Anatomy of a modern tech support case

Based on a true story:

Them: "Please fill out our online form and we'll get back to you right away!"

You in online form: "Hi.  I'm trying to find the button that does the thing I want, and your documentation says it should be there but it's not - can you tell me how to do the thing I want?"

Them: "Thank you for opening your tech support case - your question is very important to us.  We will get back to you very soon now."

Them: "Hi there, my name is Tech Support Rep#2342 and I'm going to be assisting you with your question."

Them: "It's me, Rep#2342 again, and I wanted to let you know that you can find out everything you'd ever want to know about the button you're looking for on our online knowledgebase, which is at http:....  I hope you enjoy all the information that will be at your fingertips there."

Continue reading "Anatomy of a modern tech support case"

Two bank interface stories

Bank interface story #1:

Got a new debit card for a new checking account.  Sticker on card says "must be activated at an ATM before use."  Went to ATM at bank, inserted card, entered temporary PIN (securely mailed in a separate envelope).  ATM menu came up, one option was "Change PIN."  Entered new PIN.  ATM said "Card is being retained" and ended my session.

What the heck.

Continue reading "Two bank interface stories"

iPhone iOS4 IMAP mail syncing problems

Market musicianI offer this account of trying to address a known (and I would say, severe) bug in the iPhone 4 mail software, in case it's helpful to others:

Ever since I upgraded my iPhone to IOS4 (the latest version of the phone's operating system), the Mail application has been flaky when it comes to syncing mail messages via IMAP. Duplicate messages, empty/blank messages, messages dated 12/31/1969, messages that are deleted and then re-appear, and so on.

At first I thought it might be my phone hardware, which had been cursed from the beginning (a story for another time), but after that phone died and Apple replaced it with a brand new one with fresh firmware and settings, and it STILL happened, I was convinced it's the software on the phone.  Other people are having the same issue all over the place.  But it can be hard to make Apple believe this - said the Apple Genius Bar worker at the Apple Store in Chicago, "they're probably all just using the phone wrong."  Wha?

Continue reading "iPhone iOS4 IMAP mail syncing problems"

Customer service FAILs (and a WIN)

A few short stories of recent FAIL and WIN experiences in customer service:

Trying to stop getting unsolicited postal mail from Comcast

I'm not a Comcast customer, haven't been for a long time, and never at my current address. I get postcards, letters and brochures from them on a regular basis - sometimes several times a week.  It's annoying and wasteful.  I searched the Comcast website and the Internet at large for a while for a web-based form to get on a "do not send me mail" list, and couldn't find one.  I called their 800 number and hung up after too many minutes on hold.  I finally sent in a generic inquiry through their online form, providing the addresses I wanted removed.

Done, right?  Nope.

Continue reading "Customer service FAILs (and a WIN)"

Good PR via Twitter done right by Sonos

JazzI love the Sonos multi-room music system.  It's a ridiculous luxury to have and I could fill up another blog post apologizing for it, but it's too much a fulfillment of the dreams I had as a kid about what the households of the future could be like to pass it up.  "Wait, you mean I can have N-Trance's Set U Free blaring in every room of the house at once, perfectly in sync?  OMG!"  I used to do this with FM transmitters, spaghetti audio wiring, and various mediocre gadgets - not any more.

But I'm not here to indulge in gadget lust, I'm here to tell you how Sonos, the company, is making great use of Twitter for its public relations and customer service efforts (and, by extension, how Twitter is turning out to be pretty useful for that stuff.)

Thomas Meyer (who is hopefully a real person) is the voice of Sonos on Twitter, and here's all the stuff he does right: Continue reading "Good PR via Twitter done right by Sonos"

The Contractor Experience

(Some of my blog posts are constructive, this one is pure rant.)

There's a new amusement park ride opening up in town!  It'll take you on a thrilling journey through ups and downs of successful projects, communication failures, happy long-term partnerships, and total failures in competence.  It's called THE CONTRACTOR EXPERIENCE and you can hop on it today by opening up the phone book and calling pretty much any contractor you want to try to get some work done on your home or business!

Okay, I know that it might be a little pretentious or worse for me to sit on my high blogging horse and tell the folks who are willing to do some pretty hard, dirty work how to do their jobs when I'm not able or willing to do them myself.  But at the same time, I can't help but see it from the perspective of how poorly some of these folks are running their small local businesses, and how their customer service values take a total back seat to their own preferred ways of doing things.  Some war stories:

Continue reading "The Contractor Experience"

Local carpet company covers up error

Apartment PhotoThis is another customer service observation, though hopefully not one that isn't already completely obvious. I recently had some new carpet installed in an apartment that I rent out (which, by the way, is available again at the beginning of August, if you're interested), and it was the first time I'd ever hired anyone to install carpet. I felt fortunate to have been recommended to a local carpet sales company by a person I trust, but the end result was pretty disappointing. They did a great job with sales, pricing was awesome, the work seemed high quality, and the folks doing the work were nice. When they were done, they left a nice and tidy collection of the spare carpet pieces gathered in the corner of one room. I thanked them as they left, and felt good.

Later, when I moved the nice and tidy collection of spare carpet pieces, I found the not-so-tidy hole in the wall that they had created during the installation. The spare pieces had been strategically placed to cover up their glaring destruction. I couldn't imagine any scenario other than that they had blatantly created a distraction to give themselves enough time to make an exit.

Continue reading "Local carpet company covers up error"

Is it possible for Sprint customer service to be this bad?

Presenting: another epic saga of wireless phone company incompetence...bear with me.

I'd had my Sprint cell phone and plan since 2001 - six years of relatively problem free operation (minor billing annoyances aside). And they recognized that I was a loyal customer who always paid my bill on time - in recent years they regularly sent me offers to "upgrade my plan" or my phone and receive a billing credit (but we all know this is because they wanted me to renew my vows and sign on to a new contract).

Recently, I decided that I wanted to look at a phone upgrade. 6 years had taken its toll on my Samsung A500, and I was excited about the possibility of a phone that would better sync up its contacts and calendar with my computer. I had asked Slashdot about such a product a few years ago, but the offerings were much more promising now.

Continue reading "Is it possible for Sprint customer service to be this bad?"

Linksys customer service destroyed by earthquake

I called the sales team at Linksys today to ask for help in picking which one of their products Summersault wanted to purchase. I saw this notice on their "contact us" web page:

Due to a major earthquake in the South-Pacific area, telephone, internet circuits, and services from the United States have interrupted our call center operations. We apologize for any inconvenience or delay and appreciate your patience.

I felt bad for them, but carried on and called them anyway, assuming that they would prioritize sales calls in their time of rebuilding. The guy who answered the phone made it very clear, before letting me say anything, that he would ONLY help me with PRE-SALES questions. (I suppose it's a universal problem that people call the sales extension when they really need technical support, assuming they'll get someone faster.) I said "okay, I need help deciding which one of your products to buy." I explained our requirements and which product I thought we needed, and his response was...

"Okay, let me get you over to..." and then I hear a click, and all of the sudden I'm back in their automated voicemail menu, with options that were completely unrelated to my question. No "can I transfer you?" or "Can you hold?," just an end to our sales conversation. Wow.

Now I know which Linksys product I need to buy: none of them.

Customer service done poorly by Ramada

Earlier in life I had a job as the senior front desk clerk at a national hotel chain. I made reservations, served breakfast, transferred calls, checked people in, checked people out, cleaned the pool, cleaned rooms when housekeeping had left for the day, chatted with vacationers and placated frustrated guests. The experience has instilled in me a great deal of appreciation (and sympathy) for those who work in any sort of hospitality business, but it has also made me acutely aware of particular lapses by the same when I visit. Earlier this week I was traveling through Eastern Pennsylvania and ended up having to stay in a Ramada hotel when the camping plans I had (which I was really looking forward to) didn't pan out. Ooops. Here's what happened:
Continue reading "Customer service done poorly by Ramada"