TypePad: A Case Study in Support that Sucks

It really blows my mind sometimes when companies that are at the heart of the social media revolution behave in ways that make you wonder whether they really get it. My case in point this week is SixApart–the company that provides the TypePad platform that serves up this blog. SixApart is one of the foremost companies behind the blogging revolution, and they provide a number of blogging applications and services that power a large proportion of the blogs that exist. While SixApart makes a good product, their customer support is some of the worst I’ve experienced anywhere. Ever.

First, let me say to SixApart’s credit that I usually don’t need customer service. Good start. But when I need it, I want it fast, and I have a reasonable expectation that as a paying "pro" customer, only one stop short of their highest-tier "premium" customer, someone should be available to fix serious problems. Well, last week I had a show-stopper. My account was turned off after my credit card number was stolen, and I froze the account that automatically pays my Typepad bill. I only discovered the problem when I tried to write a new post, and then realized not only was my account down, but I wasn’t getting any email notifications from Typepad about my account. My first order of business was to get my account back up, and then figure out why I wasn’t getting emails. And that’s when I became a character in a Kafka play.

For TypePad "pros", SixApart has one and only one point of access for customer service. No phone calls. No online chat. No email. No moderated forums. Your only choice is to enter a trouble ticket form online. Once you submit your form, you get to wait until whenever TypePad has someone available to read it. Let me say that as a customer with my hair on fire, it’s sure soothing to get a confirmation that my problem has been received and someone will get back to me within 24 hours.

Getting my frozen account back online took 16 hours, even though it only took 5 minutes for me to provide a new credit card number. I titled my ticket "Please Expedite Reinstatement of Account". The first response, 45 minutes later? "Do you wish to reactivate your account now?" Um. No. Let’s wait another 15 hours while I ponder that enigma. Fixing my broken email alerts took another 3 days, during which 3 separate people weighed in, one of whom didn’t even bother to read the trouble ticket before burning one of Typepad’s precious 10-hour response cycles with the brilliant suggestion that the solution to the problem was precisely what I opened the trouble ticket to say wasn’t working. "Oh, the change-of-email form isn’t working? Then I’d suggest you try the change-of-email form." That was on day 2. After that exchange, I finally called SixApart’s home office and asked to speak to someone who could help me. The well-trained receptionist quickly connected me to a phone tree with helpful information about how to submit a trouble ticket online.

I’m sorry, but this just isn’t the kind of customer service I expect from a company offering "Pro" services in social media. Maybe if I was paying in at the "Chump" or "Cheapskate" level I’d be cool with it. And what the hell: If you’ve only got *one* channel of customer service, shouldn’t you be the best damn provider of that kind of customer service in the industry? SixApart needs to take some of that money they’re shaving off running a call center or online chat, and step up the response times on their trouble tickets. They’re providing the functional equivalent of being kept on hold for 3 days. Not exactly the epitome of social media enlightenment.

5 thoughts on “TypePad: A Case Study in Support that Sucks

  1. Dave J.

    Or…they should design their account tools so you can update your billing yourself. This has got to be a way-to-common problem for account holders. Too busy chopping wood to sharpen the axe.

  2. Chris

    They actually have a tool to do that, but then it requires intervention by a human–at least it did in my case. The maddening part is the lack of critical thinking on the part of their reps. I mean, c’mon, I updated my billing information, and then sent in a trouble ticket asking them to expedite reactivation. To have someone reply on their once-in-a-business-cycle response round with “Do you want to reactivate?” is mind boggling.

  3. Adelino de Almeida

    Ergo… customers are not all that important.
    Six Apart seems to be taking a short-sighted view of their business: business will be good for as long as blogs remain somewhat popular (the margins must be handsome when we consider that the costs of hosting a blog are a very small fraction of the price), once a new technology clears the horizon, there will not be many more customer sticking around.

  4. Chris

    I think it’s hard to draw any other conclusion. However, Chris Alden has recently taken the helm of SixApart. He has a very solid reputation as an entrepreneur and strategic thinker. You can speculate that this is either to turn the company around, or prop it up for sale. Either way, I think customer support is going to need to be addressed. Thanks for commenting, Adelino.

  5. jen_chan, writer SureFireWealth.com

    Maybe they never really expected something like having your credit card stolen and so failed to give value to customer service. And “Oh, the change-of-email form isn’t working? Then I’d suggest you try the change-of-email form.” What was that? Did they really just repeat that?

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