A week ago my HomeExchange network account stopped working. I arrange a lot of home swaps using this platform. Access to my account is an important part of my travel planning. I had several requests for swaps in the next month which I couldn’t access, was in the process of an exchange when this happened, and had two other exchanges scheduled in the next month. Needless to say, this was a bit alarming.
I could access my account on the web, but the page wouldn’t load fully. I tried to log in on the app, but just kept getting a message “an error has occurred please try again.” After troubleshooting on my own, trying to access my account on different platforms, and in various web browsers, I reached out to the support team (which they call the “Happiness Team”).
I’ve heard complaints about tech support from HomeExchange being slow and not super helpful, but some of that I chalked up to their integration challenges last year. And I’m never sure if complaints are due to poorly communicated expectations, or actual failures to deliver. If you expect a same day response from a service for which you paying only $150 per year (or less), that seems unreasonable. Well, I finally had my chance to test out the HomeExchange tech support for myself.
My support experience
I reached out to the HomeExchange support team via email describing my problems in detail and attaching a screen shot of what it looked like when the home screen failed to load in the web browser. I also posted my question on the HomeExchange Facebook group. A volunteer on the FB group responded quickly with some suggestions (which didn’t work, but were good guesses). Within a few hours I also got a response from the support team. But the email just asked if I still had the problem. This seemed odd but I thought maybe they had found a problem and fixed it. Nope. So I wrote back and offered to also send a screen shot of the error in the app.
Three days later (it was the weekend, so this delay was to be expected) I got a message that said “You may need to delete the app and reinstall it as the technicians have not been able to recreate the issue that you have encountered.” I was corresponding with the same person. Perhaps over the weekend he had forgotten that my problem wasn’t specifically with the app? In fact I never use the app, I was just trying it when the website wouldn’t work. Nonetheless I tried this delete and reinstall, but that didn’t help. Not surprising since the problem shows up across platforms.
Then I remembered, a few weeks prior to my trip my swap partner in Hong Kong sent me this note:
Sorry for the late reply but I still cannot access Homeexchange website…
I am really upset with them as there are very slow in replying and/or fixing the issue.
I’m not super tech savvy. But on a hunch I reached out to ask him what sort of issues he was having. And it turns out, HomeExchange told him that the network can’t be used in Hong Kong without a VPN. This is a new issue; the problem only started few weeks prior. Sure enough, with a VPN my problems disappeared.
Summing up my experience
What went well: HomeExchange tech support responded very quickly to my problem. There was continuity of support; I was corresponding with the same person throughout. My home exchange partner was super helpful and a good communicator.
What didn’t go well: There didn’t seem to be a lot of attention to detail from my support contact at HomeExchange, based on the suggested course of action. More importantly, the HomeExchange team knew about this Hong Kong problem. And they could see in my account that I was on a swap in Hong Kong. In fact I believe I had the exact same support person who was helping my swap partner (same name). So it shouldn’t have been a big leap to notice the similarities in our problems and deduce what was going wrong.
Overall I’d give HomeExchange decent but not great marks on this interaction. The Facebook volunteer response, along with confirmation that other members elsewhere were not having the same problem, was very helpful. And the quick response to my support email was also assuring. But they really missed the ball in not making the connection between my problem and the known issue in Hong Kong. Maybe it’s unreasonable to expect the team to see the similarities, or to notice my location. But if they had a page of known bugs/issues somewhere connected to the tech support contact link, I think that I would have figured it out myself much sooner.
Most home exchange networks start off as just a few people building from the ground up. But at some point networks with more than a handful of members have to build a more formal a system of support. Without this the founder and/or lead developer could quickly get swamped responding to requests for help. And in my experience home swap customer expectations can be high, considering the low price we pay for membership in these networks. This is a challenge for the Home Exchange industry.