A few weeks ago I purchased a very expensive piece of software from a company I'll call Baked Mud Software. As part of the purchase I am entitled to get a free upgrade to the next major version, which was released just last week. Here are the steps I've gone through so far (more or less):
- Look on the company's website for upgrade information. Fail to find it.
- Use Google to find a web page buried deep inside Baked Mud's site with upgrade instructions. So far so good.
- Fill out a web form, including a copy of my scanned receipt. Click "Submit." This is the point where I descend into Customer Service Hell.
- Get the page: "We're sorry, we encountered an error processing your request."
- Click the "Broken link? Send us an E-mail" link.
- Get the generic top-level "Contact Baked Mud" web page.
- Click the "Contact Service and Support" link. This goes to a generic web page about how to search the help files and access the online forums. In other words, useless.
- The other link on the "Contact Baked Mud" page is labeled "Visit Product Help and Support Centers." This link goes to another generic web page about searching help files and accessing forums. Also useless.
- Try going back to the web form from step 3. Now the form itself is unavailable and gives the same error message.
- At some point, a popup window appears inviting me to take a survey. I give Baked Mud a "1" on all 20+ questions. I also provide my e-mail address and a long description of the problem I'm having in the comment box.
- Nothing happens in response to the survey in step 10 (it's been over a day).
- Several hours later I go back to the form in step 3. The form is available again, but still gives an error when trying to submit it. Then the form becomes unavailable again.
- Oh look, there's a box in the window offering online chat support.
- It also says that all chat agents are unavailable and won't let me click it.
- Try steps 3-14 a few more times over the course of two days.
- Finally give up on the website. After clicking around a while, I finally find a phone number for customer service.
- The first message I hear when dialing customer service instructs me that if I'm trying to get my upgrade, I should go to a particular web page. This is the same web page which has been broken for two days.
- Spend about five minutes navigating the phone menus.
- Spend about ten minutes on hold.
- Finally reach a person. He's nice and his English skills are good, but he clearly isn't a native speaker. I spend five mintues spelling my e-mail address before he gets it right.
- After explaining my problem, the response I get is "our systems are really busy, I can't submit this request for you, try the web page again in a week." To his credit, the customer service representative is very patient and doesn't try to rush me as he does absolutely nothing to help.
- Give up. For the time being.
I understand when a big company has a major product release things can get crazy. But some companies manage events like this with a whole lot more grace.
The irony is that Baked Mud recently won an award from a very expensive consulting company for its "Voice of the Customer" program. I'm not sure what they did to earn that award, but it's pretty clear from where I sit that there's still considerable room for improvement.