12 May 2009 9 am eastern

Customer service, not Ruby on Rails

Among developers, 37signals has achieved a cult following for giving us web applications like Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire, and the Ruby on Rails platform. But the real secret of their success is as old fashioned as your great grandfather’s Victrola. It’s customer service.

We opened a HighRise account to manage our A List Apart author contacts and then didn’t use the account for whatever reason.

This morning I cancelled my account with two clicks of a button.

The messaging clearly explained that canceling the account would mean losing the contacts, and provided an opportunity to rethink the decision.

When I chose to go ahead with the cancellation, it happened instantly, and I was taken to this page, which reassured me that the account was closed and that I would stop receiving product-related emails. Smart. I was instantly satisfied and had no more questions. How often does that happen when closing, say, a phone or cable or internet account?

The page also offered me the opportunity to try another 37signals product or to provide customer feedback in a survey. If I had quit using the product because of dissatisfaction with it, I would have been able to use the survey to tell 37signals everything I disliked about my experience. If I liked the product but found it wasn’t right for me for whatever reason, I could tell them that (which could help them focus on their core audience’s needs).

All smart, businesslike, and yet inoffensive and un-pushy.

37signals not only constantly fine-tunes their products, they also think about the customer experience even when the customer is leaving.

I find that instructive, educational, and inspiring.

Disclaimer: Jason Fried is my friend, and I do business with 37signals through The Deck advertising network, so I’m not impartial. Just impressed.

Filed under: 37signals, Advocacy, business

28 Responses to “Customer service, not Ruby on Rails”

  1. Matt said on

    Pleasantly surpsised.

    Thought I was going to read a massive 37S rant!

  2. Benjamin D.C. said on

    Can’t agree more with you. Smart, subtle, inspiring. Bravo!

  3. Chad M said on

    Thanks for the example. I love seeing when someone “gets” the user experience and can turn it to full advantage.

  4. Ryan Brill said on

    I was just ranting about this to my wife last night. The last two things I canceled tried to bill me for an extra month after I called to cancel (and I’m not talking about just finishing out the billing cycle – they tried to force me into an additional month of “service”). In both cases, they lost my respect, after months of otherwise good service. It’s refreshing to see it done right.

  5. Adrian Giddings said on

    Seems like a great example of “What don’t we like online?”, “Let’s not do that.”

    Seeing people get it right makes me want to go to them first when I might need their services/products. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Micheil said on

    hmm.. Nice, although, It’s even better to see it live, and no, I wouldn’t close a 37Signals application account just to do so: http://37signals.com/cancel?p=3

  7. John said on

    Amen. I’m a huge fan of 37signals and their products, especially Basecamp which we used for a couple of years in the IT dept of a midsize daily newspaper to manage projects. And a friend and I use it as a Web app for the elementary school daily newspaper program we run. The kids dig it too. Only complaint there is that the writeboards sometimes don’t save — issue seems to be in Firefox 2 on Mac. But I digress.

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  9. Paris Vega said on

    Referring to the recent article about Google’s anti-design culture… I think that 37 signals actually accomplishes what Google thinks they are accomplishing with their version of a simple interface.

  10. Scott said on

    37signals does add a lot of smart user experience touches, even to the account termination process. But if you leave, be careful what you say in your survey. JF seems fond of publicly ridiculing user feedback. :-)

  11. Gerald said on

    “Thank for trying a 37Signals product”

    Their customer service might be inspiring, but their proofreading skills could use some work. ;)

  12. Caleb said on

    When I moved out of the country I missed some things that I no longer needed. Some of those companies have lost my business forever. Others, like 24 Hour Fitness were very accommodating and quickly cancelled my account over email. I know I’m no longer their customer now, but I recommend them based on how easy it is to quit them, and if I’m ever back in the states I’ll return there for business, because as long as I’ve met my contractual obligations they don’t make it difficult to quit.

    I believe Eric Meyer recently tweeted something about that if you can sign up for a service on the web without any human interaction, you shouldn’t have to interact to cancel the service. Wish more companies would realize that customer support includes the part about ending the relationship.

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  14. Michael Kumm said on

    Same happened to me. I almost felt guilty for canceling, but I could not justify the cost of the service.

  15. Mau said on

    It was exactly my same experience with MediaTemple last year. The cancellation process was straightforward, and there were no gimmicks, or anything, I was able to cancel within minutes.

    And that experience plays a key role on why I WILL be going back to them pretty soon.

    I relate to Michael Kumm’s comment above about feeling guilty.

  16. Ray said on

    Wow, a web service that actually lets you quit? And they’re nice about it too?

    It’d be nice if Facebook or Bloglines actually allowed you to leave, and removed all trace of you. I wouldn’t even expect them to care, much less be nice about it.

    So, wow.

  17. Michael Kozakewich said on

    When you mentioned customer service, and then 37Signals, I expected something about them not supporting IE6.

    I would completely expect an easy-to-use account-closing button. It’s a bit sad that there are so many things hard to close. My phone company wasn’t bad about it, at least. I called, they said I had to stay until the end of the billing cycle (a couple more weeks), and that was that. Half a month later, I couldn’t call anyone on that phone.

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  19. Josh Stodola said on

    Thanks for the reminder that the best web apps can be built upon the worse platforms.

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  21. Jason Fried said on

    Thanks for the post Jeffrey.

    We try to do our best across the entire experience, front to back side to side. Cancelling something is typically a really frustrating, cringeworthy experience. We’ve worked hard to make our cancellation process as simple – and friendly – as it can be. We’re sorry to see people go, but we understand if they have to. We just want to make the exit ramp is as comfortable for everyone as possible.

  22. wovre said on

    Thought I was going to read a massive 37S rant! :D

  23. Shane said on

    They’re clearly a group of very talented people, and whilst their platform of choice doesn’t have a direct relationship with the experience that you and thousands of other people have described, it is a convincing argument for Ruby on Rails.

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