Some of you may shudder when the name “Blackboard” is uttered. Considering that around half of my support work is a result of Blackboard, I can feel the angst too. However, today I found reason to empathize with the corporation and its development process. Blackboard extends the offer for anyone to contact their CEO, Michael Chasen, through a simple web form. I felt compelled to pass along a critique from a faculty member that struck at the heart of some of the problems we face with the platform.
Just a week before, I had emailed Nokia customer support and received a scripted response from a support tech. I expected the same from what I assumed to be a generic mailbox at Blackboard. However, only a few days after sending in the email, I actually received a personally-crafted response. It was clear by the wording used that the author, whether Chasen himself or not, was responding specifically to the comments and questions I raised.
I found it rather amazing to get such a detailed response from the CEO of a major company when I barely got anything out of a Nokia support tech. The other amazing part about the response I read is that it did not try to sugar coat any of the problems addressed. The author, who I will assume was Chasen, agreed that these problems were common. He also gave me a brief overview of the development process and how they bring instructors and students in to receive feedback. Then, he CC’d and directed me to a VP that could assist with further questions. It was, in a word… nice.
OK, OK. So, the response did not fix anything, but I was glad to hear that I had not pointed out anything he was not already aware of and addressing. I find that when working in support, sometimes people just want to be heard and know that someone is on the same page with them. And the greatest way to build empathy for one another (support personnel, CEOs, or customers) is to listen carefully and explain plainly. That is exactly the kind of response I received from Michael Chasen.