Thoughts on user/customer support of websites offering free services

During the last years I most probably used the same websites like you: GMail, Facebook, Zynga Games (games being offered through MySpace and Facebook for example) and many more.

They all have one thing in common: They are offering free services. And all of them are companies. And all of them have an interested in you, your data and you using their free offer(s). All of them make money.

Why do they want me to use their services?

Those websites appear to be “hip” and “cool”, “modern” and very user friendly. They clearly aim at everyone, no matter if you are an very experienced IT user or someone who is not very familiar with computers. All of them want you to be “modern” and some of them even want you to provide sensitive data (like your address and name) and contact your friends/buddies on regular bases.

They do make profit with that, although everything seems to be free. Well, it is not. You are paying with your time, the people you invite to be with you on those platforms and of course with your personal data. Those companies are using them in order to create user profiles or show you targeted ads.

Well, this is something you have to live with since you get awesome services in return. And you know exactely what you are up to. Just think of the worst case, e.g. that some companies even sell your data without asking you for permission _or_ you already granted the permission while agreeing to some long text/terms of use.

Trouble using those services?

I don’t know about you but I have had trouble while playing Zynga games on Facebook (yesh, I actually did).  Although some of them are awesome and really bring lots of fun, you still can meet some players with abusive behavior. Or you have trouble with some pages which don’t load or calculate wrong money values etc. etc..

What do you do when you are in trouble? 😀

Well, in most cases you just read the FAQ, ask other players or try to contact the support.

I tested the support of various services and must say that I am shocked by their ignorance. While some of them try to at least reply with FAQ entries (e.g. GMail does have this kind of support), some of them reply to questions I never asked (e.g. “Sorry that you have trouble with your account.” when I reported a vulnerability -> Facebook) and others of them simply never reply. E.g. months ago I tried to tell Zynga that there are simple methods which allow players to have unlimited ressources in many of their games. It was not even a vulnerability or a trick, it was just a clever usage of the games mechanis. So no cheating or bot usage or something like that. Zynga failed to reply and in my eyes they are not interested or have not enough ppl doing daily support work. Well, I don’t have any evidence of course, but those might be some obvious reasons.

Other companies also fail to reply to support mails. Since we don’t pay for their services we don’t have any right on a fast and good support reply. And even not any right on a reply at all.

But where is the social responsibility? Members of those services spend hours of hours of using them, telling their friends how awesome they are and some of them even try to give valuable high quality feedback.

So the conclusion would be that those services even _depend_ on the users. Without the users they would have no success at all, wouldn’t be able to have paid ads and won’t be so popular.

==> I think, under those circumstances, that the users deserve to have a support team replying to their mails at least within days.

Taking Feedback seriously.

I know a case where a social network platform (such as Facebook) receives very good feedback on daily basis, but doesn’t take it seriously and never responds to it.

This is in fact very sad, but this is often the case. Regular members of a service are often able to provide very good feedback, the least you can do is reply and say “thank you” or comment it, e.g. “Hey, I think it is a great idea, but I don’t think that we will implement that.”.

Companies should take advantage of _free_ valuable feedback and improve their services. If they don’t.. well, they are defenitely missing missing an opportunity and might even lose marcet shares to rivals.

And yes, I am a little bit frustrated because of such websites/services 🙂

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