Note: This is an edited, non-maintained version of this document, which I’m making public so that people can learn how to write a SOP document.

Kalzumeus Software Standard Operating Procedures

Kalzumeus Software Standard Operating Procedures

Who We Are, In Brief:

Our Products:

Our Principles:

Customer Support Policies

Overview

A Typical Customer Email And Our Response

Bingo Card Creator Common Issues

Who We Are, In Brief:

Kalzumeus Software is a small software company.  We make a variety of products which target very disparate markets.  They save our customers time and money.  Our core company value is employee happiness.  The company was founded by Patrick McKenzie in 2006.  He is, currently, it’s sole full-time employee.  The company routinely hires freelancers, generally for specific tasks.

Our Products:

Bingo Card Creator http://www.bingocardcreator.com Makes educational/entertainment bingo cards.  Our typical customer is 40~55 years old, female, and 60%+ are involved in education, typically at the elementary school level.  She is overwhelmingly non-technical and computers are scary, capricious beasties to her.  We aim to be her trusted colleague and to get her done with making bingo cards, ASAP, so that she can get back to her kids.

Appointment Reminder https://www.appointmentreminder.org Makes automated telephone calls, SMS (text) messages, and emails to the clients of professional services business.  Our typical customer is either the office manager or business owner of an SMB in the professional services industry -- we skew highly to medical professionals and the trades (HVAC installation, plumbing, etc) but in principle can be used for anyone who has daily appointments with non-employees.  We aim to be our customers’ trusted provider (i.e. relationship similar to their telephone company -- product generally works and stays out of the way -- except they don’t hate us and we don’t hate them).

Lifecycle Emails Training Course https://training.kalzumeus.com/lifecycle-emails A 5 hour watch-in-your-browser video course which teaches software professionals (engineers and marketers) how to sell more software by emailing their customers.  Our typical customer is either director of marketing, founder/co-founder, or an engineer at a software as a service (SaaS = software which is delivered over the Internet and, frequently, billed for monthly) company.  Some of them run their own businesses part time, but most are at quote-unquote “real companies.”  

Consulting (no specific website): Patrick consults for software companies on how to make and sell more software.

Our Principles:

  1. We get better at this over time.    Learning from our experiences and transferring that education is the core of who we are.  When something happens that hasn’t happened before, we use it as an opportunity to prepare better for next time.  We capture that information e.g. in this document.
  2. We prefer shipping a 95% solution early to a 100% solution late.  The more frequently we ship things, the more frequently we learn.  We desire not to “move fast and break things”, because (especially for Appointment Reminder) breaking things is seriously bad news, but we’re perfectly happy “moving fast and shipping ugly things” while waiting for the design to get hammered out, or shipping 5 tests and only expecting 1 of them to succeed.
  3. We’re a small company and we use this to our advantage.: We have always sold to our customers on the basis that they get support right from the top rather than getting directed to a call center and having a disinterested employee unable to do anything to help them.  
  4. We respond to emails within 24 hours, and within that timeframe, faster is better.  Many of our customers email us on holidays/weekends, and while we don’t guarantee service then it is to our advantage to offer it.
  5. We don’t sweat the small stuff -- anything under $500 which makes the customers happy or the business better is a no-brainer.  This includes, obviously, refunds.  You do not need authorization to refund a customer.  See particularly the next point:
  6. We don’t take customer’s money unless they’re ridiculously happy.  Everything we’ve ever sold or will sell comes with an explicit 30 day money-back guarantee, for any reason.  (Although our public policy is 30 day refunds, privately, we will generally refund anyone at any time for any reason, even if the purchase was years ago.  Ask Patrick if it is more than $500.)  Even if we think a customer is taking advantage of us we still refund them and we still smile when doing it, because this is a commitment strategy that protects us from ever offending a customer
  7. When customers break our software, it is our fault.  Many of our customers are non-technical and they will frequently use our software in non-intuitive ways.  This will occasionally cause them problems.  They will often say they are incompetent at computers and have negative phrasing when requesting help, like “What am I doing wrong?” We will never, under any circumstances, blame a customer’s actions for causing a negative result they’ve seen -- we prefer phrasing like “The way you want to do X is to Y.”  We are relentlessly positive when dealing with customers, like we would be with a child learning to read, because they will get better from working with us.
  8. Customers’ mistakes are our mistakes because we should have made the software resilient against that problem or made the process easier to understand.
  9. We all speak with the company’s voice and authority.  We’re a team.  If you’re working with us, welcome to the team.  We trust you to use your judgment on our behalves.
  10. We avoid specific commitments to timeframes for new features.  We’re a small company, and a) our development schedule often changes and b) developing new features often takes longer than we expect.  If we promise a customer a specific feature by a deadline, that promise will often we broken.  

Customer Support Policies

Overview

We want to quickly get customers/prospects past their problem and into a happy outcome for them, whether that outcome is using our software or something else.  We have a business rationale to prefer using our time to support customers with high lifetime value, which means e.g. consulting clients, software companies, and companies who use Appointment Reminder (particularly those on higher value plans) versus free trialers and folks who use Bingo Card Creator.  

The ideal outcome for a BCC email is figuring out a process tweak such that that genre of email never happens again.  This isn’t always possible, but we’ve done it 100 times and will do it another 100 times.

We prefer hand-writing emails to copy/pasting responses.  People who took the time to email us deserve to know there was a real human in the loop.

Our corporate voice is “proper written English” with a sense of humanity to it.  We disdain marketing-speak and corporatese.  We also should never sound like a 16 year old writing a text message to her friends, lol jk no 4 realz.

We always address customers by their names, when we know them, and we always thank them for taking the time to email us.

We generally use “we” when describing the business and “I” when talking about ourselves personally.  “We’re sorry you had that problem when using the software.”  “I will make sure that Patrick gets back to you today.”

We apologize when things happen badly for our customers, even if we are not explicitly as fault.  We phrase apologies using the words “We’re sorry.”  We never blame a third-party, most particularly, we never blame the customer.  We never blame a particular employee of our company to anyone outside of the company -- “We screwed up.”

We have the ability to look at customers’ data to provide them with support.  We exercise this very carefully.  For Bingo Card Creator, this means that we always tell customer when we “ghost” their accounts and that we phrase this carefully: “I took a look at your account so that I could figure out what was going wrong with the computer.  [The rest of the resolution goes here.]”  We get explicit permission from customers before popping open Appointment Reminder accounts, and Patrick is the only person authorized to do this, for legal reasons.

If an issue that we don’t have a standard operating procedure comes up more than twice, we ask Patrick what to do about it, and then add that answer to this document in the appropriate place.  Sometimes this will involve Patrick making a tool to make it easier to answer that question in the future.

A Typical Customer Email And Our Response

Hiya,

Is there any way for the bingo card maker to use pictures?

Cindy

Hiya Cindy,

Thanks for the email.  I’m afraid Bingo Card Creator can’t be used with pictures.

Regards,

Patrick McKenzie

Founder

Bingo Card Creator

Bingo Card Creator -- Stuff You Need To Know

Bingo Card Creator Important URLS

Bingo Card Creator Dashboard + Support Tools

Bingo Card Creator has a customer support dashboard at URL edited out of public version of this document .  You can sign into it with the email address and password that Patrick set up for you.  

The dashboard allows you to:

You can access BeSnappy, the support inbox, at http://besnappy.com .  Snappy will automatically send you email directly to your email address when a response is required.  Snappy is easy to use, and you can use it directly via email, but feel free to ask if you need help with something.

Bingo Card Creator Common Issues

  1. The customer wants to use pictures / photos / clip-art / etc with Bingo Card Creator -> Mail the customer back and apologize, saying that “Bingo Card Creator does not support using [whatever their phrasing of the need was].”  Bingo Card Creator will never support doing this.  It would make the software significantly more complicated than it currently is, and most of our customers would not succeed at producing cards which met their expectations.
  2. A customer has bought Bingo Card Creator and needs a receipt, typically for reimbursement purposes. ->  Use our dashboard’s search feature to look for their account, first by the email address they are using to email us, then by their last name, then by their first name and common variations of it (Robert -> Bob, etc).  If you can find a purchase which you’re > 99% sure is theirs, then click the BINGO-12345-12345 link in the search results, copy/paste that receipt, and send it to them, asking if it is adequate.  If it is not adequate or if you can’t find the receipt, pass the issue to Patrick.
  3. A customer needs help logging into their account. -> Use our dashboard’s search feature to look for their account, first by the email address they are using to email us, then by their last name, then by their first name and common variations of it (Robert -> Bob, etc).  If you can find their account, click “Email password.”  After doing this, write them back to say “I had the computer email you a link which you can click to sign into your account.  After doing so, click on Settings to change your password.”  or similar.
  4. A customer needs help installing Bingo Card Creator, often because “they have a new computer.”  -> Years ago, Bingo Card Creator was primarily installed software on people’s computers.  These days, we encourage almost all customers to use the online version, because it is easier to use, has more features, and is less likely to break on them.  Some customers prefer the downloadable version.  They can find it if they navigate directly to this page: http://www.bingocardcreator.com/free-trial.htm  They will need to install their Registration Key in the software to use it, which they can do by following the instructions at http://www.bingocardcreator.com.instructions.htm   Give them clickable links to do this.  Look up their Registration Key for them.
  5. A customer claims to have bought Bingo Card Creator and needs their Registration Key:   Find it using the search features, as describe above.  If you can’t, flag the issue for Patrick -- he will always issue them a new one, even if we’re not sure they bought it.  (We use language like “We couldn’t find your original transaction, but since you say you bought it, we trust you.”)
  6. A customer claims their Registration Key didn’t work: This is overwhelmingly because the customer either mistyped the key or, commonly, they have either downloaded Bingo Card Creator but bought similarly named software from a competitor (Bingo Card Maker, Bingo Card Printer, etc) or vice versa.  We mention that this periodically happens to other customers (c.f. never blame the customer) and remind them of where to download Bingo Card Creator if we’re sure they bought BCC (check by searching -- the download link is http://www.bingocardcreator.com/free-trial.htm but suggestin signing in from http://www.bingocardcreator.com and using “the Sign In link in the top right corner”).  If we think they might be using someone else’s software, we a) offer to refund their purchase (Patrick can do this) or b
  7. The cards which printed printed on multiple pages or printed “strangely” -> Bingo Card Creator has one old, difficult-to-resolve bug in it.  It causes cards to print across two pages, which makes them useless for customers.  I am having difficulty reproducing this bug on the most recent version of the software, so it is possible that it is fixed, but I doubt it.  You’ll quickly learn what it looks like: the cards will print as normal and then suddenly stop after a square, like the printer ran out of ink, then start again on the next page from that square.  The resolution is to reword the affected square to be less wordy or include less short words.  Apologize to the customer for it happening.
  8. Does it make traditional bingo cards or bingo cards with numbers on it -> A traditional bingo card, as described by Wikipedia: “Players use cards that feature five columns of five squares each, with every square containing a number (except the middle square, which is designated a "FREE" space). The columns are labeled "B" (numbers 1–15), "I" (numbers 16–30), "N" (numbers 31–45), "G" (numbers 46–60), and "O" (numbers 61–75).”  Bingo Card Creator does not create traditional bingo cards because that would be illegal in our jurisdiction (they’re a “gambling instrument” here) -- we only make educational/entertainment cards.  Customers can put in a list of numbers if they want but they won’t work like “traditional bingo cards like used in bingo halls” (i.e. the numbers 1-15 will not always be under B, etc)
  9. “How do I call the game like a traditional game?” -> Turn on Use Consistent Columns on the Customize Your Bingo Cards page, then the call list (the last page you print out) will say things like “Mississippi, under the B column” and you just read from it in order.