• United States

Scoring customer service

Feb 02, 20065 mins
Data Center

Reader Bob Hayes sent me a tale of trying to get a software upgrade and how the vendor’s customer service did their best to make the purchase as unpleasant as possible …

OK, I want to upgrade some software and we’re going to grade the company on my so called “experience.” We start with 5 points out of 10, because the software is critical to our business and works pretty well, but it’s only 5 out of 10 because it’s been FOUR years since the last update so I’m only marginally happy with the company because they seem to be letting it die on the vine after acquiring the software from the original developer through a subsidiary, since dissolved into the parent.

First off, it’s a $125 upgrade for a v6.0 to 6.5 release, compared to $599 for a whole new license. That’s a fairly expensive upgrade, so the company in question loses a point immediately, and we haven’t even started yet.

    Score so far: 4 out of possible 10.

Step 1. Go to company website from a link on a news page, which is how I found out about the two month old upgrade because they never bothered to notify me an upgrade was available, even though they used to always contact me to sell me other stuff and obviously have my e-mail address. Another half a point gone.

    Score so far: 3.5 out of 10

Step 2. Click “buy” button. Oh wait, there’s no way to choose “upgrade” instead of “new license” from this page. -.5 point.

    Score so far: 3.0 out of 10

Step 3. Hmm. Where’s the upgrade page? OK, there, then click. Click again. Click again. Oh wait, click again. Four links to find the product I want? Bye bye half a point.

    Score so far: 2.5 out of 10

Step 4. Found the page, choose download instead of physical shipment, price is displayed along with features, looking good so far. Let’s give them a point back. Score so far: 3.5 out of 10 Step 5. Enter prior version serial number before adding to cart. Well, inconvenient, but not completely unreasonable. We’ll leave points at 3.5

    Score so far: 3.5 out of 10

Step 5. Find serial number and enter it, click “Buy.” Uh oh, presented with “We’re sorry, you have entered an invalid serial number. Please call blah blah” Um, no, it’s not an invalid s/n. I just used it ten minutes ago to activate the old version of the software… But the software is so old and has been sold once or twice, etc etc. OK fine. But 1 point off for general stupidity.

    Score so far: 2.5 out of 10

Step 6. Call number, struggle through 4 layers of voice prompts including the dreaded “if you want to continue in Turkish, press 1” etc etc. Choose English and then wait on hold for a relatively short time, maybe 3 or 4 minutes. Too long, but acceptable-ish. Half a point off for the wait and the stupid “let’s answer the phone in English and read you a book before we ask if you speak English” voice prompt.

    Score so far: 2.0 out of 10

Step 7. Friendly person that finally answers phone tells me I have to call a different number. WTF??? Well, then, why wasn’t it on the error page? Sigh. 2 points off for that idiocy.

    Score so far: 0.0 out of 10

Step 8. Call the other number. Do voice prompt thing, not quite so bad, but still 2 layers. Wait on hold for 17 minutes! 17!! And during that time, they teased me by letting the phone ring like I was going to talk to someone, and it rang about 10 times, then put me back on hold. They’re lucky they didn’t cut me off. Music was AWFUL, but every now and then they did tell met that my call was important. Lose a quarter of a point per minute.

    Score so far: -4.25 out of 10

Step 9. At last, phone rings and I talk to a friendly helpful agent. I tell him my problem, reading the specific error on the website. He puts me on hold. Again. Half a point off.

    Score so far: -4.75 out of 10

Step 10. He comes back 3 minutes later (3 minutes of my life that I will never get back) and asks me what the serial number was and verifying the product I wanted to buy. For the second time. He then tries to place the order and lo and behold, gets the same error I got. He puts me back on hold. Let’s take off half a point for the hold and a quarter of a point for asking me what I wanted to buy twice.

    Score so far: -5.5 out of 10

Step 11. Another 3 minute wait goes by, he comes back on the phone and proceeds to take my order. I’m buying a downloadable version, he tries to sell me a CD backup for $15. That’s a rip off tactic, lose a quarter of a point. During the order, I spell “Myrtle” for the street address, knowing that it’s just something you always have to do. He then asks me how to spell “Myrtle” for the city not 30 seconds later. Duh. Another quarter of a point.

Step 12. Order complete. Another “happy” customer.

    Final Score: -6.5 out of 10. Total Time Elapsed: 32 minutes.

Probability that I’ll ever again buy anything from Autodesk by choice: Slim, and certainly not directly from them.

[Check out Bob’s podcast “MotoGPod” — Thanks Bob.]


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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