about two weeks later as I was looking on my credit card statement, I saw we had again been billed for the subscription.  I immediately reached out via the 365 website to find out how to remove it.  Below is a bulleted list of why this is an even more stupid usability post going forward.

  • Reached out to the support team via support ticket.  Received response that I needed to contact the app vendor directly as this was not purchased through the app store (which was wrong)
  • Reached out to the app vendor (I know him) and asked for some help.  He stated he has NO control over the app purchase process because the Office 365 system wants full control.  He sent a message on my behalf
  • Received an email back from Microsoft stating I need to contact a phone number to get the subscription completely cancelled.  Called the number and it ended up being Microsoft technical support, after about 10 minutes on the phone the person on the other end informed me I needed to go to Microsoft Partner support to complete the cancellation
  • Called Microsoft Partner support (no idea why) and the person told me they have nothing to do with this and I would need to reach out to the number I called above
  • Called back Microsoft Partner support again and explained to that person my frustrations and was directed to the Office 365 team.
  • Online chatted with Office 365 support and was told to reach out to the Office Store team, who could take care of my issue ‘very quickly’ (i.e. WAY TOO LATE)
  • Called Office Store team, was told to contact Microsoft Partner Support, refused to do that and explained why.  Person spent 10 more minutes looking at my account and sent a request to have the payment reversed and all future charges cancelled.  WooHoo!
  • Received a call the next day from some accounting group to verify I was who I said I was and I wanted to service completely cancelled (for an APP)
  • Put my head down and yelled in frustration

So in the end I did finally get my way, but not without an unbelievable pain in the *** time.  I hear this same frustration from clients all the time and this is something that Microsoft needs to strive to improve sooner than later.  Good usability is not always with software, it can be within the way we interact around us and the confusion that can sometimes cause.  When growing a service and being successful at it, one has to always keep the other side of the equation in mind to make sure you provide the service that doesn’t stifle the growth.

Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 3/30/2015 12:00:00 AM by Brian Haukos | with 0 comments