Monday, November 17, 2008

Lousy customer service - Linksys style

I am so sick of bad or non-existent customer support from these big multinationals, and technology companies are, by far, the absolute worst. Given this is a technical medium, I expect anyone reading this blog will be able to nod sympathetically and drag out the t-shirt. But as long as we put up with their bullshit service nothing will change, so I write letters, make phone calls when I can find a number, and write online, pointing out the failings of their useless support offerings. I also write letters and make phone calls when I’ve received exceptional service, so this isn’t simply a one-way street. (As an aside, with 20-odd years of managing support teams under my belt, I do have some idea of what it takes to provide good service. And the very real cost of crappy service.)

So my latest rant is with Linksys/Cisco. I have this older Linksys router that has been causing some problems recently, so rather than simply calling Linksys technical support, I tried to do what every support person will tell you to do first anyway, and that is make sure you’re running the latest version of the firmware.

Off to the Linksys site. Find my router. Find there’s a new firmware release. Download it.

So far so good, until I try to install the upgrade, when I get a bolded red message:
Upgrade action is not finish!! (sic) Upgrade file pattern error. (First clue about the quality of their support should have been the spelling mistake – or is it a grammar mistake in this case?)

Repeat all of the above a couple of times just to make sure I do have the latest file, etc. with no luck. So it’s on to the Contact Us page where I find they have a real-time chat facility. Great!

I enter my name, address, product model and serial number, age of my firstborn, annual income and the secret Masonic password and hit the chat button. “Chat cancelled”. WTF? Try again. “Chat cancelled”. No explanation, no nothing, just sod off you stupid twit. (Okay, so that’s my interpretation.)

All right then, let’s try the phone. Traverse several layers of auto attendant to finally reach Angel, a real live technical support person with a generic accent that doesn’t give away her third world location. I go through the name, address, serial number thing all over again and she asks what the nature of the problem is. So I explain. Then she starts asking a whole series of irrelevant questions about the number of connected computers and so on. When I objected, her response was to explain their pricing structure for support. Okay, she could have done that 10 minutes earlier and saved a lot of time, but she didn’t. The bottom line? For roughly the price of a new router, she will help me this one time.

“Wait a minute” says I, “I’m not looking for help installing or configuring my router. I’m trying to tell you there appears to be a problem with your download file.”

“Sorry, I can’t help you” she says, “it’s company policy. But if you want, you can send us an email.” She kindly provides the link.

Open the link. Web-mail form. Enter all the info again, including make, model, serial number, sexual orientation, etc and explain the problem in graphic detail. Press send. Wait. Response: “Thank you for contacting Linksys Support. The product you selected requires telephone support by a dedicated team. Please call our toll free number (800) 326-7114 for support. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause you.” And I’m right back to Angel.

So Cisco/Linksys, my support experience today sucked in so many ways I could use it for a case study. Perhaps you’re counting on the fact that time is money and most people would simply give up, toss the old box, and go buy a new one. If that’s your business model – disposable routers – then okay, but don’t lead your customers on and let them think you actually care! Because when you do that, customers like me (and there are a lot of us out here) will just go and buy an anything-but-Linksys product, of which there are many. And, in the process, will probably provide some free publicity for you.


Anonymous said...

I've had problems with a wireless linksys router and I found that same chat function quite helpful on two occasions. Of all the companies I've dealt with I think linksys was the best in terms of customer service.

I'm sure that is something you didn't want to hear.


Canajun said...


I'm not too surprised to hear that. After all they are still in business so not everyone is getting p'ed off and leaving.

But that inconsistency is a big part of the problem too. There have been studies that show a person experiencing excellent service will tell 1 or 2 others, whereas a person experiencing bad service will tell 8 or 9 or more. So even if 75% of their service experiences are excellent, that's still not good enough to stay on the plus side of the ledger.

Too bad really because it's not rocket science. All that's needed is attention to detail - meaningful messages, regularly tested links, current information posted online.