Thursday, June 14, 2007

Who Is Talking To Your Customers?

We all know the drill - talking to "customer support" is kind of like gambling, and hoping you get that one person who actually knows what they're talking about. I guess people who understand the product have better things to do, huh?

I've got three stories lined up, little lessons if you will, in how poor customer support can impact your customers.

For this story, we'll start with The Teaching Company. As a disclaimer, I love this company, and recommend them, without reservation. If you are at all interested in continuing education, go give them a try - they have a Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee on everything they sell. In the past, every time I've talked to their support staff, I've found a real, helpful person, who listened to my problems and went the extra mile to take care of me (I'm sure it helps that I've bought a ton of stuff there, but the support person gets bonus points if they were able to figure that out).

Which makes this story all the more sad, because it's the first blight on a previously perfect record.

The Teaching Company sells lectures. Because I listen to them on the way to and from work, I can often clock 90 minutes of "learning" per day. That means I go through lots of courses when I'm in that mode. So, I'm always on the look out for something cheaper. When they started offering reduced cost (non-drm!) digital downloads, I jumped right in.

As it turns out, my particular iPod has some problems with some of their AAC files. They play fine under iTunes, and on different iPods, so it's hard to say what the problem is - but it's persistent, and only affects these files. Crazy things, like rebooting the iPod whenever one of the tracks plays. Since they also have MP3 downloads, I figure no big deal, I'll use those instead. You can login whenever you want to redownload the lectures (are you listening iTunes?).

Being a friendly sort of guy, I decided to pass on my testing info to my friends at the Teaching Company in case it might be helpful to them (I didn't bother trying to talk to Apple about it - I'd be shocked to find someone there who cared). So I wrote up a note, basically "Don't worry, I'm using the MP3's, but I thought you might want to know I had this weird behaviour with many of your files."

The response?

Thank you for your email! I apologize for the error you've been receiving when trying to download. For immediate assistance with all download issues, please contact our customer service department at 1800-832-2412.

If you've been following this story, I didn't have any problems trying to download, although kudos for making it easy to get to a real person. Sigh... I'm just not sure why I bothered to send the info in the first place.

Teaching Company, I forgive you - you do so many other things right. Just remember - who is talking to your customers?

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