0

Some context:

I'm a jr. software dev from a medium sized IT company in Mexico, we provide software as a service (desktop apps and web pages) to our customers, a lot of these were made before I started working for the company, so we mostly do maintenance or updates in the code or petitions from our customers. Since the structure of the systems weren't meant to grow as big as they are right now, we have problems with availability because of the servers hardware that we are limited to, so it's a common thing that our servers crash.

Now for that client:

We have a web page dedicated to customer support so they can contact us when they have problems with any of our services (we don't answer this tickets directly as devs. our role it's to explain what's happening, then a customer support rep. will approach the costumer) here's where this particular customer enters the picture.

Let's call our customer Will. He started using one of our web pages around mid 2019 ever since then he probably has submitted at least a ticket per month or even more in the same one, always nagging about how bad and unreliable our web page is because of constant crashes with our servers,he really wants to know technical-level explanations and uses passive-aggressive comments to our customer support rep in charge to explain the situation. If there's a fail with the web page that we are offering to him, you bet there will be a ticket of him waiting for us to answer and deal with his behaviour.

Claim

We've never offered him an special offer or discount of any sort on any of our services.

My Question Is:

  • How can support deal with the behaviour of this client specifically with the tickets he submits?
  • 15
    Is one ticket per month really that excessive?? the title makes it sounds like this is a daily or at least weekly occurrence, one ticket a month for a service that - by your own description - is constantly dealing with bugs and outages seems almost conservative from my point of view – Bitsplease Aug 7 at 20:25
52

There's a part of me that says this is your best customer. He not only pays you, he tells you when things are wrong. That's pretty great. Not everyone will do that, many will just cancel the service and walk away. Or not use it, not get value from it, and eventually walk away because they realize they are paying for nothing.

This is someone who is very actively showing you how a person uses the service. Yes - Will is annoying - but he's also right. Your service shouldn't go down so much that a customer notices.

I think you have a few good options for Will:

  • work with your manager and other senior devs to develop a roadmap that keeps Will's servers from crashing so much. There's definitely a reliability problem in there somewhere. You want customers to use your service a bunch, and you want to fit this. With your manager's approval - when the roadmap is ready and funded, share it with Will. Only share with Will when you actually have the means to execute on it -- if you don't do what you say, you will lose trust and that's a terrible outcome.

  • in the shorter term, consider having some barriers that keep Will from crashing your servers. If he's on the large end of your customers, you may need to cap his service in some way. You may even need to subdivide some of what he's got, to host it more diffusely. That may even mean coordinating with Will. That's fine - you need to get the plan approved, and in a spot where it is tested, working and ready to execute with Will.

  • even with no plan - see if you can get approval to reach out to Will directly (or for a senior person to do... this takes real people skills) - often when faced with the technical non-specificity of customer service, an actually skilled technologist will do what Will is doing - get passive aggressive and really annoying - because they aren't getting answers they can respect. If you can get a person from the development team with good soft skills working directly with Will and building a relationship with him, you may be able to turn around all this negativity - the risk is - he'll know who you are and where to find you. :) And find you he will. If you're serious about improving your service, that's a good thing... he'll be great at telling you what's wrong and what he needs.

  • Arm customer support better - if there are some classic Will-cases, this could be something in the customer service toolset that doesn't require an escalation to you. That's great for you, but bad for Will, because you are not really solving the problem. This is my least favorite, but it fits within something that is very likely within your scope of authority.

I've been a senior engineer and then a senior manager for quite a while, and I use all of these tricks. Due to my role, I usually have the option to execute on all three options, and usually I am directing senior folks on my team in some of this, as the day to day contact with Will really needs to be managed carefully and by the right person.

The key on any of these strategies:

  • Get approval first - know the rules of customer contact w/in your company and get permission before breaking any of them.
  • Don't promise what you can't do (yet) - make sure anything you discuss with a customer is something your company has already explicitly agreed to. And that they have agreed to you telling a customer - some of this stuff will be in the realm of company confidential - so handle with care.
  • Say what you do, and do what you say - saying one thing and doing another will break trust and Will will convert into either Even More Annoying Will or an ex-customer.
| improve this answer | |
  • 5
    This. What OP needs is more clients like Will. – A. I. Breveleri Aug 6 at 20:08
  • 1
    100% agree. My best clients have often been the ones who are active users and push for continuous improvements. – Laconic Droid Aug 7 at 0:59
69

Why is he still with us? If he's constantly annoyed that the service he is receiving is not what he wants then why bother? He even purchased more from us not too long ago.

We can't answer this. We have no idea why he's still with you. Why don't you ask him?

How can support deal with the behavior of this client specifically with the tickets he submits?

Ummm... fix the problem. Fix your infrastructure. Give your customers what they pay for.

You're essentially asking us how you can avoid having to deal with this customer knowing full well that you're providing a crappy service. He's paying you. You have a responsibility to provide the service he's paying for and to fix it when it doesn't work. This is not a customer problem or a problem customer. This is a problem with your company.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    Yup. Otherwise it will be attempting to cover the symptoms instead of addressing the cause. – DarkCygnus Aug 6 at 16:15
  • 1
    I don't think the answer to the first question is needed anymore since that question was deleted. But besides that, it doesn't seem like a wise thing to do (if it's a serious suggestion). "Why are you still with us?" "Good point, bye!" – Kodos Johnson Aug 7 at 18:09
31

I'm going to post the negative answer.

Here's what your question distills down to:

Some Context: A bunch of reasons why none of this is your fault.

Now for the Client: This guy keeps complaining about those things.

Question: How do we stop the guy from complaining.

The first paragraph is really really sitting wrong with me. Seriously, how many different ways are you trying to avoid responsibility for the quality of your product? You're just a junior, it was all developed before your time, you mostly only do maintenance, the structure wasn't scalable,etc, etc.

You know your product sucks. But instead of asking, "What are some ways we could improve this?", you're here asking "How do we shut up the person highlighting the areas we could improve?"

Seriously, this question is a no-brainer. Every ticket he submits? Prioritize them, and identify Root Causes. Not just "Problem occurred because X happened," but "Well, it traces back because we do A and B - and those often cause problems if there's a mistake" - and then also create tickets for those root causes.

This guy is doing half your work for you. Stuff like this should be caught at an internal QA, not going out to the client. You apparently don't have QA, so this guy is doing it for you while he pays you, and then you turn around and try to ignore him?

| improve this answer | |
  • It's not clear that this is the asker's personal fault, though yes, it is their employer's collective one. Give the custom one channel for grievances, and that will be used, even if it's not particularly fitting for the root cause issues. Correction may not be simply about improving the product, but also about creating more efficient communication between the customer and the development leadership, as forcing everything to be an "issue" may not lead to a solid plan for the kinds of improvements that are ultimately necessary. Actually talking may be warranted here. – Chris Stratton Aug 7 at 19:53
  • If the development process can only address an "issue ticket" then you'll still get better results if it is one written jointly after consultation, than merely whatever a frustrated customer typed into a web form on an aggravated afternoon. – Chris Stratton Aug 7 at 19:55
9

How can support deal with the behaviour of this client specifically with the tickets he submits?

Customer support should continue to answer and assist this person to the best they can, answering the questions that are reasonable to tell them.

Now... it's obvious that your infrastructure is not in proper shape for the service you are providing. So, to actually stop this from repeating over and over again you should fix that.

Since the structure of the systems weren't meant to grow as big as they are right now, we have problems with availability because of the servers hardware that we are limited to, so it's a common thing that our servers crash.

You see, this is the problem. The requests and clients you get have grown, and you mention that the scalability of the company wasn't designed properly to grow. If you don't fix this, or redesign your server infrastructure you will continue to have the same problem.

If you are unable to get new or more physical servers there is always the option to acquire Infrastructure as a Service (IaS), where you can get more servers and things you need to deliver a good and proper service to your clients.

Now... as a Jr. Developer, seems to me that this is out of your hands, and this would correspond to your System Administrator or similar in your company.

| improve this answer | |
  • Yes. As a Jr. Dev. its not on my power to make great decisions about it, but not too long ago our System Admin and Lead left the company. So now we are just Jr Devs. trying to figure out how everything works. And yes, we are settling stuff for an IaS migration. – Yeul Aug 6 at 16:17
  • I see... in that case good luck with that, as you can currently just do your best and continue to patch the failures in your infrastructure, but for this to stop happening you will have to get into IaS and redesign your Infrastructure. Have you talked to your manager about this situation, and that the only way to solve it is to solve the Infrastructure? – DarkCygnus Aug 6 at 16:21
  • Yes we've talked with our manager and concluded that the current infrastructure is lacking modularity, there are unnecessary dependencies between our web pages. – Yeul Aug 6 at 16:34
  • 1
    Nice. Seems that you are on the right track :) – DarkCygnus Aug 6 at 16:35
-3

You can't stop him from opening tickets. But you can answer him and make him quiet for some time with your answer like "We are looking at the issue" etc.

| improve this answer | |
  • That answer just annoys users especially if they have raised the issue before – mmmmmm Aug 9 at 16:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .