Jorge Manrubia

May 26, 2022

Enterprisey expectations


As a customer, I can't think of something I value more than how a company handles the problems I have with them.

I have recently been evaluating Datadog for Basecamp. It's a fantastic product, and we are in the final testing stage. We recently tried the new version of its official Ruby/Rails gem, finding a severe memory leak problem. I reported the problem via GitHub, and I prepared to wait a long time before the first wave of useless replies from this $28 billion elephant. I was very wrong.

I got a reply asking for more information two hours after reporting the problem. And a spot-on suggestion from an engineer twenty minutes after providing those details. They knew what the problem could be and offered a workaround. 

I was delighted.

It made me think about how I brace for impact when I deal with large companies. Caring about your customers is one of those aspirations cheap to declare but incredibly hard to practice. You need a culture of caring, a number high enough of skilled people dedicated to it, and the right processes to keep queues under control while effectively solving customer problems. A company with a completely broken customer support faces a structural problem of the kind you can't fix by just spending money. A surprisingly high number of companies are in that situation.

I recently contacted several vendors to ask about their exposure to a third-party data leak. I was astonished that most of them didn't even have a direct contact mechanism, such as an email address or a form on their support page. What is a customer to you if you don't even offer a simple way of reaching out?

As a consumer, a company treating me poorly when I report a problem will lose me forever. In the same way, it will nurture a sense of loyalty if it treats me well. In a world where most needs are commodities and where there are plenty of choices for those that are not, I can't think of a more significant differentiator than offering terrific customer service.

About Jorge Manrubia

A programmer who writes about software development and many other topics. I work at 37signals.