Thursday, May 19, 2011

Customer Relationship Failures

Here are a few instances of where companies are failing to meet my expectations. For each company and product, I am actively looking for acceptable alternatives.

Bank of America: I just downloaded my recent activity. I had been royally annoyed that BofA signed me up for paperless statements and then claimed that I had requested that. Never. I rely on the monthly statement to remind me to reconcile and I like the security of holding onto paper records for this purpose.

So, I logged on and searched and searched and searched until I found where I turn OFF paperless statements.

Imagine my surprise when I saw monthly maintenance fees on all my checking accounts.

A new payment schedule now declares that because I am not a eBanking customer, because I get a paper statement, they are charging me nearly $30 in monthly fees. And, I couldn't even call them at 9:20 pm to ask about it, because their customer service centers were closed.

I hate surprises from Bank of America. Bank of America; you suck.

Verizon Wireless: I hate my phone. It's an HTC Droid Eris and its just underpowered, weak and pathetic. As a software engineer, I hate using it, especially since I did some iPhone development and had an iPhone for a while. But phones apart, I hate Verizon Wireless more.

At one point a few years ago, while doing iPhone development, I was also helping get a start up off the ground (shout out to Star Street Sports!) and my wife and I blew away our minutes. Me on AT&T and her on Verizon. We had over $1000 in additional fees.

I called AT&T. They asked if I would upgrade to the unlimited minutes plan (only $20 more per month) and, if so, they would waive all the overage fees. I agreed in a heartbeat.

I called Verizon. They asked if I would upgrade to the unlimited minutes plan (only $20 more per month) and, if so, they would -- are you ready? -- give me a 30% discount. What? Excuse me? Your competition waived all the fees and left me feeling really great. You gave me a sucky deal and I had already been a customer for over 14 years, plus added four more additional lines.

Then I discovered that they have a policy that they won't discount more than 50%. So why did I only get 30%? I called back. You see, it's up to the representative who takes the call. So, for what ever reason -- I'm a jerk, the rep was having a bad day -- I got 30% off of the egregious over charges instead of 50%. And I'm still seething because they didn't give me nearly as good a deal as AT&T.

Verizon Wireless; you suck, too.

Callpod Keeper: I used to like my Callpod Keeper. I found it while using an iPhone. Callpod offered a free mobile password safe and I needed a replacement for my old one, which was open sourced and no longer being maintained. For $30 I could buy the desktop and then sync between mobil and desktop. Sweet!

When I switched to my sucky HTC Droid Eris (seriously, this phone is crap), I found Callpod has an Android version, which I installed.

Not long thereafter, having upgraded the app, the app kept asking if I wanted to try a 30 day trial of their premium service, wherein I could sync to the cloud instead of my own desktop. No. No, I don't.

Finally the friggin' pop-ups stop and I get around to syncing my devices. But I can't. Because now, without telling me, Callpod changed the rules. Now, I have to upgrade to their premium service to sync at all. They hid this change -- it was never mentioned anywhere I could see in the upgrade summaries. Now I can't sync my mobile password safe with my desktop safe and the two have inevitably drifted apart.

Callpod: you suck too. I'm chucking your ass out on the street as soon as I find another password safe.

So, there you go. Three examples of different companies pissing me off so royally that I actually spent my time to complain about it publicly.

This is why it was so important to me to make my Hold-it! Game Card Organizer an outstanding value. First, it is great to use and really helps make dozens of games play faster and better. Second, it is seriously sturdy -- I had a 400 lbs. fellow stand on one at a game convention without damaging the unit at all. Finally, I offer an unconditional -- yes, without any conditions -- guarantee for your money back if you don't like my product. Return it for your purchase price.

OK, so the Hold-it! hasn't made me wealthy and it really sucked that the hobby-game industry was deflating at the time I was trying to get my product into the marketplace, but it taught me tons about how to make something that customer will value.

I do no marketing or advertising at all. Nothing. And the Hold-it! continues to sell from my old, ugly website all on its own. Word of mouth. Because the folks who have purchased it (and I've sold it to nearly every continent on the earth) know they have a really good product.

If I could do it, then I really expect Bank of America, Verizon Wireless and Callpod to figure out that pissing off the customer is not good business.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011 is a winner

We have a contractor who works remotely and I was chatting with him on the phone about the project to which we are both assigned. I was trying to talk him through some of the specifics of our administration tool when he said that this would be a lot easier if he could just see my screen.

First thought was iChat, but I already had Colloquy and Adium running and last time I tried iChat it wouldn't connect to the AIM server. (I've since fixed that by connecting to the AIM server on port 443).

Next, I remembered getting an email from LogMeIn about a new service for free screen sharing. I went to the LogMeIn site and found and clicked on it. It started up Java, and I downloaded some Java code and a small tool bar appeared at the top of my screen. It didn't seem to take even a minute. I pasted the link provided in the tool bar into my Colloquy chat window and my colleague clicked on it.

He didn't need to down load anything. The Java code runs on my system, pushes my screen data to the server and he got a Flash driven experience, complete with zooming and screen resizing right away. We never had any lag, though he was working from home quite a few states away.

Fast, Easy, Free, Unobtrusive, Highly Functional: is a winner