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Excellence in customer communication

March 9, 2006

I want to take a moment and commend the staff that runs Blogger.  They’ve been battling a number of hardware and software issues over the last year, and it’s been fun to watch.  Fun?  Yes – because it proves that even highly successful services suffer the same issues those of us who run smaller IT shops face.  We’re not doing something wrong … shit happens.

That being said, it’s also a GREAT customer communications tool to be open about what is happening with your system!  If I couldn’t post to my blog or readers couldn’t get to my site, I sure would want to know what’s going on.  Now I’m still not warm and fuzzy when things go down (though for me it just means I can’t post – my content is hosted on my own server) but at least I know what’s going on.  I can say “oh, well that makes sense … I’ll try later.”  The alternative is “this darn system is just plain down again and I have no idea what’s going on and when it will be back.”  The later is much more frustrating and prone to loosing users.  I’ve seen similar status pages for AIM and MSN (though I’ve never seen them actually updated during an actual incident).  Why can’t more services do this?

Here’s the blog post from Blogger…

Some users are currently getting “403 Forbidden” errors when viewing their blogs, and “Permission Denied” errors (or variations thereof) when publishing. You may recognize this problem from Monday.

The offending server is being replaced and then shot. We’ll let you know when things are back up. Shouldn’t be too long.

Until then, affected blogs will be unavailable and unpublishtoable.

Update, 5 minutes later: All fixed!

[Via Blogger Status]

Want a non-tech example of great customer communication?  Puget Sound Energy’s automated phone system.  We had a storm yesterday and power got knocked out to our home just before 6p.  [Note to self – make sure the cable modem gets plugged into the UPS … and buy a replacement for the one that died 3 months ago!].  I called up PSE’s toll free number from my cell phone, followed the prompts to report a power outage, and it asked if the address in question started with “36…”.  How did it do that?  PSE has my cell phone number on record as a contact number.  When I call the hotline they use caller id to link my call with my account!  I have no idea what my account number is.  🙂  After I confirm the address the system told me the outage had been reported by 38 of my neighbors already (I’d waited a few minutes to call), a crew had been dispatched, the outage was caused by a tree falling into a main transmission line, and there was no estimate on restoration yet.  ALL that without bothering a human being!

If organizations could leverage their customer and service data more like PSE has, people wouldn’t be so ticked off at an automated phone answering system.  PSE’s line is the only number I actually look forward to calling and working with the computer!

Funny story there … later last night I called back to get an update and restoration estimate.  For some reason the system transferred me to a live person to get the resolution estimate (it’s never done that before … and we have power outages all the time).  Unfortunately for Alicea and Jeff, who was in PSE’s call center, I had the call on my Blackberry’s speakerphone.  Alicea let out a tremendous burp right as Jeff answered.  HA!

 

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