This past week I was asked to look into an issue with a web service that I work on from time to time. I just help out the development team from time to time so I have no real say it how they develop the web service but it is easy work and pays the bills. The issue was related to a user’s recent activity. Items were showing up on their list without them actually going to them. In fact on one occasion the user didn’t even have access to that item.

This is where the fun begins. The customer submitted a ticket. Support took some quality notes from the customer but still ended up taking 2 hours looking into the problem. Since they couldn’t find a solution they escalated the ticket to development. Where a support person and a developer spent 5 hours looking into the issue, going back and forth with the customer. By the end of those 5 hours I was asked to join.  The three of us spent another 4 hours looking into the issue. So in total 24 hours of time have been spent on this issue and we still don’t have a resolution. The sad thing is this should have been fixed in twenty minutes of support’s time and then another twenty- thirty minutes of development’s time. But this web service fails at one major thing, good tracking of user’s actions. Customers can only give you so much information and most of the time they only give you the bare minimum, other times they give you wrong information (not on purpose). As a developer you have to rely on the truth, user activity logs.

Activity logging isn’t a difficult thing to do, a few lines of code and the company can know exactly what a user is doing in the web service. The real reason this information isn’t tracked is company dynamics and that is a totally different post. As you can see from above, the failure to properly track and log the user activity has wasted 23 hours of company time at a tune of roughly $600. In the grand scheme of things $600 isn’t much but everyone involved could have been doing other things. Especially the other developer who could have been writing custom features at a tune of $200/hr billed to the customer who requested it.

Tracking user activity can save you a ton of time and grief. You can track user activity even if you aren’t a web service. A few ways are:

  • Security Cameras: Get security cameras to record what your customers are doing in your store. Video footage can be used for tracking how customers move through your store, employee-customer interaction, training purposes, and evidence.
  • Record support calls: For similar reasons as using video cameras, employee-customer interaction, training purposes, and evidence.
  • Document/take note during customer interactions: Although these along can be faked, having a notes can provide a useful history of the customer.

The point is taking notes, tracking, and logging can save you time and energy when trying to figure out what has happened.  Not to mention if you compile your data correctly, it can give you some excellent metrics on your customers. Take the story above as a lesson, what else could we have been doing instead of wasting 23 hours trying to figure out what the customer did exactly. If only we did simple tracking.