Bugs and mailers and apologies

27 December 2006

If you're a VCL customer, we did something bad to you today. We went live with our new client center software, but there was an awful bug in it. To be precise, the bug was in the notification mailer subsystem, which proceeded to mail out the same release notification email to the same people (our VCL customer mailing list), over and over and over and over... Eight times in all. (Well, that's how many I got, you may have been luckier. Or should that be unluckier? Sigh.)

As soon as I noticed, I told our support team, who already knew about it from the several customers who'd emailed complaints. Of course, the developer of that part of the system wasn't in (gotta love the Holiday season, don't you know), and by the time we'd worked out what to do to shut it off, we'd sent out several — at least eight — notifications to everyone, all exactly the same.

As soon as we'd stopped the errant mailer, I was in a quandary. Many customers who'd complained were adamant about never hearing from us again, but I wanted to send out an email as quickly as possible to everyone concerned apologizing for our mistake. There was no way we could remove those customers who'd emailed us about the problem from out mailing list in the time. So I decided that we should send out the apology email immediately (using an older, working, version of the mailer program, obviously; I shudder to think what might happen if we used the new one and the VCL customers then got eight copies of the same apology — gaaak), and then I would personally reply to every customer who'd written to complain.

I've just completed the first stack of personal replies that I have to make and thought I'd take a little break before continuing. The apology email has provided nearly 1800 items in my inbox so far, most of them the usual mail server replies (out of the office, not a valid email, over quota, rejections, etc), but also some real replies which I shall be reading (and replying to, if needed) in due course.

I'm reporting this here, not to make me out to be some kind of hero or weirdo, but to emphasize how important I feel this issue is for us. We screwed up badly — there's no other way to put it — and it's up to us to make good by admitting it and apologizing as quickly as possible. To that end, I even included my cell phone number in the apology email I sent out so that people could talk to me in person if they wanted to.

If you are a customer who added devexpress.com to their junk blacklist, you won't have received any of my communications to you, so please accept my and Developer Express' public apologies for what happened today. We're not in the business of spamming anyone, we're here to write great components, frameworks and productivity tools.

Just don't ask to buy our new Client Center software. We need to test it a bit more...

8 comment(s)
Ray Bohac
Julian,

I applaud the way you and your company handled the situation. 8 emails is only a minor annoyance. Seeing the response(s) you gave both personally and to your general email list more than shows your level of dedication. I can only assume that this level of support is not an anomaly and will gladly continue to work with your company.

Well done!
27 December, 2006
Bob
I think you are beating yourself up too badly.  Ok, a mistake was made.  You sent out a notice and apologized.  I think you have went above and beyond here.  

For me.  I had a few extra emails to delete (2 seconds of my time).  Didn't bother me at all.  I am not sure why some customers were so upset.  To even say that they never want to hear from you again seems childish.  I realize they are your customers and each and every one is important to you.  But as a very happy customer, I think they are being too hard on you.
28 December, 2006
Ruben
In a time of hard spam, some extra emails are nothing to write home about. I also think you are berating yourself way too much.

What I have to applaud is your apologize, while a bit overreacting in my humble opinion, it clearly depicts how much you care for your costumers. We were recently discussing in our research team wether we should buy or not the new QuantumGrid upgrade. I think this move from you has just brought a decision to the table. Alas, a good support behind the tools we buy is more than half of what we need! See? know you have gotten something positive out of this small problem.

Excuse my English and happy new year!
28 December, 2006
Matthew
Anyone that deals with Developer Express should have known that this was a technical glitch.

You are a great company to deal with and this blog shows that.

Thanks.

28 December, 2006
Geoff Davis
I agree with Bob, what's the big deal... I'd rather have more communication than none at all!
28 December, 2006
Charles
I tell my friends all the time how I learned to always be gracious by modeling my support communications on Dev Express support.  You set the bar very high on kindness to customers.
28 December, 2006
Peter
You're right. You made a terrible mistake by sending me 8 mails.
Here's the way how I will forgive you: Transfer 8 Zillion €uros to my paypal account.

(... or better 9z€! ... :))

cheers,

Peter
14 January, 2007
ctodx
Over the past weekend, we had our annual Developer Express "what the [bleep] are we doing?" getogether,...
24 January, 2007

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