Archive for the ‘business’ Category.

Services sans support

Face it, the most successful services in the new era are the ones that provide something valuable while keeping their per-user costs near zero: some service, no customer support, and users happy nonetheless.

Phone service does not fit that model. There are just too many occasions for “no support” to be unacceptable.

Today’s example: Porting a phone number from Verizon to Google Voice: Just $20, it works great, except when it doesn’t. In my case, SMS never successfully ported. The only support mechanism is a help page that states that it takes up to five business days for text messaging to resume after a port, and after that time, you can visit a web page to fill out a form that causes no observable action.

This could have been mitigated by supplying information instead of support. Expose the internal states of the porting process, so a customer can see progress or can know who to blame. Track the tickets on the problem reports.

But Google Voice as it stands offers no information and no support (and all attempts to “get a human” fail). So it gets the blame for failure to deliver, even if it’s somebody else’s fault. (Who knows, perhaps carriers and SMS gateway providers drag their feet on number porting. But with no information offered, all I know for sure is that Google Voice couldn’t get it done after weeks of waiting.)

In summary: For some businesses the appropriate level of offered support ought to be greater than zero. More status information can mean less customer support.

“Ask Jeeves Acquisition of Bloglines”

The 37signals article “Exit Interview: Ask Jeeves’ acquisition of Bloglines” is an interesting retrospective look at the demise of Bloglines. Of particular interest to many of us, who followed a typical user’s path through RSS aggregators (for me, Radio Userland, Bloglines, and finally Google Reader, with dabbling in AmphetaDesk and FeedDemon).