Friday, March 06, 2009

Can we talk customer service?

If I asked you which would you expect to provide better customer service—a large, well-funded, established, blue-chip consumer products company... say, Dell? Or a new start-up company, known for its low prices and salacious advertising, what would you say?

Yeah, yeah. I gave it away with the logo. But seriously. In the last couple of weeks, I have been on the phone (for different reasons) with Sprint, H-P, Microsoft and Dell. And on the phone with GoDaddy.

How did it go, you ask? Let me say that I've sworn to do everything I can to never buy another HP product again. I can't seem to find anyone at Dell who wants to take my money. And Microsoft? Imagine, if you will, the following:

Tech support: "Click Properties."
Me: "Properties for what?" [note to reader: there is a list of items, you can highlight any one and hit Properties for that item]
Tech support: "Do you see the Properties button?"
Me: "Yes."
Tech support: "Click it."
Me, frustrated: "but Properties for what?"
Tech support: "Let's go back to the beginning"
Me, more frustrated: "Beginning?"
Tech support: "Are you in the General tab?"
Me, even more frustrated: "Yes."
Tech support: "Do you see the Properties button?"
Me, incredibly frustrated: "Yes."
Tech support: "Click it."
Me: [throws phone through window and accidentally kills innocent dog on sidewalk.]

Eventually this astrophysicist who is staffing the Microsoft help-desk for kicks and giggles tells me that because I have Microsoft's latest service pack installed, I am simply out of luck; something I manage to disprove about two hours later through a combination of googling and determination. Please note, though, it is because I installed Microsoft's own latest update to their own software that their representative told me she couldn't help me.

I still haven't actually managed to find someone at Dell that I can simultaneously understand and who can find my account in their system. This is especially a shame as I am trying to figure out how to pay them.

I've spoken to Sprint four times since May and each time I get a different story, a different resolution and hear a different policy. Not one of the representatives has a direct line or email address, and the few (read: many) times I was disconnected, you'll be shocked, shocked I say, to hear that no one called me back and of course I had to start the endless wending through the automated voice system from square one.

As for GoDaddy? I called them up the other day because about 10 urls renewed automatically that I don't want. I spoke to this intelligible and intelligent guy named Matt, who lives in northern California and who couldn't have been nicer. He took care of my refund right away, walked me through some ways to save money on my upcoming renewals and the hosting plans I was considering, sent me several incredibly clear emails regarding how to transfer my current site from one hosting plan to the other, and gave me his real, direct email address in case I had any trouble later on.

So here's my idea. GoDaddy opens another business—operating the customer service centers for large companies that can't do it for themselves. Because leaving these companies to their own devices is clearly not working.

Oh, and the exception that proves that rule? Apple. I was on the phone with them the other day, and spoke with Jason. Nicest guy ever. Fixed my problem in 20 minutes, even though I was hooking up an Apple peripheral to a PC. Badda bing, badda bang. It's not even design, and Steve still gets it right.

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