November 15, 2005

Typepad customer service

I have a Typepad account as well as a Warwick blog. Typepad have had some well-publicised difficulties with availability recently; demand on their servers grew steadily, they had problems with a move to a bigger facility and generally over the last month or so, their customers have had a poor experience in terms of the availability of their blog.

But what's instructive about this is not the technical problems – everyone gets those – but the exemplary way in which they've communicated with their customers. First, they wrote very openly about the difficulties they were having. Next, they kept their customers informed about the progress of their fixes. Finally, yesterday, they reported that the problems were now resolved.

So top marks for a continuous dialogue with their customers. But the icing on the cake comes with the screengrab that I've posted above. Every Typepad customer got an email yesterday explaining that Typepad want to compensate them for the poor service they'd experienced. If you do nothing, Typepad automatically give you 15 days free service. Notice how it isn't opt-in; you don't have to tell them that you want the 15 days, they give it to you by default. But even smarter, they've allowed their customers to decide how badly inconvenienced they've been and thus if they feel entitled to more compensation than the default offering. So I can choose to increase the compensation from 15 to 30 or 45 days – or, if I haven't noticed any problems, I can decline the compensation altogether. And to top it off, they ask for my feedback as to whether there's anything they could have done better.

If there's an award for "Single smartest customer relations dialogue box of the year" then this should win it. And if there isn't, there should be. I wonder if there's anywhere round here that could learn a thing or two from this approach?

- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Full marks for the open communication, the regular updates and the clear statement that things are resolved.

    As far as the icing on the cake goes though? Well, I'm a bit more cynical about it than you I guess.

    I would expect most subscribers of the service to click on the final option; they'll do this because they are going to be broadly happy with the service anyway despite whatever minor interruption to service prompted this and because the act of asking this question and the way it's worded is designed to elicit a positive emotional response. Which it certainly did with you.

    Translate this to a service where there is a much higher expectation of service which isn't being met, or where people are tied into it and can't get out, and this approach simply doesn't work. Service credits (which is what these are) are in that situation simply 'More of the same old c**p'. In those circumstances, this would look more like a cynical and poorly thought out way to manipulate your customers, than a creative way to respond to their dissatisfaction. I'd be looking for the 'You are rubbish and I want out' checkbox, which is unlikely to be there.

    I guess I'd give it the award for 'Smartest Customer Relations Dialog Box When Everything Has Been Handled Perfectly of the year'.

    15 Nov 2005, 13:07

  2. No doubt Six Apart got the free extensions idea from its acquisition of LiveJournal, which has been doing that for years, though it was always a fixed period added on without asking everyone.

    ISTM the idea of offering the choice is a pretty neat way of gathering valuable information about customer satisfaction levels.

    15 Nov 2005, 13:17

  3. John Dale

    Jon, absolutely. I really hope that SixApart eventually publish the stats on how many of their customers chose each option; it'd be fascinating.

    Chris, I'm not sure why you regard your own views as cynical. It's obviously true that if you're locked in to a service which is underperforming badly then that's a whole different proposition, requiring different solutions. There's nothing cynical about observing that. Typepad did a smart thing given their circumstances and their customers, but it wouldn't work everywhere, and I don't think anyone really entertains the idea that it would!

    15 Nov 2005, 14:27

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