One of the first things I do on waking up in the morning is to check emails on my smartphone.
And yes, I know that isn’t a very healthy way to start the day, but the club has members in all time zones so people often write in while I’m asleep.
Initially I just want to see if there’s anything that I’ll need to prioritise once I get to the laptop, other than the usual ebook orders to send, articles to write and so on.
Customer service issues, for example.
If someone has, say, bought an ebook but can’t get it to work as it should, then I will try to help.
Really, really try!
I bet you’ve had some appalling experiences with various ‘Customer Disservice’ departments.
I know I have.
Running a bunch of websites, I quite commonly have to ask for help from one or the other companies that host our sites (I use more than one, so as to be diversified and to be able to compare them…), or provide various software elements for them, such as the code that runs the online shop at EasyReaders.Org.
One rule of thumb is this: if I’m paying for something, I can expect they’ll pay a minimum of attention.
If not, not.
No matter if I can, for example, ask for help in the ‘forum’ or whatever, if it’s a free service, I’ll likely be wasting my time.
So I Google my problem.
And if I don’t find an answer easily, it’s likely that there is no answer easily to be found.
But ‘free’ products will not provide ‘paid-for’ levels of customer service.
And even ‘paid for products’ – i.e. if you need help with an Apple app, or with your Kindle – what you’ll mostly get is the standard response, the most obvious answer, not any sort of personalised, thought-through evaluation of your issue.
Recently, for example, I did an ‘update’ of the software for our ecommerce shop, along with updates for various other associated bits and pieces at the same time.
After which, nothing worked properly.
I spent a week hoping the problem would go away (sometimes these things fix themselves when the provider realises there’s a bug and puts out a fix).
Then a few days trying to fix the issue myself (I learnt loads, but didn’t fix anything).
And then, finally, I opened a ‘Support Ticket’.
The response was dazzlingly technical but a total waste of time.
In the end, the software support person at the software company told me it must be a hosting issue and told me to go ask THEIR ‘Customer Disservice’ people to help fix it.
Over there (they’re normally very good) they were perplexed and told me there was nothing they could do, it being a software issue, and sent me back again.
At which point I remembered something important:
the engineering mindset!
Specifically, think like an engineer, not like some guy who writes ranty articles.
What caused the problem?
Updating the shop software and other bits of code.
What if the problem is not with the shop software but with one of the other things I updated at the same time?
I picked the one I had least use for and ‘deactivated’ it.
Which solved the problem I’d spent a week trying to fix.
Next, I checked to see what that particular element did, and whether I could manage without it.
Nothing useful and yes I could.
Everything worked just fine without it.
And the moral of this story is?
Well, first of all, I hadn’t been able to find anyone else with a similar issue when I Googled it, which should have alerted me.
But then, neither of the ‘Customer Disservice’ departments suggested the obvious, which was that the problem was being caused by another, separate piece of code.
How would they know what a mess I’d made by updating several things at the same time?
Rather than doing one thing at a time and testing after each change?
I didn’t tell them (I should have).
And they didn’t bother to ask (they could have).
It seemed my mess was unique.
The moral of the story is this:
if it’s not something that the company/provider/coder has messed up themselves (in which case, everyone will be yelling at them), the chances of them figuring out what you did to cause the issue are between low and zero.
IF they can even be bothered to try, which they mostly can’t.
IF they have the knowledge of your setup to understand what you might have done, which they almost certainly won’t.
Which brings me back to this morning’s emails.
“The audio on my ebook is not working as it should.”
The customer is a very nice lady and my first job (before writing this article) was to try to help with her issue.
However, think about it:
I tested the ebook before I published it.
I used the same technology as always.
Importantly – no one else has mentioned the issue.
We’ve sold sixty or so copies. IF there was a problem, it’s likely someone else would have mentioned it.
That’s no reason for not trying to help, of course.
But, assuming the problem is at her end, what’s needed here is…
the engineering mindset!
I’m not kidding.
Save yourselves a lot of time and trouble (and having to wait for me to reply when it’s morning Italian time) with a change of approach.
One which is simple to understand and implement.
THIS ebook isn’t working, but the last one worked fine. What should I do?
a.) Write to Daniel
b.) Let’s get that last one out and have another look at it.
Ah, that one is showing the same problem… (if not, then NOW ‘write to Daniel’).
But it worked before. Before it worked. Now it doesn’t. (Scratches head.)
Am I using a different app?
Or a different device?
OK, so let’s test the new ebook on a different device and see if it has the same issue.
Instead of the tablet/smartphone/computer, I’ll try the tablet/smartphone/computer.
Oh… It works on this one. How odd!
Back to the original tablet/smartphone/computer, where I’m using app X, and having the bothersome issue.
How about if I open up the whole kit and caboodle using something other than app X, then?
Ah hah! That works.
So the problem seems to be app X? Let’s just check that by opening other ebooks with app X?
Yup, same issue.
Options are now:
1.) Google ‘app X is being a pain in the butt’
2.) Look for a FAQ on the ‘app X’ site that might help
3.) Contact ‘app X’ support, though with a heavy heart…
4.) Write to Daniel asking for suggestions but taking care to mention that you have identified that the issue is specific to ‘app X’
Gotta go. I have a Turkish lesson in half an hour.
But I should add that, while it might seem I’ve been unfair to people who work in Customer Service departments, some of them are really good and really do care. I have had some excellent help, WHEN I asked the right questions.
Help them (me) help you by checking the obvious causes BEFORE you ask for support, and when you do, by providing information that might help narrow things down.
Most aircraft crashes are caused by pilot error, they say.
Sometimes there really is a problem with the plane.
But mostly not.
Final reminder about our new C1/2-level Italian ‘easy reader’, Il vulcano.
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online at soundcloud.com)
- .epub (Kobo compatible) format ebook also available at no extra charge (ask at the time of your order!)
- 8 chapters to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at advanced level
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
- Your e-book will be e-mailed to you within 24 hours of purchase
From Monday, Il vulcano will sell at the usual ebook price of £7.99.
But get it before then and you’ll spend just £5.99, a 25% saving!
Read Thursday’s EasyItalianNews.com bulletin here.
It’ll cost you nothing but your time.