It is perhaps an understatement to say that many of Coinbase’s users have been having technical issues of all sorts over the course of the last few months. From having orders canceled to not properly receiving Bitcoin purchases. There’s been a slew of issues, and technical support seemingly nobody could rely on.
I have seen a number of different terms for Coinbase’s operation on the web, many of which suggest the San Francisco-based company is a scam for failing to reply to user inquires rapidly.
The truth is, however, Coinbase is getting swamped with questions and reports of issues daily. About 500 new support cases per day. It’s not difficult to see how difficult it could be for a small company to deal with the overload.
With that, I had the opportunity to ask Coinbase’s Olaf Carlson-Wee some questions to hopefully alleviate some of your concerns.
Can you describe the hardships Coinbase is having in terms of dealing with user issues?
We’ve seen a huge influx of users in the past few weeks, and many of these users are new to the world of bitcoin, as we are often the website people use to buy their first bitcoin. Accompanying this growth is an increase in support tickets. I was the only customer support employee until we had 250,000 users – we’re a lean and hard-working team, but by then the volume of inquiries was simply beyond what I could handle by myself. I started interviewing bitcoin enthusiasts for a job at Coinbase, but it became quickly apparent that scaling an in-house team was not going to be fast enough to match our growth. We decided to build a remote support team of the best and brightest bitcoin experts from around the world, and building this team is my primary focus right now.
How many support inquiries are you getting daily and how many people do you have working to respond?
We get about 500 new support inquiries per day. We’ve hired two remote bitcoin experts a week for the last three weeks, and had hired two more a couple months before that, so our support team is now eight employees plus me. These bitcoiners come from around the world, stemming from as far as New Caledonia, an island off the coast of New Zealand. This team was built primary through a bitcoin and logic test that was posted on Reddit and Bitcointalk – they all got perfect or near-perfect scores.
What’s the most common complaint you’re getting from users?
Our most common questions are usually pretty simple, relating to the user interface of the website, how bitcoin works, and how to get verified for buying higher amounts of bitcoin. We also have users affected by the occasional software bug – these take a more in-depth investigation. Another aspect of support is dealing with fraud, as we are a common target for attempted purchases from people using stolen bank credentials.
What do you say to the folks that suggest you cancel orders when the price of Bitcoin goes up?
We have a very complex machine learning algorithm which determines the probability that a particular user is purchasing bitcoin using a stolen identity – this helps keep the bitcoin community safe from fraudulent activity, protects non-bitcoin users from identity theft, and protects Coinbase from monetary loss due to fraud. This algorithm only applies to purchasing bitcoin with dollars and does not apply to sells or any bitcoin-to-bitcoin transactions. The price is not a part of this algorithm – we have an equal proportion of flagged transactions when the price goes up or when the price goes down. When user purchases get flagged and the price has gone down, they actually save money, and rarely say anything about it. However, when user purchase is flagged and the price has gone up, people are admittedly angry because they have lost money – this latter group is much more vocal, which gives people the impression that we only flag transactions when the price goes up. If someone thinks their transaction was flagged incorrectly, they should email support – we regularly review transactions and by request can push the transaction through at the original purchase price.
What are Coinbase’s long-term goals in terms of addressing technical support inquiries?
Our long term goal is a fast response time and an intelligent team that quickly discovers software bugs before damage can be done. We all love difficult problems, and a deep knowledge of the blockchain is necessary to solve the hardest issues. If anyone reading thinks they’ve got what it takes, send us an application at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I’d like to thank Olaf to taking the time to answer my questions, and I hope this was helpful to the Coinbase users out there.