Like you, I lay awake at night plotting how to keep costs down. Now that I'm sitting on other people's money next to my own, it's even more important. I used to balk at certain costs when I was a VC, now I'm just bananas when they come up. My BlackBerry is missing keys and it's it my pride -n- joy. Business cards? I know I have to get them but I haven't yet. And so it goes, none of this is a surprise to any of you in Start-Up land.
When I went off to do some trademark work, I got pointed to a website called Trademarkia, a really good place to search and register trademarks. The price was excellent and generally the web site got me through the paperwork in no time.
Fast forward to last week. After about, maybe 3 weeks or so, I wanted to check on the status of the trademark. I flipped a note to customer service asking what's up. With about 5 minutes, I got an answer from Sarah which said, here's the link, click it to check, let me know if you need anything else. I click, busted link. I send note to Sarah, which was the support (customer.server) email address letting her know.
Now, Fred is involved. Fred says, sorry making some changes, one sec. He sent that from his iPhone. Next email says, okay, try it now. Nope, sorry. After a couple more emails with an external development house added to the thread, the link they wanted me to go to got working.
Now, it gets interesting.
The link didn't actually give me what I was looking for. I wandered around the site and eventually found the status but is was hard and time consuming. I pointed this out to Fred and the developer who was working on the site. The developer replied with the reasons why she coded it the way it was. It was a polite, logical, thought out answer which, to the customer (me) made no sense. I stress to you the developer was very polite and very logical. It was for that polite/professional attitude, I create a lengthy reply with the customer use cases the present UI didn't consider.
At this point, Fred and Raj (the CEO) had both responded with good points, back to you shortly. All of this email was going back and forth on the customer.service@ alias. A few days later, I got a note, again via customer.service from the CEO saying we made some changes to the admin panel, take a look and let us know your feedback. I did, it was perfect and I said so. Well done.
Here are the smart things that came out of my experience with Trademarkia:
1. I saved money and got massively personal service for essentially pennies vs. traditional lawyers doing this kind of work. My friend Lawrie Wilder here in Canada has a legal service I'll be blogging about later which expands on this even more.
2. Everybody in the company was responding on the customer service email. What's super important to note is everybody was doing it at the appropriate times, not stepping on each other, contradicting each other, etc. It was really well done and this is a key lesson I'm taking away for my own customer service. I hope this scales because it's very smart and very personable. Microsoft used to have an internal system back in the 90's called TomCat that dealt with forums and managed to let 100s of people respond in a consolidated way to customers. Great system, should have been open sourced when it was killed.
3. They took the feedback and said thank you. What's important is not that they actually did anything I said, rather I really felt like they listened. Again, a great takeaway from my experience. The other big lesson here for you is when you give feedback or ask feedback, get it or give it framed as use cases. Explain the flow and expectations. It helps clarify the feedback. Everybody needs to stay professional. If a customer takes the time to detail out the points, they are giving you their time so respect it. These folks got that point down cold and it shows.
4. It looked and felt like the whole company had dived on my problem. It felt like I was getting tons of service for less money. I feel confident that every penny I spend with this company is worth at least 2.
Trademarkia is recommended. (Thanks Matt!)