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The Soul-Crushing Defeat of a Horrendous Tech Support Experience

At times we are all forced to suck it up and call a company’s tech support for help. In my personal experience, there are three companies whose support truly rocks: Crestron, Lutron, and Pakedge, but this story is not about any of them. It’s about a company that did not do such a great job. (Photo via Tom Merton | Calaimage | Getty Images)

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At times we are all forced to suck it up and call a company’s tech support for help. Fortunately, there are many companies that we deal with that have truly phenomenal departments, with people on the other end of the phone that have “been-there, done-that,” and understand what we’re dealing with and help us to resolve an issue without treating us like the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons might (“worst caller…EVER!”)

In my personal experience, there are three companies whose support truly rocks: Crestron, Lutron, and Pakedge, but this story is not about any of them. It’s about a company that did not do such a great job.

We recently performed a service call on a customer’s security camera DVR, helping him to get it reconnected to his network and making sure that he could see all of his cameras remotely. Turned out that he’d had a couple of recent power failures and that one of them had taken out the power supply on four of his cameras, so swapping it out with a new one was a quick, in-and-out fix.

After my tech left, the homeowner continued to have issues with his iPhone app, being able to only see four of his six cameras. I knew that the cameras were working because I could remotely view all of the cams on both a desktop and an iPad, so I knew that it was just some simple setting. As it was a Saturday and I was stuck in the showroom, I asked if he would come in to our store and bring his phone with him, as I was sure that I could figure it out for him.

He came in, and I could just not figure out how to get all six cameras on the screen. I knew that it was a simple setting, but I’ll be darned if I could find it. I tried closing and opening the app, restarting the iPhone, and even deleting and reinstalling the app. So instead of continuing to struggle with it, I decided to call the company’s 24/7 technical support. After waiting through the nine calls ahead of me in the queue, I got to a tech and started answering his basic questions about my name and phone number, etc.

However the conversation came to a grinding halt when he asked me if I’d registered the DVR. I explained that I was the dealer/installer and that I didn’t know if it had been registered or not. At that point the tech said he was completely unable to help me–that he could lose his job–until the unit was registered. He said it was something that could only be done online and only takes a few minutes, so I asked if he would mind waiting on the line while I registered, since it was clearly so fast and easy, but he said he couldn’t, other callers waiting and whatnot.

I explained that the system was a couple of years old at this point and that there was a good chance we had indeed registered it, could he check for us? He explained that this was a new policy that had only been in place for like a month, so there was not chance we had already registered. He didn’t actually add, “So suck it!” at the end, but his attitude certainly suggested it was implied.

So while he was talking, I clicked on the all-important registration link and was taken to…a dead page. I closed it and tried again…still dead. I told the guy that the link was dead and that I couldn’t register, and he said there was nothing he could to. By this point, I had actually figured out the problem with the iPhone; there was a setting under the edit page where you selected whether to view 4, 8, or 16 cameras–but now this tech had raised my dander and my blood pressure.

I said something to the effect of, “Hey, man. You can’t tell me that you won’t help me until I register the unit and then not give me a way to register the unit. Your product comes with free lifetime tech support and my client is standing right here, and we need some help with your product.” Again, his hands were tied. It was policy. He could lose his job for helping us. I can’t imagine that recruiting an ISIS informant would be much more difficult than getting this guy to budge.

I asked to be elevated to a supervisor and he gave me an email address that was a generic support. I said, “Really? There’s not an actual person that I can talk to or a send an email to?!” When he said no I slammed the phone down in disgust and apologized to my client, explaining that the registration site would probably be up soon and that I’d email him the link. In the meantime I went to email a scathing missive to the support email address, except it bounced back, also undeliverable.

Over the next couple of days I started getting emails from my customer.
“Just fyi the product registration site is still down. I complained about this Sunday morning to a telephone rep who assured me the site would be up in an hour or two, which did not happen. This puts purchasers seeking technical support in a Catch 22 situation since no service is provided until the product is registered but the product can’t be registered until the website comes back up. Please mention this situation to [your business partner] as he should know about the deficient Tech Support access for products your store sells. If this was a critical security situation and no Tech Support was available because the product couldn’t be registered, it could be a real problem for some of your other customers.”

“John, it looks like we still cannot register products using that link. Would you please check and let me know whether you are able to get on. This is ridiculous. Institute a new policy and then be unable to let customers comply with it. Please respond.”

On Monday I called the company’s pre-sales number and explained my frustration to a guy who had zero sympathy and who acted like my customer and I were being unreasonable to not understand that websites go down, even with the largest companies. When it was clear he was offering nothing beyond, “Have your customer call me and I will explain about our website,” I thanked him with as much sarcasm as I could muster which, #humblebrag, is pretty damn much, and hung up.

So, even though I had resolved the issue my customer came in for and his system was working correctly, in his mind the system still wasn’t correct and wouldn’t be until his DVR was registered. This was a case where I went with a low-cost DVR to meet a budget on the work the customer wanted. Of course, after the fact, the customer isn’t going to want to hear about how we went with this company because of budget, but the quality of a company’s tech support should certainly never be undersold when telling someone why we are recommending a specific component, especially if it might carry a premium price.

Kinda related, but mostly just submitted for your amusement, here is part of a transcript from a recent online chat I had with a Linksys tech. And before any of you say, “Linksys! You got what you deserved!” to that I say, “SHUT UP!” and “I know…”

Me:OK. I’m pretty tech savvy. I’m more interested in what do I do AFTER I do this if my speeds are still terrible? I’ve confirmed that a new router fixes the problem. So if I do this and my problem is not resolved, how do I go about getting a replacement from Linksys…..?

Marie Nessa S:Actually, your router’s warranty just ended.

Me:It’s a year old?! Really?

Marie Nessa S:Yes. So if the router is proven defective, I suggest that you purchase a new one. Don’t worry. I can give you a 10% loyalty discount.

Me: Don’t worry? I’m actually kinda worried that my $179 router lasted BARELY a year…. And 10%? Whoop-di-do. 🙁 How old is my router by the way? What is the purchase date on it…?

Marie Nessa S: November 1, 2013.

Me: So, it is still under warranty for like 2 days then, right….? 1 year warranty? 365 days? I’m covered till Nov 1, 2014 right….?

Marie Nessa S: No, only until October 31, 2014, which is today.

Me:In the United States, where I AM, today is October 30, 2014. All day. So I’m good until tomorrow. Right? Also, I can’t believe Linksys would deny me coverage for being out of warranty LITERALLY by hours.

Marie Nessa S:I’m sorry for that, John. Just following the protocol.

Me: So, I’m under warranty until the 31st, which is tomorrow. Which means if your reboot doesn’t work, I want a new one.

Marie Nessa S:Yes.

Me: OK. So here’s the thing. You’re telling me my router is BARELY under warranty. I’m saying it is not working correctly. If I reboot it and it works for 24 hours and then stops working I am going to be out of warranty. Either you/your supervisor extends my warranty for a one-month period to make sure that it keeps working, or I want a new one while I am still covered. Do I need to go to a supervisor here….? I feel like I’m about to get pissy…


John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.