seen + learned

Making "Support" helpful - some tips for Twitter

Posted: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 | Posted by Debby Levinson | Labels: ,

We all run into problems now and then using technology – heck, I'm a pretty tech-savvy person myself, and even I sometimes have to contact tech support. And when I do, there is nothing I find more infuriating and representative of poor customer support practices and user experience than hiding vital support information.

Consider a recent example of this: we're having problems getting our tweets to load on the Nimble Partners home page. I've worked tech support myself, so I know that the first step is to try to reproduce the bug and isolate the problem. Since nothing about our code had changed, and nothing about seaofclouds' script had changed either, I suspected the problem was with our Twitter stream. This was easily tested by successfully loading another public Twitter stream onto our home page.

So, now I knew that @nimblepartners was the most likely source of error. Next thing to do: check Twitter's support documentation and Google for potential explanations. I couldn't find anything, so finally I realized I'd have to file a support ticket. Twitter's support website allows you to log in and check the status of your current tickets, but there's one critically important thing it doesn't easily let you do: file a ticket.

That's right: you can spend all day looking through the otherwise well-designed ticket review pages, but if there's an obvious link to file a ticket, I never found one. After many frustrating minutes, I finally gave up and Googled for how to file a ticket, which eventually got me the right link – on an externally hosted site totally separate from Twitter's Support site. (Update: days later, I discovered that FAQs about account abuse and a small selection of other issues have links to the ticket form – but there's no consistent placement for or treatment of a link area.)

I understand why companies want to drive customers to online documentation: it's vastly cheaper than having a human provide assistance, and most of the time, a good FAQ will solve most of the problems. But there's no reason to hide or bury vital contact information – all this does is annoy your user base, and for a company like Twitter that seems to pride itself on interface simplicity and a friendly, inviting user experience, this kind of hide-and-seek game is antithetical to the way they're trying to present themselves.

One possible solution: make the link available on support FAQ pages as part of a consistently placed and worded "did this answer help you?" area at the end of each question. This hides the link from the casual emailer who rarely bothers to click into or read the support questions, but still makes it available for people who genuinely need assistance. Ultimately, it's counterproductive to annoy customers by implying you don't want to talk to them – an ironic result for a company whose basic mission is to promote communication.


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