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‘Listening’ is not a single verb.


This two-part series is my learning in customer service that I hope to employ while building Parallelo.

Parallelo converts Presenters into Tide Detergent models.

This is the second part of the article on “They didn’t solve the problem but I am still happy with them”.

In the first part, I elaborated on how Buffer executes 3 ordinary truths in customer service extraordinarily well, viz.,

  • Respond quickly
  • Make it personal
  • Solve the problem

The fourth truth is ‘Listen well’.



Ted Goff Listening Cartoon



We’ve heard this said often – Don’t just hear, listen. But when it comes to customer service, the reason why companies don’t listen well (and enough) is because it is complicated.

In the language of business, to hear is to accept feedback, but to listen is to acknowledge and act on the feedbackand alert the user when an action is taken. So as you see, listening is not a single verb.

We’ll soon see how well Buffer listens and where it can improve, but first here is the problem I reported to Buffer.


The Problem


Buffer has a neat mobile app. It is quite handy if you’d like to make or schedule a post. But let’s say you are browsing something on your mobile and want to post that url to Buffer. It is not easy to copy the link, open the Buffer app and paste it. So Buffer offers handy bookmarklets for Safari and Chrome mobile browsers on iOS.

The Safari bookmarklet works as advertised but the Chrome one doesn’t. My emails to the customer service team suggested that it is a known issue. And that’s where the problem is.

If it doesn’t work and you know about it, why make it available in the first place? If it is an intermittent issue, the user should be alerted. But no where during the handholding does Buffer tell you that.

See a snapshot of the steps to add the bookmarklet to Chrome Mobile browser in iOS below.


Buffer Chrome Error


Simple steps presented crisply. But bummer! it doesn’t work. You wonder if you are doing something wrong. There is no delight when a product makes the user look stupid.

In contrast, see how Buffer sets your expectations right while handholding you through adding the Safari bookmarklet.


Buffer iOS Safari Installation


And it works, like a breeze. It wasn’t even as difficult as cautioned. There’s delight there.


The Response from Buffer


Accept & Acknowledge


When I gave the above feedback to the Buffer team, I was convinced Buffer intends to listen more than hear because they accept and acknowledge very well. And they have real people doing it rather than machines. A very welcome difference from other companies indeed.


Take a look at the reply I got from Buffer.


Buffer response to feedback


What delighted me most about the response, is not the effusive thank you, but the part where they talk about how the Happiness and Product teams are closely connected at Buffer. When you take time to offer feedback, you want it to get the attention of the right people. That acknowledgement is important to keep the confidence of the user.


The Buffer team does well to mitigate the effect of a sub-optimal experience by responding fast to accept and acknowledge the feedback. But is this enough for a company that states customer happiness as its other raison d’être? I think not. So here’s what Buffer can do.


Act & Alert


At the time of writing this article, the bug in the Chrome mobile browser bookmarklet hasn’t been fixed. It still spits out this error.


Buffer Error Screenshot


So, why not make bug fixes and feature enhancements that come from users, public?

This is not new, some companies do this well because there are some advantages, viz.,


  • It tells the customer that you are acting on their feedback; that you are ‘on it’.
  • By allowing them to vote on feature enhancements, you build only what your users care for most, and
  • A committed user community does some great good for the company’s image.


Imagine how additive it would be for Buffer’s brand if in their reply, they also said


“…thanks for taking time to make Buffer better. We got your feedback. You can follow the progress of your bugfix/suggestion here or we’ll let you know when it is done” .




For an organisation to listen well and do it at scale, it needs to invest in systems, processes, and people to accept, acknowledge, act, and alert on all user feedback.

It is difficult for a company to do this if it isn’t differentiating from the competition on customer service. But one of the reasons Buffer is growing so fast – when there are a plethora of social sharing tools in the market – is because it puts delivering customer happiness at par with building a great product.

So it is imperative for Buffer to make those investments to set newer and higher benchmarks in Customer Happiness. Isn’t that their goal anyway?


happiness hero buffer


Do you have suggestions on any additional learnings I can use at Parallelo? Please share it in the comments.

Cartoon Credit: Ted Goff



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  1. Good thinking and good Karma earned!

    You should open a Company that just audits UX/UI and Humanoid behaviour…

  2. Or, may be a company that offers gyas — gyan-as-a-service. 

    (Not my invention, heard somebody say it.)

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