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June 09, 2008

Customer Service

There is a severe lack of customer service in the world today. It's not a new trend, we've just sunk so low it is amazing it can still pass for acceptable. Dell was recently found guilty of fraud. Their customer service was so abysmal that any hope of utilizing the warranty was an illusion.

I recently realized that I now find it shocking when I receive good customer service, I don't expect anything at all. The lack of customer service just isn't acceptable, I'll avoid places that have provided poor service or failed to provide it at all. I try to go the extra mile now to end up at the few places that have good service.

An anecdote to round out this entry. I bought new maps for my Garmin GPSr a little while ago (that was an adventure in poor service in itself). The new version of the maps have just come out and Garmin is nice enough to give you a free update if you bought the old version between the date of the map data and the new map version release (Maps released June based on April data). It wasn't Garmin that told me this, I just happened to stumble upon it. Getting the free update dragged me through the mess that is Garmin support.

To install my original maps, I needed an account on their website so I could run the utility that mucks around with keys to unlock the maps. So you would figure that in entering all this information and interacting with the web account that your map product would automatically be registered to your account. That's not that case. In fact I tried everything, but couldn't even find a way to get the maps added to my account. Eventually I discovered that if I re-ran the unlock from the web-based unlocker directly instead of the map software, the maps would get added to my account. Unfortunately, that didn't quite work either. It added a different map product with a completely different set of keys and codes and dates to my account. So I still couldn't get the update as what was added wasn't eligible for update. I tried everything I could, suffered through many outages of the Garmin website and gave up and emailed support. At least I think I did, the support website didn't indicate if anything happened upon clicking send. Quite some time later I get a non-answer. I sent a reply to clarify and try to get an answer but received nothing. Sometimes I could track my email support case online and sometimes I couldn't even find the support section on the website, let alone my support case. After a bunch of nothing I sent another email support request in with the same information. After some time, support responded and had added the correct map product to my account, the wrong one is still there also.

Excellent, I thought, the map is there, the free update is now available, let's go. I click through the order process, there is the choice of disk or download, I choose disk. That will cost $10, so much for free, but oh well, I keep ordering. Put in my credit card and it's refused, try another one, it's refused, try another day and still refused. Drat, off goes another support request, actually 2 cause the website is still broken and there is no indication if a request gets sent or not. Again quite some wait for a response and "We don't ship to Canada", buy it at amazon.com. Umm, it's a free update, I'm not going to buy the full maps again and amazon.com won't even ship Garmin products to Canada. I contact a local retailer to see what they can do. Up until the last product version they shipped out the free updates, not any more. I reply back to support and get nothing.

So I gave up on email support and called in. First time the phone number was unroutable. Called again and into system I go. Two levels of menus with no options that are even remotely close to anything I'm trying to do and the standard "0" just brings up the menu again. Eventually I managed to punch something that put me into a wait queue for a real person. Again and again the system tries to get me to use the website for support, umm no. After a lengthy wait I speak with a real person. She ran through the same path that I had been trying already, although quick enough. After trying to put my order through, figuring out it can't go to Canada, then suggesting that I just order it and me explaining that I can't order the free update we finally got somewhere, well nowhere. She said that the download option was the only choice for Canadians. I didn't really like that answer, how hard is it to ship a DVD to Canada. It became clear that the only reason they don't ship to Canada is the potential for customs owing on delivery. I said I'd be find covering that so long as it wasn't UPS, of course it was, but eventually I just said I'd risk it and lets put in the order. So, in order for her to place my order manually, I had to use the website to order the free update via download to get a product key, which she could then enter into the system to trigger the DVD order. She got it all entered quickly, even figured out how to ship via USPS (yea) and it was done.

The whole process on the phone took less time than the wait and although I described it in detail, it went very quickly and professionally. She followed her script, but understood my problems and found remedies very quickly. Getting to this point was a giant exercise in useless customer service, it was nice that the last backstop (phone support) was solid and functional still.

Incidently, since I had to start the download process, I tried to finish it up. It leads to a java download manager which couldn't download the file. Instead I tried the tiny little link for direct download and simple won out a little while later with a complete file.

Update: Many months later, the download link still appears in my account so I can re-download the software again in both Mac and PC versions.

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