The Atlas Guides team: Zoë, Ryan, Alice, Paul, Natalie
Photo by Natalie McMillan
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Inside Atlas Guides: Customer Support

Have you ever written into Atlas Guides customer support for help with your Guthook Guide app? Here is a behind the scenes look at our customer support.

Alice Bodnar       Inside Atlas Guides       2 Feb 2018

Alice Bodnar

2 Feb 2018

I want to share with you today a behind-the-scenes look at our customer support here at Atlas Guides. Our overarching goal as a company is to provide the best navigational guides for hikers, and customer support is an important part of  meeting that goal. When we launched our Guthook Guides apps, the last thing we were thinking about was how to deal with customer support. But today it is a big part of our operation.

Who answers customer support email?

All of us handle customer support in addition to our other duties. We can all see the notes and we assign them to each other based upon expertise. We can also write private notes to one another if we need to ask one of our co-workers how to answer the question.

What are our customers like?

They are freaking amazing. Unlike a lot of online interactions, our customers (who are mostly long-distance backpackers) are nice, patient, helpful, polite, and appreciative. We feel very fortunate. Sometimes we get especially helpful app users who help us work through a difficult bug and become app testers. For instance right now I have been working with Tom, a 2019 Appalachian Trail Hiker, to help fix some problems with storing maps on the SD Card in our new Android app, “Guthook Guides: Hike & Bike Offline“. People like Tom have been an important part of our small operation over the years by patiently working with us to provide feedback while we work out difficult programming issues.

I have been in correspondence with some customers for years. One example is Drew, a Pacific Crest Trail hiker who we met in Cascade Locks, Oregon, while we were collecting PCT town data. Drew provided a lot of app suggestions and kept in touch with us by email. When he thru-hiked the Colorado Trail, he asked us if there was anything he could do, and he ended up providing a complete update to the water sources along the CT. Another example is Michele, an Appalachian Trail section hiker who has been writing back and forth with me since 2013. Michele is the type of app user who is not fond of user interface changes, and she gives me honest, helpful feedback. This way I get a good preview of what some users will be asking about when we roll out new features.

Fortunately, it is a very rare occurrence to hear from a rude customer. In almost every case, an upset customer just needs someone to listen to the issue, fix it, and then they’re happy. I take it as a personal challenge to flip an upset customer to a champion of our apps. Dealing with the rare rude or unreasonable customer has been a growth experience for me. I used to take it personally, but now I just do my best to fix the problem, (try to) make the customer happy, and move on.

What kind of questions do we get?

A lot of our most common questions are answered on our FAQ page. But we still get a lot of these questions by email. Some of the most common are:

  1. I just downloaded the app and I can’t open the guide. Help!
  2. Are you coming out with trail X?

We also get crash reports, suggestions to improve the app, and more complex questions about app use.

Crash reports and bug reports are very helpful. They can also get my heart going. Sometimes one of the services we depend on will make an update and then our apps do not work. So we get a bunch of people writing in all at once saying “My app stopped working!” and we have to go into scramble mode to figure out what’s going on. For example, last year Google updated some background software that made Google Maps stop working on Huawei Android phones. If the crash is our fault we scramble to fix it as soon as possible.

User suggestions are an important part of our operation since we constantly update and improve the app. We need to know what hikers like about the app, what they don’t like, and what they would like to see added to the app. We keep a list of suggestions and add them into our updates schedule.

Contact Us!

When you have a question, problem, or suggestion, let us know! You can check out our FAQ page or contact us directly. When you contact us you’re talking to the people who actually design, write, and market Guthook Guides. Maybe you’ll even get to talk to THE Guthook!

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About the Author

Alice Bodnar

Alice left her super stressful job as an attorney and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012 with her husband (and Atlas Guides co-founder) Paul. After the hike she began developing the Guthook’s PCT Guide for Android and intended to return to law as soon as she caught up with her Android work. She never caught up, and is now a co-owner of Atlas Guides and serves as general counsel and head of operations.