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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Account calendar for better customer care

Some years back, when a certain web-based calendar had just launched, a friend showed me what some other company had done with it. They had created a connector of sorts which would take alerts from things like Nagios or OpenNMS and would put them up on your calendar. It would essentially create calendar events so you could take a look and see how things were doing.

I liked the look of this and decided to see just how hard it would be to throw something together which looked like that but was entirely based on our internal systems. We had a whole bunch of events which could be looked up for a given customer/account, and it would be trivial to render them as little icons on a calendar view.

One icon you'd see was a little ticket any time they had a new issue created on a given day. Another was a little red lamp icon that would mean they had a monitoring alert on that day. If they got backed up on a given day, a small tape icon would appear. If they bought a SSL certificate on a given day, a little lock icon would pop up.

If the data center had scheduled maintenance on any of their devices for a day, that event would show up as a wrench (but not these snips) since that was a tool the data center people would sometimes use. Finally, any new systems which went online would have their "birthdays" show up as a little server icon.

Hovering on any of those icons would tell you a little about the event. If you clicked on them, they would take you to the logical page, so you could view that ticket, or alert, or whatever.

All of this was intended to help out account managers when they did their periodic customer "happy checks". What better way to know what's been going on with a customer than to look at all of the notable events in the past month? If they have a whole bunch of those monitoring alerts in recent times and never did before, that's a problem.

You could also see if their full backups were happening regularly without having to really dig. It should show up on roughly the same day every week. If there wasn't a regular pattern to it, that would also suggest badness on that account.

Basically, it was everything I would have wanted myself if I had to regularly call customers and check in with them. The last thing I would want was to be surprised. If you call up a customer who's recently been having issues and assume everything is okay, then they are going to notice.

Sure, for you, they are just one customer, so their problems probably aren't on your radar. But for them, you are probably their only hosting provider, so any problems with your service are going to be front and center when you call out of the blue. If you educate yourself about their latest happenings, then you might avoid an awkward situation.

You'd think the account managers would have been all over this, but in my experience, they didn't really seem to care. I had guessed that they would appreciate it and use it to get things done, but that never really happened.

Oh well. The time will come when all of my genuinely useful renderings of business data will actually reach a receptive audience.