The Good and the Bad of Customer Service

In this business you often have to deal with the customer service departments of hardware and software manufacturers. The experience can be easy and pleasant, frustrating and difficult to the point of enraging, or anything in between. After a while you get a pretty good idea of what kind of company you are dealing with based on their customer service. Following are two examples that illustrate how customer service ought to work, and how it ought not.

First, the good example. I recently had to order a recovery CD for a customer’s Lenovo laptop. I went to the Lenovo website and easily located a number for customer service. Called the number and with two keystrokes was talking with a live, native English-speaking representative. I explained what I needed, they forwarded me once to another rep who gathered some information, then forwarded me one more time, where I confirmed the information and gave a credit card number. They explained that the disk would arrive within 3 business days. The cost was, I thought, quite reasonable. Total time to complete: maybe 12 minutes. This was at about 3 in the afternoon. The next morning when I arrived at work at about 9:45, the CD had already been delivered! I was most impressed. Now contrast that optimal experience with the following.

A customer’s computer had become sluggish and unresponsive when surfing the internet. Eventually the internet quit working altogether. I determined that the problem lay with a program called Puresight, installed originally by a Time Warner tech as part of their free¬† security package.¬† Puresight is one of those net nanny-type programs designed to keep kids safe from internet bullies. It monitors internet connections and shuts out any potentially offensive content. Problem was, the software was filtering so well that nothing at all was getting through.

Dubious value of the software aside, in this case it should not have been installed at all because the customer was a single woman of grandmotherly age. Installing Puresight for her was totally inappropriate.

Obviously, the software needed to be removed. Problem was, removal required a special password, and that password had been supplied by the TW tech, who didn’t bother to inform the customer. Normally this is not a problem either, as you can simply remove the executables manually. But the makers of the software had gotten a little carried away with the security with this program. Long story short, there was no easy way, and maybe not even a difficult one, to remove the Puresight software without knowing that password.

Apparently, Time Warner had subcontracted their security-software development to Computer Associates, who in turn subbed the development of Puresight to an Israeli company. Calls for support to Time Warner and Computer Associates were absolutely fruitless. Time Warner said “Call Computer Associates.” Computer Associates said “call Puresight.” Puresight said nothing. Voice messages were not returned, emails were not answered. Problem was not solved. Fortunately, the customer was OK with simply erasing the hard drive and starting over. But such a drastic step should not have been necessary. If the companies involved had behaved responsibly, done a decent job, and not passed the buck, that customer would not have been inconvenienced, and this computer medic would not have become frustrated and annoyed.

Unfortunately, there seem to be far too few of the good customer-support experiences, and far too many of the bad ones. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t expect exemplary service every time. But is it too much to expect competent service at least most of the time?


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