User Support Blues

Sigh. I’m venting. I think I can safely do so here…

A customer has been writing increasingly angry, frequent emails to us for four days, because he lost some data, doesn’t have a backup of anything on his computer, and wants us to magically bring his data back. The more we politely, helpfully, suggest ways to do this, the angrier he gets.

Now he has got to the “fix this problem or I’ll spam forums and switch to your competitor” stage. Let him switch - I don’t mind, but, well, grrrrrrr!


If it’s really not your fault and you can’t help him, then just ignore him. Maybe your competitor will appreciate such a “gem”. About spamming forums, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?


I also always offer a refund in these sort of cases (pretty rare for me since mine is enterprise-y B2B). It’s hard for people to keep the drive to post to loads of message boards when they’ve been fully refunded on an X year old piece of software.


I once got asked how to get data off a computer that was at home and switched off. 65 emails and many hours later (including remote-connecting to their machine to un-delete stuff), I gave them a refund.

You can’t reason with unreasonable people. It might be worth the price of a refund just to get rid of him (I wouldn’t feel obligated to respond after a refund)?

BTW PerfectTablePlan now periodically reminds people to backup their data. On the 10th, 100th and then every 500th run of PerfectTablePlan it shows this message:

“Computer harddisks have a nasty habit of dying at the worst possible time.\nPlease ensure you backup a copy of your precious plan files somewhere other than your local harddisk.\nE.g. to another computer, CD, memory stick or DropBox account. You can even email them to yourself.”


Is this for desktop software, or a web app?

Best nagware message I’ve seen! Great idea, Andy.

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it’s for desktop software

Nice idea, Andy! I was asking myself what I could do to minimize the occurrence of such a problem in the future! May I copy your text verbatim-ish?

I’m wondering how this ended up. Did the customer chill out in the end?

Yes. Anyone who wants to use that idea is very welcome.

Yeah, for desktop, you can’t be held responsible for people not backing up their data.

Like the others have said, give him a refund, mark it as lesson learnt, and move on. Maybe add the message Andy uses.

BTW Some customers now think that everything is stored ‘in the cloud’ and don’t understand that desktop apps usually store stuff locally. I have people who ask me why they can’t automatically access their old plans (stored on their harddisk) from their new computer.

On the other hand, some people buy my software because it doesn’t store stuff on third party servers (seating plans can be sensitive information for high profile people).

If customers aren’t worried about using third party servers and want to access their plans on multiple devices, I recommend they consider DropBox. This will also backup their plans. If you include a DropBox affiliate link, you can get extra DropBox storage for free!

Once I stopped responding, he did too…

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I’ve written an article about sustainable support: How To Win At Whac-A-Mole: The Secret To Truly Sustainable Support And after thinking about this thread I updated it to mention ‘firing a customer’.

I’ve fired a few customers in my time. It’s the last resort nuclear option. But it’s there. I’ll update it to mention “not engaging” as well. Hmm, it could be a whole other topic.

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Nice article. It informed me that I need to improve the process by which we add things to the FAQ - it certainly does have too much friction at the moment, which means, of course, that we don’t do it.