Freshbooks, Getting Customer Service Right

FreshbookFirst off, this isn’t meant as a review of Freshbooks. Suffice to say, I’ve tested many of the online services for billing and time tracking; Freshbooks provides me the best solution for my needs. Often though i’ts the intangibles that allow a business to rise above the rest. For Freshbooks, their customer service certainly is the case.

Some time during this past fall my Paypal credit card number changed, probably due to losing it, I’m not exactly sure of the circumstances. Subsequently, many of the services that I use for business, (hosting, domain registration, etc) were effected. In the case of Freshbooks, I was in an arrangement where I was sub contracting with an individual, getting paid flat rates for the work I was doing, so I didn’t have an immediate need to update the account, unlike say, hosting. Plus, I tend to be lazy and procrastinate, so it was easy for me to put it off. Each month, I’d get an email saying that the card had been declined, and I’d say to myself, “I really need to update that,” and then forget to, blow off logging in and updating.

I ended the previous arrangement earlier this month, around the time I got another one of the reminder emails. They really are reminders, not nagging or harsh in the least. I went to log in, and was redirected to a page where I could change/update the contact info, as well the CC#. However, I didn’t know exactly how much I owed, and since I’m trying to stick to a budget for my web development endeavors, I wanted to know exactly what I owed and plan accordingly—pay it all off or make a couple installment payments. Never did I entertain the idea of just starting a new account or moving.

First thing the next morning (I sent the email to support around 9pm EST, which they are on also) I received an email from Laleh informing me that she had removed the suspended status from my account, rolled me back to their free account in which I could upgrade to a paid plan, and deleted my client list. Mind you, clients and projects are never really deleted, rather it’s like a super-archived status. At any time, you can undelete the client/project, and all of the information remains intact.

They could have easily charged me for the months since the last payment or some portion there of, after all, they were storing my data and settings. I was fully prepared to pay for this, as my time is valuable, and re-entering client information and setting up the payment gateway again would take a fair amount of time. Needless to say, I am extremely pleased with the outcome, and an even bigger fan of Freshbooks.

Ironically, Sunir, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Barcamp Orlando (which Freshbooks was a sponsor of, yet another reason to be a fan) posted an article on their blog today about the difficulty of Saas.

SaaS is not just a new distribution method for software with a lovely revenue stream. It’s a new social contract with the customer that we all have to live up to, whether we’re companies big or small.

Freshbooks more than lived up to their contract, and continue to set the bar for how companies do business on the web.

Why Even Call it Second Day Air AT&T?

ups scooterSo with AT&T offering $99 refurbished iPhones until the thirty-first, I swallowed my bitterness towards cell phone contracts and ordered a phone Saturday morning. Like 8am on Saturday. They offered free 2nd Day Air, but stupid me didn’t check the method, I just assumed it would be regular US mail. I received an email Sunday saying the item had been shipped, which led me to believe even more so that it had shipped Saturday via US mail. However, yesterday morning, I took a closer look at the email, and saw tracking info. It was being shipped UPS, and the tracking info showed no movement. Today I checked it, and it left Dallas at 8:15pm. So much for 2nd day air.

Aside from now being anxious to start playing with using my iPhone, (I’ll be in a location that doesn’t have any internet to speak of through the weekend), I’ll be leaving for said trip first thing tomorrow morning, so I didn’t want the phone sitting on my porch until Sunday evening. I called UPS thinking that I could simply have them keep the package at the Tampa shipping center, and pick it up before I left. Even if I didn’t have time to activate it, it wouldn’t be sitting there beckoning some noisy teenager to steal it.

UPS’s automated 1-800 number leaves something to be desired to say the least. They must have held a competition for the most annoying voice, because this woman’s voice is disturbing to say the least. I tried the usual “operator” and “help” at the prompts, but each time was met with the recording asking me if I wanted to “trackapackage”. Yes, a new word in the English lexicon, “trackapackage”.

I finally found a human via a local UPS Store, who told me the magic word is “representative”, and to just keep repeating it, ignoring anything the automated prompts tried to use to derail me from talking to a human. This worked, and after a few minutes on hold, I was speaking to a real live person. This woman, Danielle I believe she told me her name was, said that UPS doesn’t “intercept” packages before their first attempted delivery. I grumbled a “thanks AT&T and UPS”, and she said to give her the tracking number, and IF the package were to arrive in Tampa before 6pm, someone might be able to pull it and I could pick it up this evening. However when she saw the timestamp on the origin scan from Dallas, she didn’t sound hopeful that scenario would unfold.

So now I must find a neighbor who can check on the package and hold it for me, which really isn’t a big deal, but had I known that 2nd day Air didn’t really mean 2nd Day air, I would have paid the extra charge to have it overnighted, and avoided the headache altogether.

Fortunately my Nokia has a pretty good 3G connection, and a decent browser, not to mention Google mail/maps, so I won’t be totally disconnected, not that I couldn’t probably stand going dark for a few days, but I’ve got too much work pending to completely go off the grid. Plus, I’m really looking forward to snapping some shots of the last sunset of ‘08 and first sunrise of ‘09 for a New Years day post. The pass on the north end of the island I’ll be on has a great vantage point for taking both, and now that I’m a little more familiar with the little point and shoot camera I’ve got, not to mention sporting a tripod now, I’m really hoping to get some good photos.

No Longer a Champion of Metro PCS

I’ve long been a customer and ardent “word-of-mouth” supporter of Metro PCS. Heck, they even added web browsing (albeit a handcuffed version). However, after my experience with their customer support today, I can not advocate the company, or will no longer be a customer. I’ve always wondered if their business model was really aimed at low-income people looking for a quick and easy cell phone option, and now I think that’s the case. A genuine desire to hang onto long time customers certainly wasn’t in my experience today.
Long story short, I’m a procrastinator. I simply wait until the last minute to pay bills. Certainly I’m working on fixing that defect, see my post about GTD and a desire to at least know that a bill is due. So last night I tried paying my bill, the last day. Nothing uncommon on my end, I’ve done it routinely since I got the service. However, last night, I couldn’t process the online payment gateway. Tried again today, still no luck, so I called their payment service customer support. First agent said turn off pop-up blockers. I explained I’ve never had that issue before, but humored them and tried. No luck. I call back, this time I’m asked, “are you using FireFox Mozilla?” “Yes”, I replied. Nut shell- they stopped supporting Mozilla. No explanation, just, “use IE.”

I started this some time ago, and it’s been sitting as a draft, so I figured I’d wrap it up as I just mentioned Flickr and mobblogging
After I let the account lapse, I procrastinated some more, not signing up with another service, to the point I figured I’d go ahead and keep Metro PCS for a little longer. I paid my bill, (approx a month later) and service was back on. The next morning, I get a text message saying I need to pay another $60. So I try calling them to find out what was going on. I probably spent an hour just finding a phone number where I could speak with a human being. I finally had to call an authorized reseller in St. Petersburg (I live in Tampa) to get a number. They informed me that though I don’t have a contract, their policy is that you pay for the month of service, even if the phone wasn’t in use. I said that was unacceptable, and wanted a refund. That I did get. But never in the whole process did anyone acknowledge that the whole issue arose from their poor web interface, and offer to simply waive a month, or any reconnect fees to keep me as a customer.

Some irony to that is that when ever I would end a conversation with a rep, they would say “we value your business here at Metro PCS”. Did they really? I think not. I highly suggest looking at other alternatives to their service, as I do not think they care about long term customers, and are more in the business of short term, “turn and burn” clientele.

Bright House Drops the Ball (or How Not to Conduct Customer Service)

So, I mentioned I’m getting a sweet deal on digital phone from Bright House. In the time since, I’ve had about 6 telephone conversations getting to the bottom of the price. The day after I signed up, I received a letter offering me the service for $6.55 less than the night before. Seems a simple 2 minute explanation that the price offered the night before included tax and fees, the lower price was before. That they were one in the same. Meanwhile, I reported to them that once again, I was experiencing poor picture quality on my living room television. Continue reading “Bright House Drops the Ball (or How Not to Conduct Customer Service)”