Posts Tagged 'Feedback'

September 21, 2011

UserVoice: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from UserVoice CEO Richard White. UserVoice offers a complete customer engagement solution that gives businesses a simple process for managing customer feedback and support functions all from a single, easy-to-use environment.

What NOT to Do in Support

The fact that you're reading this blog post means you probably understand social media. You probably also understand why providing great customer service is important, so I'll spare you that as well. What you may not know is that there are much better tools to provide outstanding customer service than the ones you're already using. Here are four big tips for you as you're planning your support channels:

1. Don't build a custom contact form.
Building a custom contact form on your website takes valuable time and resources away from your core business. Instead, sign up and get a widget from UserVoice (or one of our competitors) and in less than 30 seconds you'll have a contact form that supports any number of custom fields you want to add, allows you to append your own customer-specific metadata, supports attachments and, most importantly, will auto-suggest relevant FAQ articles even before the customer submits the form.

2. Don't use shared email for customer support.
It's true that you can take managing customer support via a shared email inbox pretty far. You won't really feel the pain until a couple of issues slip through the digital crack because it wasn't clear who on your team was responsible for following up with the customer. But why go through that? These days you can choose from a number of inexpensive, purpose-built tools, like UserVoice, targeted at companies that want to provide better customer service. Starting at $5/mo you can have a complete support solution that will grow with your business when you are finally ready to add that 2nd or 3rd support rep to your team.

3. Don't waste time gathering feedback on message boards.
Scanning message boards to gather user feedback sounds like a good idea, but it's really painful. Forums are both noisy and insular. Someone posts "I want you to add X" then a few people reply "+1" but then someone else says "I think X is good but only if you do Y to it." Very quickly you don't know what anyone really wants. And you especially don't have an easy way to follow-up with people directly. Worst of all, you're only hearing from a vocal minority. Casual users won't go into your forums and won't wade through 10 pages of +1's to add their voice, they'll just give up.

UserVoice Feedback gives you a better way to harness customer feedback and turn it into something useful. It starts with a simple prompt: How can we make ___insert_your_company___ better? Customers give their feedback and vote up the best ideas. It's easier for customers to get involved and give you feedback, and it's much easier for you to follow-up and keep these important customers in the loop.

4. Don't hide from your customers.
This really should be the first recommendation. The sad fact is, people still don't expect great customer service, and they certainly don't expect you to be ready and willing to listen to their feedback, especially with that small gray "contact" link buried in your footer. Show customers that their experience and their feedback is important, nay, vital to your business. Put a big link at the top of the page, or a widget on the side of it. Something that tells people you're not "business as usual." Show them you really care.

I started UserVoice because I wanted to make doing all of these things simple so that companies could focus on what really matters: building their products and communicating with their customers, not setting up all this stuff. I hope you'll find it as useful as our thousands of existing customers have in getting you back to work. :)

-Richard White, UserVoice

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
May 27, 2011

SoftLayer Mobile - Coming of Age

The SoftLayer Mobile application allows customers to work with support tickets, examine and control servers, monitor bandwidth information and more. The application is available on two platform: Apple iOS - supporting iPhones and iPads, and the Google Android operating system - supporting mobile phones and devices from a variety of vendors.

The SoftLayer Mobile application is quickly approaching its first birthday. The application was first introduced to the world in June of 2010. Frequent visitors to this blog may remember when we introduced the iPhone application right here in the SoftLayer blog. We got back with you again when the Android application reached the milestone of 100 downloads. Our success with the application continues to this day with the both the iOS and Android versions sporting impressive download statistics which multiply those of a year ago many dozens of times over.

In the course of the past year, we've gotten some great suggestions for improvements from our customers. The first request was for the application to store account passwords a feature which we implemented quickly. From those humble beginnings we added some larger, more complex functionality based on your feedback like two-factor authentication using VeriSign Identity Protection, bandwidth charting, and the ability to check account balances and make one-time payments against those balances from your phone.

We'd love to continue that trend and hope to tap into the experience of the thousands of you who are working with the application. In the coming year, we hope to expand our existing functionality, include new features, and support both new operating systems and new devices. We'd love to hear about your ideas on how we can best improve the SoftLayer Mobile application to make it an even more valuable tool for you.

Would you like improved tracking of your bandwidth? Can we offer greater control over your server's network ports? Do you need to monitor your server's CPU usage even while you're in line at the bank? Is there one particular task that compels you to visit the SoftLayer Customer Portal time and again? If so, and if it would be convenient for you to have that information on the phone in your pocket rather than on the computer at your desk, please let us know!

To offer your suggestions, please create a support ticket in your SoftLayer account detailing your needs. Alternatively, if you are already using the SoftLayer Mobile application, drop us a line through the feedback links built into the Support section.

If you haven't been using the SoftLayer Mobile application, then we'd like to invite you to download it and explore its features. For more information, and for links and information about downloading and installing the application, visit our Mobile Application resource page.

Keep watching that page over the coming months as well. We have some exciting projects in the works and hope to share them with you very soon!

-Scott

May 23, 2011

Behind SoftLayer's Growth

SoftLayer isn't a publicly traded company, but in the interest of transparency, we do our best to share as much information about the business as we can with our customers. Earlier this week, we released our revenue and operations growth for the first quarter of 2011, and while we're happy to reach so many amazing milestones, we can't take any time to rest on our laurels.

It's no secret that we've gotten to where we are today because our 26,000+ customers trust us with their businesses. We can quantify success with revenue numbers and server counts, but at the end of the day, our business will be successful when we provide a platform for our customers to be successful. The growth of our customer base is a testament to the hard work the team has put in behind the scenes, and it also presents an interesting challenge: We need to continue to meet the needs of 26,000+ different businesses in 140+ countries around the world.

Given the amount of hair-pulling you might encounter by something as simple as setting up dinner with a group of friends, it's a pretty daunting task to incorporate thousands of disparate perspectives in our road map as we move forward, but with that challenge comes great opportunity to build SoftLayer into an even better business. Whether the request is for something as straightforward as a hardware product or as complex as geographic expansion into specific international markets, the feedback we get from our customers shapes our internal conversations (and ultimately our long-term plans).

Understanding that need for constant feedback, we're doing our best to listen to what our customers have to say. We're listening to conversations on our forums, watching updates from our customers on various social media platforms, and monitoring our sales and support customer experiences to ensure we're moving in the right direction. Recently, we incorporated a Get Satisfaction widget on our site to give our customers a platform to share their ideas, questions, problems and praises. Additionally, users can vote on existing suggestions to give us a sense of our customer base's priorities.

To all of our customers, thank you for trusting SoftLayer with your business. In response to your past requests, we've opened a new data center in San Jose, christened new pods in Dallas and Washington, D.C., launched our managed hosting service and released servers powered by the latest and greatest Intel Xeon "Sandy Bridge" and "Westmere EX" processors ... And all of those accomplishments have come since we closed the books on the success we shared from Q1.

As we continue to improve our feedback loops, you're going to see even more impressive numbers from SoftLayer, and that success will fuel our ability to continue growing the business to meet more of our customers' requests. Because we officially completed our integration with The Planet in Q1, we're able to shift our focus completely to maintaining and growing the combined business. By the end of the year, you'll see SoftLayer data centers in Europe and Asia, and as new products and technologies are released, you'll see them first from SoftLayer.

What else can we do for you? (And no, that's not a rhetorical question.)

-@gkdog

March 7, 2011

March Madness - Customer Experience Style

If you are a SoftLayer customer you probably noticed a maintenance window early Sunday morning. If you aren't a SoftLayer customer, (you should be, and) you may have even noticed on quite a few social media outlets that we were trying to provide real-time updates about the maintenance progress, and our customers were doing so as well.

SoftLayer customers were given two internal tickets notifying them if they were to be affected, and when those tickets were created, the ticket system would have then sent an email to the admin user on that account. Additionally, our portal notification system was updated to show details about the window, and we created new threads in our customer forums to provide regular, centralized updates. We went as far as taking a few calls and meetings with customers to talk about their concerns with the maintenance timing and length because we know that any downtime is bad downtime in the world of hosting.

Saturday night, we had extra support on staff online, and our social media ninja was awake and letting the world know step by step what we were doing with real time status alerts. We wanted to be extremely transparent during the entire process. This was not a maintenance we could avoid, and we tried to roll as many different things that needed work into this maintenance without making a roll back impossible.

The maintenance itself went well, and as planned, most items that were taken down were back online well before the window ended. We ran into a few snags in bringing all of the CloudLayer CCIs back online, but even with those delays for a few customers, the work was completed by the time we committed to.

Now for the customer experience aspect. From reading various tweets from our customers, it seems like we should/could have done a few things even better: Been more proactive, sent standard email, attempted phone calls, etc.

While some of these options may be considered, not all are feasible. If you are one of the customers that tweeted, has blogged, is planning on tweeting, is planning on blogging or believes we're being anything less than genuine and transparent on our social media platforms, I want to hear from you.

Please comment on this blog, tweet me @skinman454, email me skinman@softlayer.com, call me at 214.442.0592, come by our office and visit.

Whatever it takes, just contact me. I can't put myself in your shoes and feel your pain on things like this unless we have a chance to talk about it. I look forward to our conversation.

-Skinman

June 4, 2010

The Conception and Design of the SoftLayer Mobile Client for iPhone

A few short months ago, SoftLayer began a new application initiative, the Mobile Client. Our overarching goal is straightforward, take the powerful capabilities of the SoftLayer web portal, and put them in the palm of your hand. As is often the case, however, the things that are easiest to say, are not so easily done.

The fundamental problem we face in designing the mobile portal is the sheer volume of functionality available. On the web, the SoftLayer portal keeps the customer in control of their server environment. To offer that level of control the portal offers access to both a broad spectrum of information and a host of useful functionality. With the bar set that high, a mobile device with its comparatively sparse resources and small screen presents something of a challenge.

When computer scientists face a difficult problem, the first step is to narrow that problem down to a manageable size. There are some things you can do the vast, open range of a browser’s web page that are simply impractical on the small screen of a mobile device. Moreover, there are tasks you would perform when sitting at your computer in the office that you would likely never need to do from a mobile device when you are on-the-go. These two criteria helped us set aside some of the functionality found in the Web Portal as being not well suited for implementation on a mobile device.

Of course, a monkey wrench was thrown into this evaluation right in the middle of development. While we were working on the first version of the Mobile Client, Apple released the iPad. Suddenly things that would not have worked well on the small screen of a smart phone, were practical for a mobile device. Unfortunately (since happened in the middle of our development effort) we were unable to fully change our plans to incorporate the iPad, but it does offer an attractive avenue for future consideration.

In the end, what we decided was that the best way to focus our efforts, the best way to ensure that customers get the tools they need at their disposal as quickly as possible, was to make the customers a part of the design process. Our strategy would be to create a small application, one which could be developed quickly, and get that into our customer’s hands. From there we would let the customers help guide us to the additional functionality they desired the most.

Working with the body of experience at hand, we narrowed down the functionality of the vast web portal to a small seed, a set of features that are absolutely crucial for our customers. We focused on that small set of core functionality and planned out an application that would both be an asset to our customers and meet our goal of putting it in their hands quickly. The result is the Mobile Client we offer today.

At SoftLayer we are committed to providing customers with building complete access, control, security, and scalability into all of our portals. For the Mobile Client, however, we have intentionally started with a small, focused subset. As we grow the Mobile Client, we will do so in response to customer feedback to help ensure that the tool focuses on providing the functionality our customers need the most as soon as possible. The Mobile Client team invites you to try our application on your favorite mobile device and add your voice to helping it grow.

June 3, 2010

Skinman's Guide to Social Media

1. Can your company benefit from Social Media?
Yes! I think all companies can. From a point of branding or brand awareness the social media outlets can really give you some value. It can be additional website traffic, company transparency, or actual specials and sales but let’s face it the more people that see your name on the internet the better.

2. What is considered Social Media Spam?
To Spam you could use these tactics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networking_spam but don’t. You should be personable in sending your messages and don’t overdo it. Sure you can send a special or an interesting fact a few times especially if you have customers worldwide. You can always use the time zone excuse because most social media posts aren’t sticky and will be easily overlooked. The key is not using scripts to do your work for you.

3. What are some good tools to help?
I live on Hootsuite. www.hootsuite.com . This allows you to queue up tweets, Facebook status posts, and linked in conversations and I am sure there are more options on the way. Am I contradicting myself? No, because you still have to type in your updates and then schedule them according to your time zone needs. There are other great tools within Hootsuite for link clickthrough metrics and savable searches so you can keep track of what people are saying about you and also what your competitors are up to and what people think of them as well. It has a built in URL shrinking and photo uploading option also. You can have multiple users and granular security for those users. All in all, Hootsuite is a very valuable free tool for corporate social media.

4. If you get some bad feedback what should you do?
Take a deep breath, put on your big kid pants, layer on some thick skin and then think about your response and what you might say. Then take another deep breath, re-read your response 3 or 4 times and then try to make contact privately if possible. See if there is something you could have done better as sometimes constructive criticism can really help your company. If your attempts to make contact privately fail then you have to decide if a public response is necessary. Sometimes this can be a good idea and sometimes it is better to just let it fade. You have to use a little common sense on this one. If there are multiple posters on the same issue then a public response can be a great thing. If it is a single angry poster and the private requests fail then it is probably just better to let it go away on its own.

5. To support or not support?
I firmly believe that social media and social support/customer service are two very different things. The twitter account for SoftLayer is www.twitter.com/softlayer and I try to have a little fun, show a little transparency to our fans and customers, offer a special occasionally, but mainly try to get some traffic to our corporate website. I try to stay far away from customer support and only do light customer service. We have many other traditional ways to get support and service that our customers need to continue to use. In my book, if a customer has to resort to social media to get some attention from our sales or customer service teams, then we have already failed.

6. Have a little fun, have a personality
Now that you have the tools and know what to do and what not to do, have a little fun. Have a scavenger hunt, send out some swag, make a few friends get some followers and get to tweeting. Personality can go a long way in getting people interested in what you and your company are up to. Once you get it going it just becomes more and more fun. Look at the bright side there are much worse jobs you could have in the world.

-Skinman

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