Being honest about your company

by Andy Polaine on April 24, 2006

in General

It pays to be honest, even when it’s all going wrong.

A while ago I bought the very useful application, Spamfire after I went on holiday and came back to about 1,700 e-mails of which about 350 were non-spam. I’m not using POP mail at the moment so I don’t need it, but I just received an e-mail from Michael Herrick, CEO of Matterform Media who make Spamfire. They’ve had some problems and he has been incredibly honest about the situation and what they’re doing about it.

We’re still a tiny company — Daniel and I are the only full-time employees right now — but that should make it easier, not harder, for us to provide the kind of personal service that only Mac users can expect. We’ve been thinking and worrying about this problem for some time and have come to some realizations:

  • We’ve been trying to provide tech support like a large company, instead of relying on our strengths as a small company.

  • We’ve been trying to fit our customers’ service needs into categories that we thought would be convenient for us, instead of asking our customers what they really want.

These two misconceptions have caused us to rely for too long on a high-end case management technology, one that we designed for large companies. We held tenaciously to the belief that we needed more technology to solve our customer service problems. We kept making the technology bigger and better and ended by losing touch with many of our customers.

At the end his gives his personal e-mail address (but hey, I guess his mail is filtered pretty well) as well as his iChat address. There aren’t many CEOs who would be willing to do that and, for me, it is one of the great things about the web – it flattens social hierarchies. Wouldn’t it be nice in this age of corporate corruption and politics to see others being so open?

The other significant point is that technology, though sometimes amazingly useful, can often slow things down to a crawl. I would add policies and procedures to that as well – the paperwork required to buy a cheap online flight through my university took so much of my time (and therefore the Uni’s money) due to their purchasing policy that is meant to save money that it was almost pointless to do so.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 tim April 27, 2006 at 3:30 pm

wow, giving out his email and iChat name? but then again when it is two employees, being the CEO comes down to steering one other person, doesn’t it? I think you just like him because he produces a Mac program and essentially all Mac people are good people.

(just pulling your leg, you dont have to publish this, Andy)

2 Andy Polaine April 27, 2006 at 5:47 pm

Ah, well, you see if you submit a comment to a blog you have to live up to it being published!

So, yes, of course it’s only two full-time people. I know the iChat and e-mail thing isn’t that radical, but they probably have a lot of users so it’s fairly bold. The main thing is the honesty of the open letter – it’s not easy to write something like that and it takes some bravery.

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