Customer Service: The New Paradigm

In chronological order:

1 Need backup hard drive.

2 Order HD with free delivery. Get it in a couple of days. Easy!

3 Order HD enclosure from popular high-speed/low-drag online retailer.

4 Install HD in enclosure. Plug into computer. Computer doesn’t recognize. Plug into second computer, with same result. WTF?

5 Driver conflict? Attempt to contact tech support at enclosure mfr. Phone number goes to answering machine. Send email query. They answer in a couple of days: “We will upload the driver to, please check the site in few days and down load the driver.” OK.

6 Call retailer. Much time on hold. Customer-svc rep can’t help, says only option: send back for refund, pay restocking fee — hassle, and still need an enclosure. Decide to wait a while: maybe mfr will upload driver soon? That will solve all problems! Yes.

7 Waiting for drivers to be uploaded. Two weeks pass. Nothing. Retailer’s time limit for refund expires.

8 Annoyed. Finally dawns that there is no driver. Mfr was blowing smoke, or smoking blow, or something. Go to retailer’s website and complete online RMA request to return enclosure. Append testy note demanding refund. Fedex enclosure back to retailer.

9 Still need a HD enclosure. Still curious why enclosure didn’t work. Check out customer reviews of returned enclosure at retailer’s site. Hmm. Latest review, added since I purchased enclosure, says:

The only thing that had me struggling for a while is that the drive was brand new and XP Pro will not recognize the unit unless the disk is partitioned. That would have been nice to know 2 hours ago. Also, the jumper setting on the disk drive has to be “Master (Single)” and NOT the factory default of “Cable select”.

10 I’m using a brand new, unpartitioned disk. Do you think. . .

11 Partition HD using another enclosure. Takes 1 minute.

12 Receive replacement enclosure, identical to first, from retailer who completely ignored note attached to RMA request.

13 Install HD and test. Works immediately. Perform computer backup.

14 Total time: 7 weeks.

17 thoughts on “Customer Service: The New Paradigm”

  1. The MA/SL/CS jumper on the HD has more tendency to cause grief than any other jumper in the box.
    What it sounds like was it was supposed to be installed with Western Digital’s Data Lifeguard software; it manages and explains all this crap.
    As for the service guy saying they’re gonna make a driver, that’s called “make him go away”.

  2. It’s been a nostrum for nearly 300 years that specialization is the key to efficiency. How long did you spend on this? Tell me again why you were doing it yourself?

  3. RTFM

    The manual is worthless. And obviously the next time I buy one of these devices I won’t have any problems. The problem was that 1) the manufacturer didn’t include in the instruction manual the critical information that the guy who wrote the customer review reported, 2) the manufacturer didn’t have this important information on its web site and didn’t respond to its own published customer service phone number, and 3) when I sent an email to the manufacturer’s published customer service email address, the person who responded apparently decided to fuck with me rather than provide accurate information. So I ended up wasting a lot of time before I stumbled upon the solution to problem.

    I don’t blame the retailer, who performed as promised. However, the manufacturer shouldn’t publish customer-support contact information unless it actually provides support.

    Dave Schuler: I did it myself because it should be simple, and when it didn’t work I tried to get answers from people who should know, and they gave me the wrong answer. The last time I installed a HD in an enclosure I either didn’t have the same problem or got accurate information and resolved the problem quickly.

  4. The issue of customer support, in the broadest sense, is one that receives far too little support from most companies. Ideally, you want to deliver a product which requires minimal calls to hotlines, and you want to make those calls that do happen as short as possible…it’s frightening how quickly a few customer-service calls can totally demolish the gross margin on many products. To accomplish these things, you need to worry about:
    1)Designing user interfaces properly
    2)Providing readable documentation…which must be short so that people *will* read it
    3)Making on-line support tools as capable as possible
    4)Insuring that phone support people are properly trained and incentivized
    5)Particulary key: Listening to feedback from those customer support people, because they’re usually the ones who know where the shoe pinches. Few companies seem to do this systematically.

    And very few companies seem to address all of the above areas in any structured manner.

  5. Good points. In this case the problem could be addressed very easily by either adding a few lines to the written manual or printing up a one-sheet supplement. As there’s probably also a lot of product already on distributors’ shelves, the manufacturer could also post any such updates on its web site. It already does this for other products, so perhaps the central problem here lies in the manufacturer’s system for gathering customer feedback.

  6. Sadly, this is the state of things these days. Mr. Heh up there is full of shit. Half the time the manual is less useful than toilet paper (at least you can clean your bottom with the TP – the product manual is too scratchy).

    I cannot recall how many times I’ve been through a similar situation where the key information was stated badly or not at all in the product documentation, the company’s support site or anywhere else. If it works right the first time, great. If not, heaven help you. Most of the time, I find solutions on obscure forums that I blunder into using Google.

    Not to be a Mac snob, but it’s one of the nice things about using the Apple platform. Most of the time, everything works when you plug it in. In the PC world, where I have years of expertise, I’m something of an expert at figuring out obscure internal Windows driver and configuration problems and getting them to work. The joy of the Mac is that on that platform, I can just be a user.

    I’ve always wondered what ordinary people do with problems like this. Mostly give up in frustration I imagine. This is the cost of the “user choice” environment we have in the Wintel world. I’m not suggesting that the Mac is for everyone, but it would be nice if there were several choices of computing “closed” envirnments, where things were designed, tested and verified to work compatibly.

  7. Most of the time, I find solutions on obscure forums that I blunder into using Google.

    Right, and thank God for that. It’s similar to what happened in this case. The optimistic take on all this is that nowadays Google and user forums compensate for the inadequacies of formal support, a point that I made here.

    But sometimes, even with Google, it still takes a lot of time and trouble to get the right answer. The enclosure manufacturer could have saved me a lot of work by keeping its web site updated. How difficult is that?

  8. “…keeping its web site updated. How difficult is that?”

    Apparently it’s difficult enough that many companies can’t do it well. I feel like I’ve experienced more than my fair share of similar experiences.

    However, it does take quite a few resources (man/woman-hours mostly) to follow up on this kind of thing and the fact is that by the time a product is on the shelf in this industry, most of the technical people are well into the development of the next great thing.

    If my B-school was right then perhaps this is a risk the general marketplace has unconsiously accepted in return for rock bottom pricing.

  9. Hey, missed the original 2003 post. Genius my friend, pure genius. (couldn’t comment on post as it is closed)

  10. Genius = drawing conclusion google is replacing customer support. I do the same w/google, but never thought about it that way. So either you’re a genius, or I’m slow in drawing conclusions = )

  11. I first heard about this idea from someone I know. A long time ago he told me that for Windows errors generated by software that he was developing, he no longer wasted time tracking down the meaning of the errors on Microsoft’s site, but would type the error number into Google instead. Much more efficient.

  12. Some times these things drive you nuts. I bought a case for a computer that had a special cooling system. I followed the instalation instructions meticulously, it started overheating.

    Lots of craping around. Finally, I called the manufacturer. They sent me new instructions. They refused to acknowledge that they had changed the instructions. Fortunately no permanent damage was sustained.

    BTW, My experiences with the retailer mentioned have been very good.

  13. “If my B-school was right then perhaps this is a risk the general marketplace has unconsiously accepted in return for rock bottom pricing”…I think this is only partly true. It’s true that you can’t sell cheap products and provide large amounts of one-on-one customer support…all the reason to make the products easy to install & use and to insure that when CS calls *are* necessary, things get resolved in the first call. All too often, the poor organization of support-related efforts has two malign effects: (a)infuriate the customer, while (b)driving up costs.

  14. My experience with NewEgg has also been uniformly good.

    David is right. Not only did I waste time but the retailer and manufacturer probably both lost money on an unnecessary return of merchandise.

  15. Jonathan, why should it be simple? Manufacturers should be in the business of manufacturing not installing. That you were unable to install the product in a reasonable amount of time is prima facie evidence that you should have had someone competent install it.

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