Software News October 2014 – Support Solutions

Dmitriy Buterin 31 October 2014 12 comments

Fall is always a busy time as we all ramp up after summer holidays. Just in time for all of your fall membership meetings and events, we launched our iPhone App to help you with mobile check-in and remote contact and member management - and had about 1000 downloads so far! If you haven’t checked it out or want to see what else is coming up on our mobile roadmap, have a look at last month’s Software News.

This month, we are completing our analysis of the Version 5 roll-out (our biggest upgrade ever!) – our internal review as well as surveying our customers. We’ll provide more details later, but for now, here are some highlights of the customer survey:

  • the overall rating we received of the Version 5 roll-out was a 7 out of 10
  • 75% rated the upgrade process at 8 or higher:

Along with all of the positive developments, we want to acknowledge some challenges too. Our support levels have not been as good in the last few months as before. For that we apologize – and want to explain what happened and the measures we’re putting in place to better support you.

I’ve asked Kathryn Ang, our Customer Service Manager (Spicy Apricot), to outline the challenges her team has faced and the solutions we’re putting in place.

Support Challenges and Solutions Moving Forward

One of the things clients rave about is the great customer service we provide at Wild Apricot. Often we receive comments from customer surveys telling us how helpful and knowledgeable Jim is, how Michael really goes out of his way to solve an issue, or the great customer service from Vivian and many others on the Support team: Alain, Dmitriy S. and Gordon.  

Unfortunately, over the past few months, it’s often been a different tune. Our valued customers (you!) suffered because of a myriad of reasons...You had to wait longer than our normal response time, and you no longer had direct access to us on the phones (instead, we called you back).

For that, we would like to sincerely apologize.

Before we outline the next steps we have taken to get our customer service back to normal – and make it even better – we wanted to offer a thorough, transparent explanation of the situation.

Some supporting data

Our typical support volume for quite a while had been 2000 tickets and 1500 phone calls per month. Starting in April we had a big spike – and Version 5 was a big contributor:


This, coupled with an abnormal level of personnel challenges (from serious illness to unexpected turnovers) led to a jump in our response times:


We eventually had to apply a temporary emergency measure of shutting down incoming phone support to stabilize the situation – and also work on new longer-term strategies to improve support.

In more detail:

1. Version 5 website conversion challenges:

Version 5 was all about enhancements to our website builder. We had more than 10,000 websites to convert from our old website builder to the new one – which uses totally new architecture and structures pages differently. Each and every page had to be converted – hundreds of thousands of pages in total. 

  • Where we fell short: We anticipated there would be issues but we underestimated the number of these requests that would come pouring in and realize now that we didn't spread out the phased updates far enough apart.

  • What we’ve done to solve this: The good news is the majority of Version 5 bugs have been addressed.

    1. We made handling bugs the top priority for our development team, even though it meant delaying further planned updates.

    2. As of the end of September, 123 out of 143 bugs have been resolved – remaining bugs being mostly low and medium priority ones. The chart below outlines the distribution of bugs.


2. Challenge: Additional support for customers learning new CMS:

Version 5’s CMS enhancements represented a huge change for our existing clients. This meant a big learning curve for our clients who were used to doing things one way and now had to learn a new approach.

    • Where we fell short: Again we underestimated the support clients would require to transition to the new platform.

    • What we’ve done to fix it: The entire Wild Apricot team worked really hard to help out and to handle support tickets. In addition to the Support team, we had help from our Product Design folks, Frank and Evgeny, and, our CEO, Dmitry Buterin, personally answered numerous tickets in the last few months. 

3. Challenge: Inflow of new customers:

Between some of our marketing campaigns and Version 5’s new features, we acquired a lot of new trials and new customers. However, this only compounded the number of inquiries we had to handle. As a result, the support queue was even more crowded.

  • Where we fell short: Looking back, we could have underplayed our marketing efforts to reduce the number of new customers during the transition of such a major upgrade.
  • What we’ve done to fix it: To solve this problem, we’ve created a separate department to handle sales inquiries separately from our regular support queue. This means our support staff can focus on taking care of existing customers on technical support questions and our sales department can take care of prospective clients – and we can allocate and balance the resources and priorities between them as needed.
4. Challenge: Support staff transitions:

Over the last few months, we’ve lost 2 support staff members and I had some serious health issues. This meant our team was not only receiving an unprecedented level of tickets, but we were also understaffed during the critical months of the Version 5 release.

  • Where we fell short: While we did hire more people in anticipation of the Version 5 release, we didn’t account for major illness or mitigated the staff turnover risks.

  • What we’ve done to fix it: We have already hired 2 new Support staff members – and have been training them as quickly as we can. We are continuing the hiring process and will add even more people.

    • Say hello to Elena & Romie! You may have seen replies and possibly received phone calls from them already.

We appreciate your patience

Despite all of our efforts to bring the Support team back to its renowned level of service, we are not quite there yet. So the Support team asks for your understanding (and patience) as we finally get back to our normal level of service in November (further improving the response time and reopening incoming phone support).   

How you can help us help you best

  • Remember, the best way to contact support is to check our contact page
    • We will keep you posted on how you can reach us and the best methods
  • Make use of our online Help – we constantly update and enhance help pages and in this quarter we have already added 11 videos and have 9 more in the works
  • Use our Webinars including new regular Q&A webinars

We're committed to:

  • re-opening our inbound phone support in November (while continuing to offer callbacks as needed)

  • providing a response to your email in a timely manner – our current average daily response in October is already back under one business day

  • monitoring and triage of our support queue constantly to allocate our resources in the most efficient manner (if you have an urgent matter, please put “Urgent” in the subject line)
  • constantly updating our comprehensive online help – including a growing number of how-to videos

Back to Dmitry, Chief Apricot:

To conclude, I want to thank Kathryn and her team for their efforts during these challenging times. It’s been a hectic fall, but one full of learning and progress. We are committed to applying the learning to ensure that Wild Apricot once again offers best in class customer support to help you make the most of our offerings in order to further your mission.

At the same time, we’re continuing to move forward with enhancements to Wild Apricot. Along with the Version 2 API and mobile app, we are working towards releasing new themes – for details see our Product Roadmap.

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Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Posted by Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

Published Friday, 31 October 2014 at 12:25 PM

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Comments

  • Sharon Graham, Career Professionals of Canada, Wild Apricot Customer said:

    Friday, 31 October 2014 at 2:15 PM
    Thank you so very much for your honest and candid explanation.

    From the start, I have been HUGELY impressed with Wild Apricot and especially your support services. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to complete this system overhaul for 10,000 customers. The new features are really worth the wait, but I have to admit we had a bit of a learning curve getting back "up to speed."

    Now that everything is stabilized, I'm really excited about the roadmap for new enhancements. It seems that the "floodgates are open" and I can't wait to see what's coming next.

    PS. Hope you are feeling much better, Dmitriy.
  • Chief Apricot said:

    Friday, 31 October 2014 at 2:34 PM
    Sharon - thank YOU!
    (It was actually Kathryn, our support manager who dealt with some health challenges - not me. )
  • Rick Kerner said:

    Friday, 31 October 2014 at 2:36 PM
    Very nicely, done. :)
  • Kim Weatherby said:

    Friday, 31 October 2014 at 2:46 PM
    We appreciate the WA team being so transparent about the issues and what has been done to address. Great job!
  • Tom LaRocque said:

    Friday, 31 October 2014 at 2:54 PM
    Yep, good job. Obviously you have your own business challenges. Let's keeping figuring it out together.
  • Gwyneth said:

    Friday, 31 October 2014 at 3:32 PM
    The cloud can be an impersonal place yet business is a people process. It's good that as apricot becomes central to our community that we can feel that we are getting to know real people and the real challenge they face. I have used regonline since 2007. Back then support people had names and faces and the support guys got to know my business and I felt a real sense of connection. Now it's all corporate and marketing speak emails. So please apricots stay real, stay honest, stay human, stay friendly
  • John Presland said:

    Friday, 31 October 2014 at 3:46 PM
    As a new user I used your support team two or three times whilst I was trying to find my way around a new system. As we are based in Australia I didn't use the phone system due to time zone differences, but my emails were answered within a day and my questions answered well. I found the service to be good. Thank you for your efforts.
  • Dana Robb said:

    Friday, 31 October 2014 at 5:35 PM
    I was one of the people who got email support responses from Dmitriy. Although his emails do say "chief apricot" I didn't realize he was the CEO. I think that says volumes about your support staff. It means that everyone I've dealt with in the past has been as professional and helpful as the CEO. Holy cats, that's great service! Well done all around.
  • Angelo Ioculano said:

    Saturday, 01 November 2014 at 5:43 PM
    Thank you for your critical analysis of your company's web app release results. It is to be honest the first time an I.T. company has been so honest and welcome to share information. This transperancy assists your membership who may have never developed web apps understand some of the complexities invloved. You are keeping up with how clubs work openly, especially when the CEO gets their hands dirty -- knowing what they are on about.

    Keep up the great work. It is difficult to handle support, fix bugs and release a new app at the same time. For this you and your staff need to be congratulated, especially when there are still browsers out there that haven't joined the year 2014, even the major ones which are still not working to standards that have been around for 7 years and also a membership with a high percentage of mid to low tech background.
  • Chief Apricot said:

    Monday, 03 November 2014 at 10:00 AM
    Thank you everyone for your understanding and encouragement!
  • Kevin Hokerk said:

    Monday, 03 November 2014 at 12:11 PM
    Coming from a bank operations back ground and doing check deposit system conversions, particularly around bank mergers, I understand fully the testing, dry runs and expected support needs. Then the 'switch' is flipped and production always uncovers unique situations that could not be foreseen. Over all was very happy with the outcome. And yes I had a question or two but the return call was prompt.
  • Ruthi said:

    Monday, 03 November 2014 at 10:47 PM
    You guys rock!

    I can't say everything is perfect but the most user-friendly program and personal, supportive service I've ever encountered.

    The first time I had a problem (date format glitch) was on a Saturday morning in Australia - I was groaning thinking about waiting until Monday in Toronto to get an answer but to my surprise received a reply within a few hours!

    So happy to have found you :)
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