User support and big fat liars


We have 20,000 users – maybe it will be more by the time I run the user numbers at the end of this month. We’re a small company which means everyone wears three hats. Today has been a day when all hands on deck have been providing user support.

Here’s the TL; DR version. People who say they have 5 million users with a staff of a dozen people or fewer are liars. When people are really using your product, they have support needs and there is no way you can provide that and create new features with a team small enough to fit in a mini-van.

Math: The Universal Language – more reliable every day

Tomorrow, Daniel is delivering cards for our augmented reality app to a school in Chile. The schools are off for holidays but because he’s an extremely dedicated guy he’s bringing the cards to a teacher’s house.

Because we don’t want to deliver anything untested, Diana, Daniel and I dropped everything and spent the morning testing the Android version of the app to make sure it gave the correct answer at least 99% of the time. We wanted 100% but because some of the schools use lower end devices they just don’t have that high a resolution for their cameras. Still, we are almost there for iOs. There will be a new version in the app store in a day or so.

Spirit Lake and Fish Lake: Things Work Until They Don’t and Then They Do Again

Unlike say, a book or a car, software can quit working overnight even though absolutely nothing has changed in the program. The browser the customer used or the server hosting the database changes and ‘Poof!’ as the nice IT specialist from Warwick said,

“Fish Lake always worked fine until today.”

And now it doesn’t because a script changed on the server. So … Dennis quit working on the AR app in Spanish and even though he’d already worked 9.5 hours straight, he took a break for dinner and then fixed the server.

Forgotten Trail user support is not forgotten

Last but not least, Forgotten Trail uses autoplay for videos and audio files. We made this game a few years ago and since then the default for most browsers is to disable autoplay. You can enable it in your preferences EXCEPT that a lot of schools don’t allow students or teachers the access to change anything. So, over the next several days I will be going in and changing the code on hundreds of pages to have a button to start videos or make it appear that there are separate pages are loading and being read to you when you click the next arrow. It will actually be a new division of the current page sliding up, in case you were dying to know.

My point: User Support takes time but I’m still glad we have users. Also, some people are big, fat liars.

Simply put, the more users you have and the more products you have, the more time you need to spend supporting them. Recently, someone claimed to have invested in a company our size with 5 million users. I think either the investor is a big, fat liar or the founder who told him that is. Even if 1 out of 10,000 of your users has a problem, that’s 500 a day, assuming that your relatively new software is 99.999% successful. Who is answering those 500 user support requests a day? While they are doing that, who is creating the new features like math lesson plans your users want? Who is going to conferences and meeting with potential customers to get that 5,000,000 users?

The fact is, the more users you have, the more things that had not occurred to you go wrong. Then, you fix them. Even though I’m fixing bugs at 10 pm, I’m still glad we have people emailing me for support because it means they are actually using our software. Now, back to those bug fixes.

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