Why not tip for excellent online customer service?

A couple of weeks ago all the posts here became invisible. There didn’t seem to be anything I could have done wrong to cause that, so I wrote to the support team at WordPress.com about it. I got a prompt acknowledgement from Erica V. that something was, indeed, wrong. Soon after that she confirmed that the problem was fixed. That left me feeling pretty good about WordPress.com. It’s a free service, after all, I’m only a customer in a rather minimal way: I pay for domain name redirection and for the ability to edit my CSS file. Yet the customer service I received was outstanding.

Then, last week, something else went wrong. The widgets in the right column were getting bumped down by a post that didn’t belong in that column. I tried a few debugging strategies and then wrote to WordPress.com support again. Here was the prompt response from macmanx:

You’re all fixed up now. You had an extra div tag in “Meta-tools for exploring explanations,” but I removed it.

Oops. I know how to validate HTML and should have caught that myself. It’s not something I’d have wanted to bother the support team with. But they didn’t make me feel like a jerk. Again the problem was handled promptly and cheerfully.

You know, we tip for all sorts of services in the physical world, including ones delivered far less capably. Why not tip for excellent online customer service? If there were a tip jar for WordPress.com I’d have used it both times.

9 thoughts on “Why not tip for excellent online customer service?

  1. mranalogy

    You could get that service rep’s email and send them a link to your blog post to forward onto their supervisor (or better, email directly to the supervisor).
    THAT will get them more than a tip (if their supervisor is reasonably bright).
    (BTW, really enjoyed your talk @ VT a month or so ago.)
    -Clay Nichols

    Reply
    1. Andrew Spittle

      You could get that service rep’s email and send them a link to your blog post to forward onto their supervisor (or better, email directly to the supervisor).

      Good idea! :)

      I’m the lead for our team that handles email and forum support at WordPress.com. Coincidentally, I follow Jon’s blog as well. Consider me notified. ;)

      Reply
      1. Clay Nichols

        Now the real benefit, Jon, is that you’ll get AMAZING service next time. And the Service Rep gets some kuddos AND it didn’t even cost you any (money).

  2. Jon Udell Post author

    That worked out nicely, thanks for the suggestion Clay. I’m serious about the tip jar though, and not just for WordPress.com. We are increasingly the beneficiaries of personal services delivered online.

    Reply
    1. Clay Nichols

      I agree it is a good idea. (Our customers frequently try to find a way to tip me (I just let them know I’m one of the owners).

      HOWEVER that raises the issue that Tips are an *extrinsic* reward. There’s a lot of research (just read Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn) showing that giving someone extrinsic rewards squashes *intrinsic* motivation. (E.g. paying kids to draw actually decreases their desire).

      If you really want to encourage behavior you reward it *intrinsically*.
      And spending 30 seconds writing a sincere thank you note is more likely to do that.

      (I’m all in favor of putting your money where your mouth is and I tip waitstaff all the time…because that’s the system. But I think it’s a flawed system.).

      Sometimes a Thank You is the best …thank you.

      But your point is well taken: we need to show our appreciation for online service. Those folks can feel awfully disconnected (especially when it’s only via text) and it’s quite easy to make them feel more connected.

      Reply
      1. Jon Udell Post author

        You’re right, it is a flawed system. Why do we have a tipping protocol for some services and not others? And why do those protocols vary from country to country? I would rather know that people are properly rewarded for doing well, and also know that by thanking them I will help them get their proper reward.

  3. Clay Nichols

    Very cool! I’ve been interested in “what (can) make(s) work fun” for over 10 years now. (People used to just give me wieird looks when I asked them that question. Now it’s called Gamification, and I just started studying it in earnest. Very Very interesting intersection of my interests (software, positive pscychology (ala “Flow”), and sales :-)

    Reply
  4. Chris Considine

    Having a great customer service experience can make your week! Word press seems to be doing the A1 job on this…the best way to TIP is to be an advocate for the company that did you well…that way the job of the person that helped you is solid and the company does well. Sounds like the company is putting down all WAYMISHes!!…we’re experts on customer service at WAYMISH.com and appreciate all people that take the time to post, call, or write to people that are giving great customer service.

    Reply

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