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Customer Service, the Good and the Bad

Mark Edwards

With the level of knowledge every large company has about the importance of good customer service, I am amazed at the breadth of the spectrum of customer service experiences we receive. In the last few weeks I have encountered both ends of this spectrum.

About a month ago I purchased a new computer and had to reinstall all of my software onto it. At best this is a time consuming and annoying process that seldom goes without a hitch. I struck two.

The first was during the installation of Adobe PageMaker - the desktop publishing package. On installation, I was asked for a registration number, which I could not find, so decided to call Adobe telephone support for assistance.

I found the free call number on their website quite easily and was connected to a very helpful person in their call centre. He verified my license details, found the number I wanted then offered to walk me through the registration process. The process took about two minutes and my software was up and running.

Soon after I installed my QuickBooks software. I use the subscription service they offer which, in return for an annual subscription payment, provides you with the latest version of QuickBooks when released. I installed the software and imported my company data. When I started QuickBooks to test everything out I was required to enter my registration number. When I did this I was told the software had already been registered and I would have to call Quicken to register it again.

This was understandable as a means of copyright protection. I have encountered this previously with Microsoft who would let you reinstall their Office product twice before requiring that you call them to explain why you needed to install the software again before issuing you a valid registration number.

I called the Quicken registration number where a recorded voice informed me that automated registration was free the first time and after that a $9 administration fee was charged for re-registration! At first, I thought this could not apply to me. I checked my documentation again only to find that I had no other choice than to pay before being able to talk to a person about my re-registration.

I called the number still thinking I could get the charge reversed later. I was wrong. The very helpful Quicken support person gave me my new registration code and informed me that there were no exceptions to the charge. If your hard drive fails, or a virus damages it, or you buy a new machine, as in my case, and you have to reinstall your software they charge you!

What surprised me even further was that I was not asked why I was reinstalling the software before being given my new registration code. I volunteered the reason to see if charging to install my software really was Quicken policy. Whilst I was very polite to the phone support person I was now extremely angry at Quicken. This policy was not aimed at countering piracy at all!

Surely acceptable use of QuickBooks should include being allowed to reinstall your software at no charge for a legitimate reason? If Quicken want to limit their administration cost then simply allow one free re-registration or alternatively provide an online form requiring your re-registration reason. From my perspective, Quicken appeared to be treating me as an annoyance rather than the lifeblood of their business.

Even though I had spent a lot of time on setting up my new computer, I was angry enough to take time out to write a two-page letter to the Quicken Australia head office in Sydney. I invited them to respond to my customer service complaint. I let them know that in two weeks time they would feature in this customer service article.

Two days later I received a response. Not from Quicken, but from Adobe Customer Satisfaction! Adobe had sent me a very pleasant email to say "Adobe is interested in how well we handled your recent support request and how you evaluate our support services in general." They asked for my feedback via an online survey. I was very impressed! The survey was very well designed to provide detailed feedback about every aspect of how my inquiry was handled. I could see that Adobe was a company committed to continually improving their already impressive level of customer service.

Quicken Australia did not even bother to respond. I think I might go and check out MYOB.

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