Blog

We believe there is something unique at every business that will ignite the fuse of innovation.

This is a digital customer experience story with a happy ending. It shows that great personal service with a new customer can overcome a truly snake-bit start.

I used to think of myself as a home computer backup zealot, with redundant 3T external drives swapped out weekly for alternating Time Machine backups. For years I had intended to add a third drive as an offsite copy at our safety deposit box, but I’d never gotten around to it. In the past I’d researched cloud personal backup solutions, but at that time there wasn’t anything suitable for my ~500G on an OSx machine.

A couple of months ago I looked again. After researching, CrashPlan seemed the clear leader for Macs. At their attractive website I found the features I was looking for, saw that CrashPlan was the consumer side of Code42 (a B2B backup/disaster recovery solution), and saw that the product seemed to come with robust support and a beefy knowledge base. So I placed my order.

I live in the country. There’s a lot going for our location, but blazing fiber optic bandwidth isn’t part of the picture. We were delighted a few years ago when DSL finally arrived. The roughly 1.3mbps line has been mostly adequate for streaming, downloading, checking weather on the iPad, etc.

Given our bandwidth restriction, one reason I picked CrashPlan was seed backup. For a reasonable fee they’ll ship a hard drive to you, then you use the CrashPlan app to download your data to it, send it back, and they load it to your cloud backup. I knew that with our bandwidth limits we would need it, but I remembered 10 minutes after I hit “go” on my order that I forgot to include it.

After signing back on and poking around for about 20 minutes, I couldn’t figure out how to add the seed drive to my order, but I did find language saying that the seed drive service is only available on the initial order. Bummer. I logged a support ticket asking for an exception (my first test of Code42 support). A friendly message granting my request with instructions arrived the next day, so I placed the order and received the expected email confirmation.

Meanwhile, just to see how things would go, I fired up the online backup. Soon after, nothing on our Internet connection worked. The iPad weather map, for example, wouldn’t render. It took me a few minutes to realize that CrashPlan was using all of our bandwidth. I looked at the app and found that our backup would take, literally, months to complete. I let it go for a while, but it soon became clear that online life as we knew it wouldn’t coexist with backing up a half terabyte, so I deactivated the backups and waited for the seed drive to arrive.

Two and a half weeks later, it still hadn’t shown up. So I logged another support request, and the following day received an apology and an account credit. My seed backup order had been lost and would be expedited free of charge. I was puzzled by the order loss but again delighted by Code42’s outstanding customer service. 

A few days later, the seed drive arrived via FedEx. Backup was uneventful: the drive worked and the software took the expected few days to download my data. While I had the drive folks from Code42’s “seed team” reached out to me to make sure all was well. They were friendly, informal, and informative, and I appreciated them helping me understand what to expect as the seed backup proceeded. When the backup completed, I packed up the drive per instructions and dropped it in the nearest FedEx box.

The same instructions directed me to wait for the seed drive to be processed, and then the online backup would “synch” with the seeded data. They notified me, and after running the backup for a few days it became clear that no synching was going on, so I bugged the helpdesk again.  They assured me all would be well so I hung on for a few more days, but then it was clear all was not well. I sent a message detailing status and how it didn’t match my expectation: backups use all our bandwidth, files that should have been on the seed drive weren’t available for restore, and my backup percent was still in single digits.

This resulted in an apologetic message explaining that I had been impacted by a communications bug in the Code42 “cloud” that had affected many customers. The writer – one of the two or three who had been helping me throughout – explained that he would reseed my data and the problem would be solved soon. His explanation was appropriately detailed and gave me confidence that he understood my problem and that the error wasn’t fundamental to safe storage of my encrypted data. From my perspective the fix was quick and easy, and within 2 hours after receiving his message my backup was at 100% and bandwidth at my house is normal.

All this may sound like a customer service disaster, but I see it as a success. Sure, there were three process failures involving my account in its first few weeks. However, in every case support was available, responsive, and informative, and in every case I was impressed by the knowledge and communications of those who proactively reached out to me or responded to my questions.

In spite of the hiccups I’m optimistic – bugs happen. As we say in jazz, the wrong note doesn’t matter; it is the one you play next that counts. I think CrashPlan will work for us, and it is a lot more convenient than switching out a hard drive to the safety deposit box.