Cryptocoin Business: Poor Customer Service Everywhere Part 1

February 7, 2014 18:07 UTC
Customers expect service, but where is it?

Almost 5 years into the Bitcoin story, events are still unfolding as if in a scripted plot: mysterious origins, murky jeopardy, faithful believers and now the stage lights are on… It’s showtime! Except… the stagehands have gone fishing.

Now that willing users have opened their minds and their wallets, the unanimous chorus is: “Count me in. Where can I get Bitcoin? How do I spend it? What can I buy?” At lunches and parties and happenstance meetings the Bitcoin enthusiasts show the ropes, but do we tell them the whole truth? Do we, for instance, tell them about our irretrievable coin balance at Mt.Gox? We know we should but, somehow, it ruins the whole revolutionary fervour of the Bitcoin. Why spoil a good story, right?

It is inevitable that with a growing willingness to use cryptocurrency – to buy, sell and donate it – comes the age-old expectation of Service. Naturally, companies and individuals want their transition into cryptocurrency to be facilitated by

  1. easy transactions
  2. that are executed by credible businesses
  3. who offer at least some basic customer care.

It is in this realm of customer expectations that the speed of recent developments and the accompanying whirlwind of excitement, rising valuations and accelerating demand has seen a gap develop between many of those who are driving the innovation and their most important partner: the cryptocurrency User. Out of the three reasonable customer expectations listed, we cannot insist that Credibility be in abundant supply since cryptocurrency, as a sector, is still in the starting blocks and must develop robust processes and track records. These will eventually translate into Credibility. To this end many users probably grant crypto-businesses and organizations some leeway. However, with the entry of Wall Street, Silicon Valley and other large experienced players into the crypto field, the days of weaker players who fail to compete for customers’ loyalty are suitably numbered. Here are 2 examples of questionable practice from specific players that illustrate the point:

Mt.Gox
Today at 14:34 JST Mt.Gox made a further announcement of BTC withdrawal delays:

… and again.

The exchange has been giving customers the runaround for several months now. Want to transfer Bitcoins out of your account? For all intents and purposes you’re wasting your time. Your account profile page may request additional documentation, but ultimately the above message hidden in their support portal (as opposed to the main site landing page) states that MtGox has halted all “withdrawals” (which includes outward transfers of BTC you transferred in) in order to “obtain a clear technical view of the current processes. This they say is necessary because “the system needs to be in a static state.” If you had written an email to Mt.Gox in the past few weeks or raised a support ticket relating to your inability to access your funds you will by now be well familiar with the sound of stony silence. Bad, bad behavior from the first and once “biggest” exchange.

Most of us are familiar with the outrageous antics of Mt.Gox in recent months, yet they are by no means singular in their ability to drive customers to the competition.

CCN covered today’s Mt.Gox announcement earlier.

Ripple
Here the writer will outline an example from personal experience. It seems there are some unexplained kinks in the payment network of the future. The writer has for the past 6 weeks been participating in a Ripple Labs campaign whereby users can donate spare CPU cycles to the World Community Grid and receive Ripple coins (XRP) in exchange. Unfortunately, some payments never made it to my Ripple wallet and are showing as either  “failed” or “submitted”  – 5 weeks later.

XRP from Ripple to Ripple, fail?

Bear in mind that these are payments made by Ripple in their own currency on their own network to a Ripple wallet. An initial query via email got the following response:

Jan 21 12:38

Hey there, 
This is a temporary issue, we'll be sending the payments out sometime this week.

Cheers,
-Jon Holmquist
 Community Liaison

The payments never arrived, and a subsequent email to Jon Holmquist remains unreplied to. Strange that it should, since this Ripple Labs initiative is an outreach project seeking to encourage use of XRP and the Ripple network. Following this first-hand experience, would I use Ripple to transfer a significant amount of currency? Would I advise someone to use Ripple? Do you feel confident to put your currency through the “automated system that “just works.”” ?

Payment failure? Protocol failure? We can’t know for certain because Ripple won’t explain. Mail server failure perhaps.

Customer Service Standard
When all is weighed and measured, the thing that will separate the actively traded cryptocurrencies from the multitude of wannabe altcoins is professionality. The organizational ability of a group of individuals to not only create a viable cryptocurrency but to take it to market is critical but not sufficient for success. Ultimately, real people must be encouraged to use a currency, and they will bring it to life through Use. When we have unexpected experiences with a currency, we turn to the organization that issues or exchanges it, looking for answers. When the issuer or exchange acts in a manner that undermines our trust we soon migrate to either a better solution or a better service provider. Years of imposed authoritarianism on the part of the banks may have us forget that we now have a choice. Mt.Gox, Ripple, Worldcoin and every party involved, including Bitcoin, should not forget this simple fact.

The customer is the life-blood of business and unprofessionality does not make anyone in the business equation feel valued. If the current cryptocurrency service providers forget this, there are plenty of companies with more experience and bigger wallets entering the playing field now, who would gladly relieve them of any less-than-pleased customers.

Last modified: February 7, 2014 20:26 UTC

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