Bad documentation is bad customer service


This morning I received an email notifying me of the upcoming annual billing for my web hosting account. I no longer need this account, so immediately logged in to their website to cancel it before I forgot.

The notification email only provided details about how to “update your credit card information to ensure your billing goes through successfully.” This was not what I needed to do.

Once I logged in to their site I had a quick look at my account, services, and billing pages to see if by chance they made cancelling the account easy and obvious. They did not. So I went to their knowledge base and searched. The top result for my “cancel account” search was an article titled “CANCELLING YOUR ACCOUNT.” Excellent.

I clicked through and read the instructions, but they didn’t make sense. I even logged out and back in to follow their instructions right from the beginning. The issue was that about three steps in, the section I was directed to wasn’t there. I even did a search on the page for the words… nope.

Now, I’ve written and maintained a LOT of documentation over my career, and I know it’s an oft-neglected urchin among the business family’s other functions. It’s not new, and it’s not exciting. But it does need to be addressed regularly, and needs to be a part of big projects, like when you change your customer-facing interfaces. Otherwise, people will poke around blindly, getting ever more frustrated before becoming resigned to contacting a human.

Which is what I did. Unfortunately, the live chat took quite a while to connect, and the agent was all about the script. He sent me a link to log in, which gave me a 404 error, and the same outdated instructions as in their knowledge base. At that point, I closed the chat window and started clicking a few more things on my account page. Lo and behold, after the third click I finally found the section I needed.

But we weren’t done. Before I was allowed to submit the account cancellation request, I had to complete all the fields in the form — there were half a dozen — with responses formatted to their satisfaction. Questions that were irrelevant to cancelling my account. They were all about my service experience and if I would recommend them, etc. Uhh, no, not when you hold me hostage.

Thing is, before today I probably would have recommended them. I understand that squeezing every last byte of data out of customers is the name of the game these days, but when a person is leaving your service and likely at their lowest interest level toward your company, demanding they fulfill your marketing requirements on the way out the door leaves a bad impression.

Fortunately, within an hour I was emailed confirmation that my request had been processed. I guess we’ll see in a month when the billing was scheduled to go through…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some documentation to update.