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Software upgrades? New is not always better

Peerless Support for WordPress.

Our helpdesk partner, Zendesk, is one of the largest in the world. It seems size is not everything.

This is a short story about how a great company with a great product can get the very basics so wrong by poorly executing an upgrade plan that wasn’t an upgrade.

For a number of months we’ve been pushed to “upgrade” to the latest and greatest Zendesk app. We’ve kinda resisted. After all, support is our game, our strong suite. We run an entirely distributed helpdesk with support folks based around the globe, in 4 different time zones. This distributed approach to support allows us to offer 24×7 monitoring, a 12hr support window and is key to why we rank in the top 5% of support organisations globally.

We’ve spent years honing and refining support operations, our support model is so slick it’s oft copied.

Support is a real big thing for us.

Support services are served and delivered across multiple platforms, including Mac OSX, Windows 10, iOS and Android. So, changing our support application is a major step, which is why we’ve been reticent changing to Zendesk’s new application. We have so much time and effort invested in Zendesk that we needed a lot more reassurance from Zendesk. Ok, we know the backend database systems will broadly stay the same but we need to have continued and uninterrupted access to our support desk.

We rolled out the desktop upgrade back in October. It’s different, but not any better, in fact it’s arguably harder to use – and it’s got some new stuff to learn. Additionally, some key functions have been removed. Nice one, Zendesk, why would you roll out a product that seems to go backwards?

Ok, it was just the first roll out, and we do need some time to adjust. And adjust we did. It did strike us odd that an organisation focussed on creating service-centre software chose not to canvas the user base. We also had the option to continue using the old interface. Nice touch, that.

None of this is the end of the world as we (properly) integrate Zendesk into Slack, JIRA and others. However …

On November 16th came the roll out of the iOS app.

This time it was compulsory. And judging by the awful UX during the sign-up it looked like it was released a little too early. Usefully, the old app was still available … ah, maybe not – it self destructed itself a short time after downloading the new app and now does nothing.

And then the new app fell over. No tickets. No views. No alerting. No notifications. A dead parrot, to quote John Cleese. Now we’re blind on iOS devices (Android devices seem to work) so we force stop the upgrade on all other iOS devices to avoid falling into the same black hole.

I’m sure Zendesk will “fix” the issues. I’m sure we’ll have to reinstall stuff, and restart phones and all the other stuff that you normally have to go throuugh. Will the app be any better? Will they bother fixing the awful UX? Will we start to migrate our support away and onto another solution? Possibly.

TL;DR – Upgrades and changes for the sake of them, and without considering the needs of customers are pointless, dangerous and a waste of time and effort. You also run a pretty good chance of creating enough inertia in customers to leave you.