A funny thing happened on the way to humility…

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No one likes complaints, and here at Snapper, we’re no different.  However, while we don’t jump for joy every time we get a complaint, experience has taught us it is one of the most useful feedback mechanisms, and a way to engage the customers we’ve disappointed in some way.  It’s an opportunity to listen and learn.

One such opportunity came up recently when we updated the Snapper app.  The app had a known reliability issue, which we had been alerted to by complaints.  This issue resulted in torn transactions.  This is when a top-up payment leaves the customer’s bank account but doesn’t make it onto the Snapper card.  We had already determined that this was mostly caused by the use of old cards which are unsupported by the app.  We do offer a free swap-out of old cards for new, which thousands of our customers had already taken up.

So, we decided it was time to fix the torn transaction issue once and for all, by simply stopping these old, unsupported cards from being used with the app.  Now when the customer held an old card up to the app to read and top up the balance, they got the following pop-up message:

We thought this was a great idea – we would prevent torn transactions, decrease the number of complaints, and accelerate the swap-out of old cards for new.  The app had never supported the old cards, so customers who’d never had a problem, wouldn’t notice the change.

We were wrong.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions…

As soon as the update to the app went live, we received a flood of emails, social media posts and app ratings on Google Play.  Far more than the previous complaints about torn transactions.  The messages were all along these lines:

“It was good until the latest update meaning I can’t top up my old Snapper any more.  Always fun to find out whilst walking to the bus stop to go to work and find I can’t top up my Snapper thus can’t get on the bus.  Good work.  Some warning would have been nice.”

Nicole via Google Play, 25 August 2015

It seems that the old ‘unsupported’ cards weren’t always causing torn transactions.  Indeed many of our customers had been merrily using the app with their old cards without any problems, and knew nothing about torn transactions until our update caused their app/card combination to fail – often at the most inconvenient time and without any warning.  Not great for an app that’s all about making every day easier.  People were understandably upset.


Back to the drawing board…

We got around the table to work out what to do.  We didn’t want to roll back the app update, as it included a login bug fix and new balance refresh functionality.  So we examined the issue more closely.

There were two problems. Firstly, our update had deprived some of our customers of functionality which had been working well enough for them – that’s so much worse than never having the functionality in the first place.

Secondly we had not provided any choice to users– we’d simply taken functionality away.

We needed to differentiate customers successfully using older cards from the ones who had experienced torn transactions.  And we needed to implement a solution fast.

In the end, the solution was simple.  Firstly we apologised to the customers who had contacted us, and admitted we had made a mistake.  Then, we developed a way to distinguish compatible cards from incompatible cards, and to allow the user to override our ‘solution’ and continue using their old card if they wanted to.  We changed the text of the pop-up message to read:

As the solution consisted of a relatively small piece of development, we were able to push it live within 2 days of the version release which caused the pain for customers.

Then we watched and listened. Our update worked well.  Customers updated their Google Play reviews, and sent us ‘thanks for listening’ messages.  They were pleased that we responded quickly.  They felt that their complaints had a positive impact, and this gave them more ownership of the Snapper app, and a deeper connection to our brand.


The moral of the story

What did we learn?  This has reminded us of three things

  1. Our customers are the best source of prioritising what we need to do, as long as we listen carefully; In this case we had heard the customers for whom things had gone wrong, without paying attention to the majority for whom things went right most of the time.
  2. When we make mistakes the best course of action is to take ownership of the problem – apologise, listen carefully, do our best to put it right quickly, and then move on; and
  3. We are privileged to have the trust of our customers and acting in their interests is acting in our own interests.

Ultimately, our customers don’t think about us when everything’s going right.  And that’s the way it should be.  But when things go wrong, and we’re suddenly brought to their attention, how we respond, and how fast, dictates whether we are truly making every day easier for our customers – which is why we exist.