Every once in a while I file a support issue with some service I use. The customer service rep confidently replies with an answer. The last one, at a place I won’t name, suggested that I clear my browser cache. Of course, I had done that, multiple times on multiple browsers. That’s fine though. That response probably works most of the time. But here’s the thing: he then marked my ticket as “Closed”, problem solved. This is the second time in a couple of months that I’ve had to deal with a business who operates this way.
Here’s the First Law of Support Ticket Management: Only the customer can close a ticket.
After Craig’s comment below, I might rephrase this to say that a ticket may only be closed as a result of customer action or inaction. So it’s always acceptable for a customer to close a ticket. It’s acceptable for the tech to close the ticket if he has some assurance from the customer that the issue is resolved. And it’s okay for the system to close the ticket automatically after the customer fails to respond in a reasonable amount of time — 48 hours in some contexts, perhaps 30 days in others, depending on the nature of the business.
What bothers me is when you get a totally perfunctory response, often one that makes it abundantly clear that they tech didn’t actually read your issue, but was trying to process issues as fast as possible, scanning for keywords and giving stock responses (“clear your browser cache”, “log out and try logging in again”). Half the time, I have specifically stated that I have cleared the cache and tried this with Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Chrome and Safari and I still will get a response like “Clear your browser cache and try again. To clear you cache: In Firefox… In Internet Explorer…”
It just makes me want to strangle someone. More importantly, it makes me want to avoid doing business with that company. It’s only partly that they didn’t fix the issue. The huge part is that they have clearly failed to listen and to read my issue. It may be just an internal issue management strategy, but it sends a powerful signal: we’re done with you, go away. And my usual response is: but you didn’t answer my question, so screw you. I am going away. I’m going away with my money. I’m going away with negative comments about you to my friends, on forums, maybe on my blog if you really upset me (see Paypal Buyer Protection Sucks). You would have to do worse than close a support ticket for me to call you out by name, but it is the sort of thing that erodes my confidence in a company.
Furthermore, because I’m the kind of person who usually tries a lot of things before I write to support, they are also missing a chance at getting valuable feedback, on either usability or a program issue. Just recently, I sent Moosejaw a bunch of usability feedback. They didn’t simply close the issue, they wrote me a thank you, also apologizing for the many problems I found on the site, and sent me a $75 pullover as a thank you. That’s almost ridiculous, but that’s a company that values customer feedback! I told the service rep that I had not expected any material compensation, I only wanted the site to improve, but I must say the seriousness with which they took my feedback gave me a much warmer feeling toward the company. Given the amount of outdoor gear I buy, I suspect they’ll make it back on me in a year or two, not to mention the “press” they’ve gotten out of it by me telling my friends (and mentioning it here).
It remindes me of a co-worker back when I was working at a hotel in college. She had worked at Disney World in the late 1970s at the complaint desk, which of course is legendary in the hospitality industry for handling such situations. Do you know what rule of thumb they used was for how long she should spend responding to each complaining customer? Answer: as much time as possible! They told her to never break off the interaction until the customer was satisfied or walked away. “But what about the people lining up behind them?” she asked. Answer: they’ll just be that much madder when they get to you and they’ll take even more time, but don’t send anyone away angry if at all possible. If they’re lining up, it’s our job to get more people out here. It’s your job to make sure that the one person in front of you right now goes away happy.
So when I ask for support, it’s up to me to decided when my issue is closed, when I’ve been satisfied. Strangely, I used to find it odd, even slightly annoying, that the tech reps at JaguarPC, my web host, never closed tickets, even when I said, okay, I’m fine, close the ticket. It’s always up to me to close the ticket and I’m not even sure the reps have the authority to close your ticket. As near as I can tell, only you do. Foolishly, I used to see that as a chore. Now I realize that it is a privilege and a best practice. That how it should be done.