July 16, 2009

Get Satisfaction for user support - does it work?

For the past few months, I’ve been using the free version of Get Satisfaction to manage end-user support for Hyperspaces, and I thought it was time to write a bit of a retrospective. I want to start by saying that I don’t think there is a perfect answer to user support - people are funny creatures, and they tend to want help on their own terms. This usually means that a tool like Redmine (which I absolutely love for my development and product testing) is going to annoy the hell out of your Mum & Pop software users (what’s a ‘milestone’, and why do I care?).

I’ve been through a few different products over the years, including Sourceforge, Trac and Redmine - all of which were and are brilliant, but far too focused on development. Finally, around 12 months ago, I started looking elsewhere for my user support - “Surely there’s something better!” I told myself. Thankfully, there was: Get Satisfaction. From Wikipedia’s description of Get Satisfaction:

The company describes its product as “people-powered customer service”. On the website, anyone can ask a question, submit an idea or complaint, or give praise; all posts can be read by anyone. Companies can respond to issues regarding their products or services; official responses are marked as official answers to separate them from other responses. Users can rate responses based on how well they resolve the issue.

I started seriously looking at Get Satisfaction around May last year, and at the time I was very impressed. When I publicly launched Hyperspaces earlier this year, there was a Get Satisfaction page for it on launch day.

And for a time, it was great - I’m a big believer in being hands on and communicative. If there’s a problem with my product, I take care to publicly acknowledge that I’ve got the message even if I have no idea how to fix it yet. I did that - I answered, and answered and answered. I think my users appreciated it. w00t!

Then the clouds started to form.

With more questions being posted, the page started getting really messy, and I honestly believe quite hard to use. The interface now seemed cluttered and obstructive rather than helpful, and I was getting lots of duplicate questions - “this isn’t working how it’s supposed to”. I’m a developer, not a user of my product, so I don’t pretend that I always know what mine are thinking, but surely this wasn’t an easy way to get an answer to your question?

I am at the point now where I am seriously reviewing other options for user support. The problem is, I’m yet to find something that’s as simple - and more importantly, free - as Get Satisfaction. entp’s Tender looks really, really nice - but it’s expensive for me.

To complicate matters further, Get Satisfaction has just released version 2.0 of their site. The company overview is now a fantastic layout - nice, simple and straight-forward. It’s categorised and visually sorted. The product pages aren’t so lucky - they’re still a formless mess, and I have a hard time understanding why there’s not some structure to them.

Company Overview

GetSatisfaction: CocoaBots Support Page

Product Support

GetSatisfaction: Hyperspaces Support Page

I’ll keep this post updated with what I decide to do, but right now I’m seriously weighing up whether it’s worth pouring some of the money I’ve made from Hyperspaces into a really good support package from somewhere like entp.