November 1, 2017

Quick Overview of the Survey Results

Last week I asked our Municipal Customers to give us a rating on how we were doing. The results were quite interesting and I am glad that we had several dozen people giving us great and constructive feedback.

Last week I asked our Municipal Customers to give us a rating on how we were doing. The results were quite interesting and I am glad that we had several dozen people giving us great and constructive feedback.

Overall, the survey results showed that there are several areas to improve in order to have a higher score of customer satisfaction, which is one of the most important metrics in TownWeb. Based on the results, we scored an average of 7.4/10. This is only “ok” in my opinion and it gives us direction for improving things. The direction we will take moving forward is to implement things if and only if it Makes the Clerk’s Life Easier, which is our motto. About one-third of respondents gave us a 10 or 9-star rating, which is great, but not the opposite side of the spectrum, we feel that we can do things better in order to Make the Clerk’s Life Easier. For example, we earned a 1-star rating, a 2-star rating, and a 3-star rating.Needless to say, this sort of direct feedback opens the door for us moving forward to improve the user experience. Anybody who gave a rating of eight or less will get a call from me to go into any further details about their feedback in order for me to understand exactly what we can do in order to improve the experience.

Two Different Groups of Experiences

Already I do see some similarities based on the feedback about the things that we can improve upon. There were two camps where the areas of improvements came from:

  1. Current Customers who are still on an older software version
  2. Customers who upgraded from an Older Version to TownCMS v5

Complaints from Customers on Older Software Versions

There were a couple issues that popped up with older customers who haven’t yet upgraded. They’re running software that is no longer really supported because the technology has changed a lot in the last five or so years. As browsers are upgraded, the technical libraries we used to design software 5+ years ago are not really supported by the most recent browsers.

This causes some incompatibility and problems with formatting text on older versions of the TownCSM system. And this happens for all of the websites around the web, created in older technology.The issues of not having a system that was continually compatible with the latest browser and web technology were some of the main reasons for us to create an entirely new system as TownCMS v5. We have the software built using the Wordpress software, and since Wordpress already powers 27% of the web and is continually updated by developers across the world, I felt it was the best solution for our company and for our municipal customers.Here is some direct feedback from a couple of people who were having problems while using software that was designed in 2008 and 2011.

“I have been experiencing problems for several months now.  Not sure if it is on your end or on mine and wanted to try to figure that out, as we were looking at upgrading the version we currently use.  I wanted to be sure that the issues I am now experiencing would no longer be an issue after the upgrade.  I called several times and worked with individuals to help try to find out WHY the issues were happening.”Website version V2, designed in 2008

“I know it's on our end as well as the website design, but our website is clunky, slow to load when there are pictures, and I wish we could take payments online for park rentals. Also, it annoys the living hell out of me that if you try to rename a page or move where it's sub-categorized you lose the entire content of that page. That's just not user friendly.”Website version V3, designed in 2011

Complaints from People who Upgraded from an Older Version to TownCMS v5

This group represents the largest amount of people who responded with lower than expected scores.Here is some actual feedback given to us:

“There are several issues that have come up over the past year and they all lead to my scoring of 2:The recent upgrade was written in computer programmer language - I had no idea what it meant or if it even applied to me.  I should have been told in layman terms what would happen if I didn't do something.  I'm still not sure what went wrong - but I lost plenty of attachments I had previously uploaded.Secondly, each time I have several sets of minutes to upload - I have to completely sign out between each one in order to be able to enter another set.  If I don't sign out, I get duplicate sets uploaded (even though I have selected a new set).Thirdly, I've had to talk to the "Help Desk" a couple of times and quite frankly, I cannot understand what they are saying - very difficult to interpret them.”Website version TownCMS V5

“With the upgrade to the website, in my opinion, there have been way to many issues/problems.  Originally the new site was suppose to be up on June 15th.  This didn't happen and when I called I was told August 15th.  It was finally up on August 15th but I was stilling having a lot of problems when I would try to post something.  It has been working now - I hope it stays that way.”Website version TownCMS V5

"Customer service is great, I am not excited about the upgrade we just did. It is cumbersome to save docs as PDF then upload it seems that it could be streamlined... It is also confusing as to where to post things, maybe I just need more time to adjust."Website version TownCMS V5


In both cases above the customers were happy with the older version, but knew that upgrading would be something that was needed for their town in the long run. The feedback they sent us was in relation to their unmet expectations after upgrading to the new version.The word “cumbersome” came up a couple of times. They found it taking more time to make updates than they thought was necessary.About a year ago (in late 2016) I sent out a similar survey and we had similar feedback about the new website looking more technical and that making edits were more difficult than the previous versions. We took that opportunity and created a new dashboard to help streamline the process of making updates.Although we officially launched the new dashboard in early 2017, we have many people still using the older/original version of the Admin area for making updates. When people log into the old version of the Admin area there is a notification for people to click and link automatically to the new Dashboard, but maybe this needs to be more prominent.

My Action Plan for Improving Things Moving Forward

In short, here is the action plan:

  1. Call up everybody who gave us a score of eight or less and get a good solid understanding of their issue.
  2. For people who are having issues with older versions of our software, we will allow them to upgrade at the previously closed discounted rate (which ended a couple months ago).
  3. For people who upgraded and are having a more difficult time, I will create some more comprehensive training videos showing how to use the new Dashboard effectively.
  4. For issues related to problems with missing features of bugs that need to be fixed, we will compile a list and see about which ones have priority for improving the user experience.
  5. For issues customer support, the Management Team and I will have an in-person meeting in mid-November to discuss how we can improve this part of the business.

Improvements We Started Doing in the Past Week

Immediately after sending out the survey we started to get some really good feedback. A couple issues were highlighted regarding Customer Support.And to be honest, we got some feedback from one of our partners in Wisconsin who works with a lot of our municipal customers. Sue Hogg from Town Hall Software is a good friend of mine (in real life and on Facebook) and we have seen each other countless times at different conventions in Wisconsin when I first started exhibiting at the WMCA and WTA shows.Earlier in October 2017, Sue forwarded a complaint that one of our current customers was having with our service. It was from somebody who upgraded to TownCMS v5 and is having difficulty. One part that was mentioned is how we dealt with customer support issues. Typically when a support issue comes in over phone it is handled by our Receptionist Service during the business hours of 8 AM - 5 PM Eastern Time. When a support call comes in, it gets forwarded as a support ticket that is handled by the support team. Sometimes when we have many people upgrading we get a higher than normal volume of calls and it takes longer for a reply to be sent back.Also, if a support ticket comes to us in the afternoon requesting a specific person (like Farah, for example) she won’t see the ticket until the next morning. When people expect a call back right away, their expectations are not met.So we are looking at doing two different things that will improve the customer service areas:

  1. Adding another Support Person to handle times when Farah is not available
  2. Testing out a Live Chat widget on the Dashboard

In the Process of Hiring a New Support Person

For several years Farah has been our go-to person for handling many of the 1st tier support issues. However, our company has doubled in size since before Farah arrived and therefore the support volume has increased. Plus, we added 24/7 support in January 2017 and have hired Farah’s sister to help handle off-hour support tickets, along with having the project managers get involved in some of the tickets, but this isn’t enough.We are therefore looking at hiring a new person specifically to handle support tickets during heavy support times, and somebody who fits with our culture.

Testing out a Chat Widget

In the past week, I installed a Live Chat widget on the Dashboard. The idea behind offering Live Chat is that we can give an immediate response to people.

What is surprising is that only one person opened the widget and started support chat with me. This made me think that perhaps not enough people are using the new Dashboard and they’re instead still using the old Admin area.The purpose of using a Chat Widget within the Dashboard is that it can help fix a support issue or answer a question without requiring the Clerks to pick up the phone and make a call. The support can be more direct, immediate and non-intrusive.

We are Evaluating Co-Browsing Software

Co-browsing software is very similar to screen sharing. The way we would use it is by allowing a customer to request a co-browsing session directly from a live chat session so that we could quickly and easily see their screen to troubleshoot any issue and to walk them through any difficulty.There are not many companies that offer this software, and so far we’ve tested two different vendors with somewhat mixed results. It will take us a couple more weeks of actual testing to see which one is easier to use.

Rolled out a new Knowledge Base for Customers

Just this past week we rolled out a knowledge base for helping our customers “help themselves”. This will be a place where people can get answers to a frequently asked support questions, and where I’ll be posting any How-To Videos and Training Videos to help improve the customer experience.You can see the location of this Knowledge Base here: http://help.townweb.comYou’ll have the opportunity to give feedback on each knowledge base article to let us know whether it was helpful or not.