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spike bullet October 2013 ~ Keys to Great Customer Service (Addendum) 

Specific Suggestions for Ancestry.com

If we were consulting with Ancestry.com, here are some suggestions we would make:

  1. Make great customer service a top goal for the entire company.
  2. Appoint a high-level executive who has a passion for great customer service and put them in a position to re-work the customer support organization.
  3. Train everyone in the company on great customer service skills.
  4. Require that all employees build and maintain their own family tree in Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker.  Require that they use those products regularly so they understand how the products work.  Support staff cannot assist customers if they don’t use and understand the product their company sells.
  5. Ask for a significant number of employees to volunteer for DNA testing and ask them to use the results so they learn how that product works.
  6. Require that all customer service personnel have a great attitude.  If they don’t, get rid of them or find another job for them.  There is simply no excuse for a poor attitude in people who deal with customers.
  7. Hire "usability consultants" to work with and train Ancestry.com’s software development staff.  Usability consultants are trained professionals who help software/technical staff understand customer needs and the ‘usability’ of their products.  As part of that effort, they should bring in real customers and watch how the customer actually use the Ancestry products before releasing them for sale.
  8. Improve the beta testing process for software updates so that there is enough time to fix problems that arise.  Beta testers should be given specific areas to test with specific guidelines so that all parts of a new product are tested.  Software with significant problems should not be released to customers until it works well.
  9. Research how other large companies have gone out of business due to poor customer services.  Take a good look at processes inside the company where poor customer service is damaging the company’s reputation with existing customers and potential new customers.
  10. Remember: existing customers are the best source of continued revenue.  Keeping them should be a high priority, which means listening to them and treating them with respect (see the 10 tips in the front part of this month’s article).  

The customer support organization is the "face" of Ancestry.com and when incompetent people are the customer’s primary contact, a lot of paying customers and future customers are lost.  They walk away.  Some complain because they care; many others don’t bother.  Ancestry’s reputation among genealogists and the general public is pretty poor right now and seems to be getting worse, much of it because of the low quality of their customer support staff.

Poor customer service is a fixable problem and it needs some serious attention at Ancestry.com.  Ancestry has a great product in their website tree system, which in my opinion, is far better than any other genealogy site I have seen.

Ancestry has a great product in their desktop software product, Family Tree Maker, if they will put attention to fixing the problems with it.

Ancestry’s DNA product could be the best in the world, if they fix the problems and implement the features that customers are begging for (a chromosome browser is just one example).

A tiny volunteer-run company with a free website GEDmatch.com is struggling to keep up with the demand for their site because it offers features that others do not.  They offer a DNA matching service that is very much needed.  They have great features and great customer service in spite of struggling to keep up with demand.

Findagrave.com — until recently purchased by Ancestry.com — was also a small free website that grew to become the best in its class, even with mostly volunteers running the site and many out-of-date features.

The major thing at Ancestry.com that needs "fixing" is their attitude about customer service.  And, it is a fixable problem if only someone CARES enough to put attention on it.


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