June Mega Update
We're on the home stretch of one of the biggest Kickstarter projects in history. When you get a product off the shelf, you’re getting product number 10 thousand or even 10 million. Those products have usually gone through massive internal testing in a large company as well as multiple rounds of testing by beta users, focus groups, and generally, several cycles of improvement before they were released to the public.
What Kickstarter has allowed us and the rest of the world to do is share that otherwise enigmatic process with you. We’ve shown you the ups and downs of what it takes to accomplish the tough goals we set for our product, ourselves, and our business. It is a story of true grit and one we hope to recap soon, but our work is nowhere near completed with the fulfillment of your rewards. In fact, it has only just begun.
Current Priority - Customer Support
Every customer interaction is sacred to us, and everyone on the M3D team truly cares. We admit that we were overwhelmed by the number of support tickets that started coming in around April, and we could not systemize support quickly enough to respond in a timely manner. For that, you have our sincerest apologies, and do not take it to mean that that is how we want things to be.
You are still watching a very young company grow. Nearly everyone in the company is now working daily to address customer support needs, and we've invested a great deal of our resources in helping you. With new systems in place, we are almost caught up, and we aim to resolve support tickets in a matter of minutes instead of days.
The Biggest Improvements:
As promised, we’ve built printers for the vast majority of your rewards and pre-orders, and we have moved many team members from production to support. We now have over 20 team members working on customer support: 8 off-site, 4 on main support, 2 on social media, 5 on tech support, and 5 on web programming.
The Knowledge Base (www.printm3d.com/solutions) - We’ve created detailed articles to address common customer and technical support questions.
The User Forum (www.printm3d.com/portal) - We are monitoring and addressing concerns through the portal, and it has grown into a great support community as well. We will also be opening the M3D forum to the public in a few weeks.
The Support Page (www.printm3d.com/support) - We’ve created this page for software downloads, first-time video guides, contact links, and most importantly, live support chat.
Live Support Chat Details
Live support chat is a single channel for both general and technical support and is also monitored by many senior M3D team members, including the creators. Expected hours of availability are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). By using live support chat, we can provide immediate turnaround and personalized support without using 10 phone lines. It also serves as a well-balanced alternative to email. If live support is down, please use the "Contact Us" button at the top right of our homepage.
What is an “Exception?”
There were around 100 exception types that were causing support tickets to be answered slower than we would like. Examples of these exception types include change of address, payment errors, adding filaments, country not-enabled, credit card alerts, combining of orders, adding a warranty, filament out of stock, modifying printer color, etc. Each exception type requires a dedicated programming/web team member to make a script to help automate the issue and prevent mistakes. Without the these scripts, it was taking hundreds of hours to address each issue manually.
We have also spent a great deal of time improving the back end system to clarify and solidify policies to allow people to respond faster to requests and create fewer exceptions. Part of our problem was that we never want to say “no” to anyone, but saying "yes" to everything created indirect delays. We now recognize that timely and good customer support requires saying "no" when reasonable to keep things organized and in process.
Regarding Spare Parts and Warranty Replacement Parts
Please email the firstname.lastname@example.org team to request pricing, and for the next few weeks, we will continue to request payment for these parts through PayPal. The parts are shipped daily. Our main website has spare parts but they were only intended for orders with a printer. Otherwise, the shipping calculation is inaccurate; this will be corrected in the coming weeks.
We kindly request your patience this month as we catch up on a few hundred remaining support ticket requests. Emailing us more than once will not increase our response time and can delay things further. If you feel that your emails were not responded to sufficiently or that there was no acknowledgement from our team, please reach out to us through live support chat in case there is an email filtering issue on either end.
Once we are caught up on tickets, the M3D team will scour the forums, social media, support channels, and the entire internet looking for people with remaining issues until everyone is thoroughly pleased with their rewards/pre-order purchases.
Fulfilling the Last 10% of Kickstarter Pledges
We have shipped about 90% of Kickstarter pledges. These are pledges where backers have followed up with us at least once (to give us their shipping information). However, the remaining 10% are taking much longer to deliver than we expected because of one of the many exceptions types listed above. As we nearly reach completion of the Kickstarter, the exceptions are becoming more complex and difficult.
One of these exceptions is transaction ID verification. Kickstarter only gave us one way to reach you - an email. We’ve contacted backers up to four times to complete their surveys. However, if someone contacts us using an email other than their original backer email, we have to verify that they are who they really say they are, and this must be done manually.
In 3% of cases, backers’ payments also had issues or were canceled. That is why we set up the Amazon Transaction ID verification as a challenge question to automate the process. This was necessary for our project due to the large number of backers. At the time of our Kickstarter, Amazon Payments did not provide a direct link to the backer’s account or email information - the accounts could be different. We review dozens of cases manually every week when someone cannot find their Amazon Transaction ID and solve all of these cases with some additional information.
VAT Payment Issues
Another common exception relates to VAT payments. All of our prices did not include VAT or taxes as pricing is presented the same for everyone. We cannot account for all country-specific fees or worldwide fees that change over time. It is such a huge time investment, and it is common even for large companies (like Amazon) not to include or provide VAT estimates for foreign countries. For those of you who accepted the non-EU friendly shipments to speed up fulfillment, we will refund you any VAT that was paid to us upfront, but you will need to pay your country’s VAT to receive your package. Fortunately, VAT has proven to be quite predictable to Europe, around $50-$100 depending on the order size, but if the amount is unusually excessive, you should ask the carrier to place the package on hold and contact us right away.
We hoped to have EU-friendly (VAT-paid before shipping) options sooner, and we do apologize for any inconvenience to those who didn’t want to deal with their post office. We appreciate the vast majority of those who could not wait longer and accepted shipping without VAT included anyway. On that note, we have finally started some very early trials for EU-friendly shipping. One trial is through UPS, and in a few more weeks, we will try dispatching VAT-paid orders through a fulfillment warehouse in the UK to see how that goes. At best, it looks like this process will save a few dollars, and its main advantage is that it is more convenient for the recipient.
Remaining Countries to be Scaled Up Through Automated Order Invites
There are several countries we have not scaled up through automated order invites. These countries are: Russian Federation; Hong Kong; Brazil; Mexico; India; Taiwan, Province of China; China; Romania; Turkey; Ukraine; Chile; United Arab Emirates; Saudi Arabia; Cyprus; Colombia; Puerto Rico; Macau; and Brunei Darussalam.
They include about 250 affected backers, and are under final testing, one package at a time. Another 25 or so backers are also included in other countries not named here as they are usually the only backer in those countries. If you are in these countries, please be patient with us for two more weeks as we finalize shipping methods for these regions to make sure that you get your packages safely, and so we can nail down the best customs strategy for your country.
If you do not have an order from one of these countries and have not been invited to your customer portal to pay for shipping, please contact us at email@example.com so that we can look into your status.
Pre-orders are and have always been in line after backer orders that came first. The tiers have, however, become structured by the necessity of dealing with exceptions. US orders are the easiest to process, followed by major international countries, and then the final remaining countries listed above. Within these tiers, we still follow the tier order as pledged during Kickstarter. In many cases, we are often waiting on follow-through or responses from users or dealing with special exceptions, which seems to put things out of order.
We have shipped about 40% of silver rewards/orders and aim to reach 60-75% in a week. The painter (and M3D) are very picky about quality knowing you have waited this long, so a few more days to make sure we get you a high quality paint job is worth it. Although production has been limited due to our high quality standards, the printers have looked amazing thus far and are incredibly scratch resistant for the upgraded option.
Low Stock of Black Printers
We have fewer black printers in stock than expected for two reasons. First, black scratches more easily out of the mold than other colors, so fewer black box tops were deemed suitable for production - these were rejected and are being sold as refurbished units. Second, many more people switched from silver printers to black printers than we anticipated. Fortunately, we expect to receive more black printer cases in about 10 days. In the meantime, we're sending out a survey to anyone who selected a black printer who would have to wait (about a hundred units) to offer them alternative color options.
Highly Stocked Colors
We have over a thousand finished orange, green, and blue printers in stock. These printers are available to backers who have not yet selected a printer color, as well as to any customer (backer, pre-order) who would like to switch colors in order to get their shipment out sooner. They are also available for new orders.
Limited Edition Clear Printers
We have confirmed that we will be receiving 300 clear printer box sets at the end of our next molding cycle, which should be built into fully-functional Micros around mid-July. The first samples we received are reasonably clear, similar to car headlights or acrylic glass. As backers, you get first dibs on this option.
Please realize that there may be some internal mold lines and tool marks that aren't normally seen in other colors. That said, if you are okay with this and are interested in the clear printer, simply hold off on finalizing your order in the backer portal (including paying for shipping) and send us an email requesting the color change in two weeks. Switching to a clear printer may also be enabled as a backer portal option soon.
Our backers ordered double the amount of filament that we expected, which is a great thing, because once you received your printers you ran through filaments quickly and ordered more. However, it has led to a temporary shortage of filaments, which delayed some orders. Fortunately, we've ordered 20,000 additional filament spools, and they are on the way! Their estimated time of arrival is one week and many have already shipped.
If your order contains out of stock filaments, you will have an extra link in your user portal where you can edit the color of your filaments. We have plenty of crystal clear PLA in stock, and we highly recommend it for those who want their orders to ship as soon as possible. By selecting filaments that are in stock, your order will ship out within a few business days. However, we suggest waiting a few days so that all colors are back in stock.
We also have a Chameleon (color-changing) filament, which we are giving a few people in place of regular PLA colors. This unique filament is wound a bit too tight to be used in the printer’s internal spool holder, but it prints like our regular PLA filaments. While we don't have a set price for the Chameleon filament, it costs about 50% more to make than regular PLA, and we did not want to sell this new product with everything else going on, so we consider it a cool bonus. Nine varieties of Chameleon should be on our website and Amazon within a few weeks.
Making Changes to Orders
Please try to avoid making unnecessary changes to your order if possible. Doing so may cause delays because it needs to be manually processed to make sure there are no mistakes. Combining orders, in particular, can take the most time to process manually.
The major part of our support experience is the software that drives The Micro. We are now releasing joint Mac/Windows updates every one to two weeks. The latest updates are often released early in the Beta subfolder. You can find all software downloads at www.printm3d.com/support.
Our programming team’s focus is to work on rare bugs and improve access to customization and open features. We are also heavily focused on streamlining the Mac software. We are very thankful for feedback from our users, which helped us identify many obscure bugs already. Future versions of the software in the coming weeks and months will include many additions such as: Automatic gantry clip detection during first time setup; guidance for first time users on selecting print options; quicker homing and end-stop detection without noise; automatic and manual backlash calibration; printer self-diagnostics; open access to modify slicer settings; multi-printer support; print view fixes for rotation; showing measurement units; solutions to special print cases; release of code and formulas for better compatibility with open-source slicers; enhanced compatibility for video cards; faster print speeds; and better Mac and Windows compatibility.
As with our other departments, we have a few very talented but busy programmers on the case, so we appreciate your patience as we improve things.
We are now seeking and ready to field requests for new distributors worldwide. Before now, we have generally taken our time to respond to distributors because we were so focused on our backers. Distributors outside the USA can accomplish great things for us and our backers. They deal with the process of importation and set up sales in their own currency. They can take returns locally, servicing them at a much lower cost. They bridge the cultural divide and explain things in their own language. We are currently looking for additional distributors that want to work with us on international sales and can be a partner in helping us get warranty parts and service to our many users world wide. If you are interested in distribution, we’re finally ready. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are working to be as proactive as we can with updating you about where we are at with the remaining pledges and our progress as a company. Improvement is not always simple or instantaneous, but we have a very determined, talented team here at M3D, and we will provide you with the amazing customer support and user experience you deserve. After all, M3D and The Micro would not be possible without you!
We are aiming to ship all remaining pledges and pre-orders with exceptions within three weeks. If you have completed your survey but your printer hasn’t shipped yet, we would appreciate your patience over the next two to three weeks. This way, our staff can focus fully on getting your printers out as soon as possible rather than responding to requests.
As always, we appreciate your continued patience and support.
The M3D Team