Based on the IT journey of Michael Rickert

How not to provide support, my Neato story

It all began…

When I purchased a Neato Signature XV from woot.com in November. This was my first ever robotic vacuum and with woot’s awesome price I figured the top of the line from one of the two most popular brands would be a great way to start….


And it was, at first. The Neato vacuum did a great job of cleaning my entire first floor of my home dog hair and all. Consider me impressed. That is, until one day in mid January (around a month after purchase) when I would come home to find my little Neato stuck in one place or another. Thinking nothing of it at first, I would adjust the table/chairs/stuck-itemness around and then set it back up to run the next day… until it got stuck again. As it turned out, the front bumper had become unresponsive. Not just unresponsive as in a switch broke, or a little piece of plastic fell off. Unresponsive as in the main board would not register any presses from the front bumper switches at all, leaving my Neato to rampage through any object in its path until its wheels would stop turning, rawrrr!

So I contacted Neato support…

A support chat, how nice! After a quick troubleshooting session with someone on the Neato support chat, they agreed that my little robot’s rampage must come to and end and it had to be replaced. But wait, said the support chat folk, they cant put in a request through the chat, I had to write up a separate email and send it to them. “Well that’s odd, but I can do that if it helps them I suppose” I thought to myself, wondering why someone on the support team wouldn’t be able to create tickets themselves, or update them.

So on January 20th, the same day as the chat, I emailed Neato about my support request and what had been discussed in the chat, expecting it to help speed things along. It sure seemed to… at first. I got a reply back the next day, 5 minutes before they closed for the day, listing options for returns from Cody. “Great!” I thought, “Best support ever!” but I would soon regret thinking something so optimistic. I replied back the next morning, letting them know I wanted the fastest shipping method (at my cost) to get things moving as quickly as possible. Later that day, I get the same canned email response back about choosing my shipping method, this time from Kyana. Rather than email back and forth, I decide to call in and provide my CC number, still trying to move things quickly on my return.


The end of day two, and things were going ok-ish… I got a third email for the day from Neato, this time from a third new support rep, Yuka. Yuka emailed to inform me that my return will be shipping fedex and will take up to 10 days to arrive. “Not so painful, and hopefully it gets here faster than 10 days” I think, before putting the entire experience behind me.


10 Days come and go…

And still no new cleaning robot or word from fedex. So on January 31st, 21 days after my initial contact with Neato support, I send them a polite email asking where my replacement was. I get a reply back on the third of February, still from Yuka, claiming they had emailed me on the 25th about an issue with my provided proof of purchase. No email exists, or if it had existed, I sure didn’t get a copy of it. I wonder how long support would have waited before asking me for the information again if I hadn’t reached out myself asking for a timeframe?

Being a good customer, I replied back immediately with the requested info, and then followed up two days later asking if everything was going ok. (This to me feels like going above and beyond, a customer should never have to follow up on and keep track of a support ticket for the support company!). On the 6th of February, three days after supplying the requested information, Cody responded to me (the same Cody that was the original responder of my ticket… I think.), letting me know yet again that my Neato has been shipped via fedex and will arrive within 10 days.


Another 10 days pass…

No word from Neato or Fedex again! Ugh! Better go email Neato support again and help the employees keep track of their own open tickets I suppose. I get a response just before the office closes for the day again, this time from a new support rep, Michiko on Feb 18th. Hopefully Michikio has good news, and my Neato was just held up by bad weather or shipping issues, right? Nope. I was asked to provide the same warrantee info I had provided previously. Once again, within 10 minutes of getting the email, I re-send them the asked for info. Following up quickly this time, I ask for an update right away. I get my update the next day, right before they close (It seems like this is a trend with Neato…), with the same canned response asking for info about my warrantee, this time from Yuka!

At this point I’m more than fustrated. I inform Yuka that no, I will not resend the asked for information a third time, and to please check the previous emails to find the requested information.


And still I wait….

Hopefully one day Neato will open my emails containing the asked for information without requesting it over and over, I fear that day won’t be soon though. As of this posting I am still waiting for a response, maybe I’ll reach out to them again asking for an update, since robot vacuums aren’t the cheapest of cleaning tools. At this point though, I’m beginning to feel as though Neato has won the battle for support, through repeatedly making me wait for an item that never arrived, and then claiming to never get info that had been constantly provided, in an endless loop similar to Groundhog day.


Conclusion, or… what is your point here Mike?

My point in telling you this story is not to give you a boring account of how my vacuum broke. It’s to help you understand, from a customers point of view, what bad support can do and how it can feel. Here’s a quick rundown of where I feel Neato support tripped up:

  • Online chat has no way of updating support tickets

This is help desk and support 101 folks. No matter what communication method a customer chooses, support should always be able to update and create support tickets. They should be able to solve an issue immediately for the customer without requiring a follow up email.

  • Don’t respond to a customer right before your office closes

This one should be a given, although if it happened once its understandable. In my case it happened repeatedly, showing not only a lack of professionalism, but a complete lack of desire to actually solve my issue. It left me feeling more like they hoped I would not respond, or that my issue was not important and should be pushed off to tomorrow.

  • Keep the same support contact throughout a ticket

This also feels like another given, but that doesn’t seem to happen here either. If someone reaches out to support, the same person should update them throughout their experience. If that person is unable to, they should inform the customer that they must pass them on to someone else who can help, AND EXPLAIN WHY. This not only makes the customer feel the support contact is more personal, but it gives them the feeling that the company is providing one-to-one help, instead of a hodgepodge of whoever is around at the time, as my case above demonstrates.

  • Don’t leave the customer wondering

I had been nice in my follow up emails to Neato asking about the return, but many customers would not be. And that’s with good reason! If a customer has to reach out to a company for more information about a support ticket, that shows that the company doesn’t feel they are important. It also shows a clear lack of communication and proper process when handling support requests, and is one of the fastest ways to anger and lose customers through support.

  • Keep track of the email chain

If a customer emails support, especially if they include a reference number, don’t continually ask for the same information. With modern helpdesk ticket software this should be automatic. A customer should never have to repeat themselves on a ticket, especially not multiple times. My example with Neato shows a complete lack of either support ticket software use or, more likely, lack of support concern for the customers they are helping.

  • Last but not least, don’t repeat canned responses

When you use a canned response once, as long as its absolutely relevant to helping the customer on their particular ticket, its absolutely accepted and can greatly increase support response speeds. If you continue to repeat the same canned response multiple times on the same ticket/email chain, it has the exact opposite effect and can irritate the customer faster than almost any other faults listed above. Luckily this one is pretty easy to avoid, simply read the email chain before replying, even with a canned response, to make sure you aren’t repeating something already said. If the customer didn’t understand the first time, clearly resending the canned response again won’t help.


Yes, this is a real and ongoing support case. I hope my story and support do not’s help anyone trying to create a successful customer service team. I worry my story is not unique, but I truly wish it to be. Follow the simple do not’s of customer service/support and you’re team will be well on their way to getting a five star rating from anyone they help!

1 comment for “How not to provide support, my Neato story

Leave a Reply