Customer service

I've had a bad bout of customer service requests in the last month that have really been frustrating me. Call this a little rant, but also a suggestion for anyone who creates a public front-end, a website, or even a company that deals with the public. (If I complain about something, I'm suppose to give a alternative. Otherwise, I can't complain.)

First is Roku. I picked up a Roku XDS box about a month ago. It was right before they announced the Roku 2 and started selling it a week after I got my Roku box. This was... annoying in itself, but I'm not going to return it just because I was a week early.

However, I got the XDS because it would play MKV files. It said it would on their website. And, I have 1.6 TB worth of movies in MKV file formats (the ripping process is slow) because I'm slightly hard-of-hearing and use captioning. I found out after I got it that it didn't do MKV over the network. MKV is only supported with USB drives. In addition, it didn't support any captioning on anything, including NetFlix. These are survivable, but it makes movies a little less enjoyable for me since the words don't always make sense to me and I end up rewinding 3-4 times to understand something.

I know the Roku had firmware updates, so I sent an email asking about the network MKV and captioning. Two weeks of nothing. Then a friendly reminder asking for a survey on my answer. I never got one. I bitched a bit and I got a response, answering the question for the Roku 2 and only answering one question (the captioning). I replied to the email asking for the answer on the second. After another "how was your service email" and a second bitching, they answered the question about the Roku 2. I don't have a Roku 2. I have a Roku. I said that very clearly in the first, second, and fourth email.

I believe in word of mouth for recommendations. How could I recommend a company that can't answer the questions in an email? And actually send out the emails?

Also, if there is a web-based contact form, why not make it a contact thread/ticket tracking system instead? There some really good ones and it would have let me enter my model number in a drop-down list and maybe they would answer the questions I had?

Related to that, Lulu has recently redone their storefronts. I had one account on Lulu for my books under both bylines (this one is private access for the beta copies, if you figure out the secret code you can get a copy!). However, they sent an email that said I would get a storefront in a week. And... I don't really want these two bylines together. So, I used the web form to ask how hard it would be to split the account into the two bylines. Three weeks later, nothing. Yesterday, I got on their live chat (which I dislike immensely) and asked questions. While I won't yell at people on chat, I think the strongest I got was "... this is not optimal." Apparently, Lulu not only can't split an account, they also can't transfer a book with an ISBN from one account to another. So, if I needed to split the accounts, I had to lose my ISBN and order a new one for the books in print.

... this is not optimal.

Fortunately, they use email for logins and I only had one byline with published, non-private books. I had to redo the account information entirely and create a new account for this one. It was annoying (and they didn't even say I could), but the complete lack of flexibility frustrated me. They could easily prove I control both accounts and it should be a simple foreign key change in a database table. I would have paid to have it switch instead of ranting for a day before I figured out how to bypass their braindead rules. If I had two books published under two bylines, I probably would have blown a fuse.

So, lesson for the day, is if you have two isolated bylines, create two separate accounts from the beginning. Also, I used a web contact form that basically ended up being lost in the Abyss. A tracking system would have been so much nicer if I could look at my ticket request.

The third (there is only four), is some feedback from stories submitted. I know it is minor, but it seems like most editors that I submit to neither give a confirmation they got the story/email, don't respond to any requests for updates, and don't give a rejection email. This is... sad and frustrating. I don't like knowing that I was rejected when I read the table of contents. Again, a ticket tracking system would be awesome for this and if I ever publish books/stories, I'll do that. I think my feelings on this will get more since I'll be submitting Flight in the next few months, with an estimated time to responses in months, not weeks.

Finally, the car. One of my cars has been in the shop for roughly four weeks now with electrical problems. I got it back one and promptly rejected it the next day because of minor things (stalling out in the driveway, trunk not working, random lights turning on). I don't really have much in terms of how to fix this one, but this and the previous mechanic had serious quality issues with repairs. What is it with cars that does this? Can't they check all the buttons to make sure they work? I see this with programmers all the time; they fix exactly what is on the ticket and check nothing else. A coworker always talks about negative testing and making sure the rest of the system works with your "fix".

So, four frustrating experiences with customer service lately. And a reminder that public ticket tracking systems (even if you can only see your own accounts) would have made my life a lot easier.