No way will they make it in customer service.

I was shocked at how strange my seemingly simple interaction with customer tech support was with a company over the weekend.

I encountered an issue with a company’s very specialized search engine over the weekend, my instructions to them on how to recreate the issue were so simple and yet the person I was dealing with from their tech support department was incapable of comprehending the 3 easy steps I sent them (the 3 steps were sent in print so there would be no misunderstanding – if for some reason tech support cannot read or cannot read English then there is nothing at all wrong with that – if that is the case then the company needs to switch to phone support instead of their current email ticketing system for support issues).

What should have been no more than 3 messages (1 message from myself highlighting the issue and 1 or 2 messages from tech support acknowledging the issue and then fixing the issue or saying the issue isn’t fixable at this time) has instead escalated to 9 messages so far.

This much chatter is completely unacceptable and unnecessary.

These are the 3 simple steps I sent the company so they could replicate the issue I was seeing:

1. visited this url: http:\\www.[their search site domain here].com
2. in the search box I entered this phrase: bla bla
3. selected enter, the search results appeared on screen

How can anyone not understand the exact 3 steps noted above? I cannot image any 3 steps being easier than what I posted above. How does someone not understand this? This is an example of the chatter going back and forth between myself and tech support:

  • tech support: “Works fine for me”
  • me: send me a screenshot
  • tech support: sends me a screenshot
  • me: nope, you did not go through the same 3 steps I did (see my steps), you instead searched on this criteria: bla. bla – I do not include a period in my 3 steps
  • tech support: “Went through your steps again, works for me”
  • me: send me a screenshot
  • tech support: sends me a screenshot
  • me: nope, you did not go through the same 3 steps I did (see my 3 steps), you instead searched on this criteria: you selected the category bla first then within that category searched on the phrase bla bla – I do not select a category in my 3 steps

The conversation just keeps going on and on and on like this until the human finally performs the 3 steps and sees the issue (I have truly witnessed a miracle). The human is unable to follow 3 simple instructions until the human is baby fed each step at a ridiculously slow pace. These instructions could not be simpler but this human is incapable of understanding how to perform these 3 steps without a tremendous amount of hand holding.

This person needs to leave customer support immediately and never go back and instead build a roller skating rink in my honor to make up for the damage this unnecessary stress has caused my brain.

Example of a list of Requirements for a Simple Application

This web page is an example of a simple application (it is a web form): http://mummey.com/contactus.aspx. This form allows a visitor to enter his or her email address, a message and click on a submit button. When the user submits the required data, the data is sent in email form to a general mail box at mummey.com. An application of this size and complexity will take a programmer about 15 minutes to write. A full hour if you throw in testing, handing off to the client for user testing, writing proper documentation and publishing to production. However, this estimate could go up to several hours if you wanted the programmer to create artwork.

If you wanted a simple application like the one listed above, your requirements to a programmer would translate to something like this:

  1. One form that displays 6 items (welcome verbiage, navigation of some kind, graphics, form fields of email address and comments and a submit button).  We will provide the images and descriptions of the items to the programmer.
  2. The visitor to the form should be able to enter their email address, a message and then submit the message via a submit button.
  3. When the visitor submits the form by clicking on a submit button, the visitor email address and the message the user entered will be submitted as an email to this email address: xxxxx@xxxxx.com.

I need a programmer to write an application for me, where do I start?

Before finding a programmer, understand the basic application life cycle.  It is something like this:

  • Client comes up with a list of requirements (be as specific as possible).
  • Programmer is given requirements to study
  • Programmer gives estimate of time and cost of job based on requirements given
  • Programmer builds application
  • Client tests application and the programmer fixes any bugs in the application – this step loops until user agrees product is good. DANGER – it is in this step that scope creep can show its expensive head.  Scope creep is when a client at this point adds more requirements to the application, this is very easy to do because the client is excited about the project and the programmer is excited about the work and making the client happy.  If more requirements are thrown into the project at this point, the client needs to understand that the original estimate of cost and time no longer apply.  It is best to meet with programmer with a new set of requirements so the programmer can establish a new estimate of cost and time and if this new estimate exceeds the timeline of the client, then the application needs to be pushed to production as is with the original requirements and a new timeline/cost should be established for Phase II (new set of requirements) of the application with the programmer.
  • Programmer publishes the application to production.
  • Programmer delivers documentation in electronic form the client. Two forms of documentation are delivered: a user guide and a tech guide.  The user guide is a detailed step by step document of how a person would actually use the application (covering all of its features).  The tech guide is a detailed document containing the actual code of the application (or a link to where the actual code can be found), any passwords required of the application, detailed information regarding the database (if the application uses a database) and the language the application is written in.  The tech guide is to be given to any future programmers who may have to work on the application after the original programmer has won the lottery and moved to California:)
  • Client pays programmer.

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