Usually dealing with customer service is a heinous proposition; because by the time you actually need customer support you are usually at a level of aggravation whereby a call to customer support is only going to elevate your irritation.
But if there is anything even MORE irritating than customer support, it is technical support. The computer industry is notorious for being what is likely the absolute worst when it comes to providing technical support. Now, in theory I don’t mind if I’m talking to someone in Cupertino or Fargo or New Delhi. Really, if you can solve my problem, that’s what I’m looking for. But, the problem with most tech support is that it is outsourced, and the outsourced tech supporters often seem to know even less about the product than you do. They merely go through their checklist from 1 to 100. “Please to tell me, sir, is your computer turned on?”
“Yes, as I mentioned I’m pretty far along in my troubleshooting, I am deep into the Control Panel options and just need to…” “Sir. Sir. Please, sir. What I need for you to do for me is to follow these steps. So, please to tell me, is your computer turned on?”
This process agonizingly continues until 35 steps later – and multiple “Now I must place you on hold and talk to my supervisor” – when they finally arrive at the question you needed to have answered.
But I dealt with Lutron’s technical support on two separate occasions lately, and I must say, they are the best. Not “they are one of the” and not “they are among the.” They are THE best. These guys were fast, they were dialed in, they were patient, and they totally knew their stuff.
I’m in the midst of reviewing their new Radio RA2 automated lighting system for the October issue of
Residential Systems, and t his past weekend I kitted out my house with 17 switches . (OK. I kitted it out with 16; my wife’s dad installed the 17th.) But, I’m not a lighting installer guy. So, when I pulled all the old switches out, I had some weirdness that I didn’t understand. Three wires in some boxes, four wires in others, a random silver screw that looked like it might need to be used. And you know how the old saying goes, “Lighting is only happy when it is killing,” so I called Lutron… on a Saturday… and my call was almost immediately answered… by a totally native English speaking guy… who walked me through all the scenarios of how to check for power and the lighting load and how to safely test the circuit.
It was amazing and awesome and thorough. He gave me like three full scenarios to work through for different possibilities of how my 4-way switches might be wired and troubleshooting and solutions for each eventuality. He let me start be explaining where I was in the process, he assessed my skill level and he proceeded accordingly. Never once did he berate me about not checking the manual or imply that I needed to just give up on this madness and hire an actual electrician.
So, last night I finally got the programming software downloaded, did all the programming and I was ready to dump the program into the system and start doing some serious lighting control. You know, pressing “Dinner” and watching all the lights turn off except for a dimmed kitchen and brightened dining room. Or randomly dimming or turning my bedroom lights off from my couch just for the hell of it, all the while cackling madly like a drunken Zeus.
Now, part of the problem for me is that, because I’m at work during nearly everyone’s regular business hours, I usually can’t get help when I’m at home in front of the gear. Usually I have to make arrangements for people to stay late, or get someone’s cell phone and possibly call them when they’re right in the middle of sexy time. Whatever. So, it’s about 11 p.m., and I’m finally ready to hit “Transfer” and it zips through two screens of transferring and…fails. Zero of 9 components. So I do it again. And again! It says it’s connected, my computer has located and identified the processor, so why the failure? Power cycle, retry, fail.
I am not one who minds getting help. I have none of that, “Let’s just keep driving and maybe we’ll figure it out” ego. At the first sign of trouble, I like to immediately cut my losses and call in for help. So I call Lutron tech support. And get a person. Another English speaker.
Now, you’re probably thinking that I’m getting extra special Resi Systems level support. And, you’re right. I SHOULD be. I should have a series of touch tones that I type in that identifies me and then bypasses all the holds and waits and takes me right to THE guy. But I don’t. I just called up the Lutron tech number listed on the materials like any other schlub Lutron customer. So, I explain to this tech what my problem is. He agrees that it sounds like it should be working, but thinks that it might be something with the initializing process and all the packets of data that are trying to whisk over my WiFi network or something.
So he walks me through the process of directly connecting my laptop to the processor, creating temporary static IP settings, re-identifying the processor, etc. and voila! It works. I ended up being able to solve my problem WAY after hours, and didn’t end the call feeling any less of a man for it.
Don’t believe me? Just wait until midnight – whatever time zone you’re in, Lutron doesn’t care – and call 800.523.9466 sometime. Just say you’re checking in. Because when they say 24/7 they mean frickin’ TWENTY-FOUR / SEVEN. (Did the capitals and spelling it out add the necessary gravitas?)
So, BIG kudos to you, Lutron. You own the tech support crown. Now, please start training everyone else.