Customer Service

When good things go bad...

Once upon a time I was a great fan of Netflix others wrote about it as did I. There came a time when we had a falling out. The problem was one-sided as the non-existant customer service did nothing to help and we parted ways. A year later I gave it a try again and was soon getting the little red and white envelopes each week.

Along the way there were rumors of throttling but it seemed to be an occasional issue, not a consistent problem. Who knows maybe it was just my imagination of a problem and not a real one. None the less, a nagging feeling at the back of the mind that something isn't right. Recently we've had news that confirms the practices of the once wonderful service. It seems I might not have been the only one to think the service was pretty good.

Silly click-wrap agreements

Each winter those of us in the United States get to spend some quality time with a pencil and paper, or the computer figuring out if we paid the government of the United States enough last year. Living in Nevada I no-longer must figure the state's portion as it is already paid or the kind folks from California and the other 48 states come to our desert oasis to pay them in exchange for the microscopic chance of cashing in and going to live on the beach.
Silly clickwrap agreement
Anyway, I downloaded the latest version of Turbo Tax and it comes with a click-wrap license agreement - not at all unusual in this day and age. What is unusual are the terms. In order to use the software, I am supposed to agree that I have "read and printed" a copy of the agreement. Both in the past tense. Read. Printed. The only problem is at this point in the program there is no possibility of printing the License agreement.

All of this is enough to make one wonder if anybody reads this stuff before they ship the software. Oh, and the software needed at least five updates, that is the software I downloaded today needed five updates.

Giving up on SOHO Organizer

So what is to be done when you get around to releasing an incredibly buggy piece of software much later than promised just to get it out the door? Evidently if you're Chronos you close up shop and head out to the industry trade show. As if that weren't insulting enough when people post about it in the discussion area evidently there is time request people take posts down but not to address the concerns.

Chronos produced a great set of tools Group Organizer and Personal Organizer for several years. As all around personal information managers they ruled the Mac platform with little competition. Personal Organizer suffered some competition from Apple's iCal and Address Book but had enough features to make it valuable. The interfaces of both programs suffered from never making the jump to the new Aqua design of OS X.

Four letter word

Stop asking when things will be done and start contributing is one of the messages in Bert Boerland's post Done is a four letter word on the Drupal project. There is a lot of truth in what he says. Open source projects like Drupal are made better with more cooks, not less. This is true. As there usually is, however, there is more to the story.

Backtracking the Drupal project the code freeze for the next release (4.7.0) was scheduled for September 1 and then pushed back to September 15. In the same announcement it was noted that a 4.7.0 release might take "several weeks" after the code freeze. And, now several months later here we sit without a released 4.7 and little progress. Though the latter bit, about little progress, isn't correct. The feeling to many people, namely the many folks implementing Drupal on servers around the world, those folks checking to see if this next great version of this great tool, don't see much progress. November came and went with more hopeful talk and now we're into the new year with Beta 2 aging a few weeks.

While it can be really frustrating watching and waiting, helping out in the forums etc. the frustrating part is feeling like little progress is being made. The truth is that gobs of work are being done each and every day. However, if like many Drupal users you don't get into the nittiy gritty details it seems to be posts every few months, or weeks, that speak optimistically of an upcoming release punctuated by waits that grow ever longer in the mind's eye. While it takes a little digging at least with open development processes you can see proof of progress if you take the time to look for it. On the other hand with closed development processes it's a different deal.

The problem with MLS

The New York Times had an article on Monday that covers the many ways that traditional real estate commissions are under attack. The article starts with a couple of paragraphs about cousins' Christie Miller, 38, and Mary Clare Murphy, 51, who run - a website that takes real estate listings for $150 and makes them available online.

The article notes that the cousins' website draws more traffic than the traditional multiple listing service (MLS) sites controlled by real estate agents. Really? Having recently spent some time on several different MLS-backed sites I can see why. While I don't know the complete justification that folks use to convince themselves, it seems most MLS subscribers are more concerned about trying to acquire customers by trapping them on websites than providing information.

Sucking consumers in like they don't have choices is a very un-web thing to do. I most often want to look at real estate listings late in the evening and want good information. Provide a site with good information and I'll be there. Put hurdles in my path, preventing me from getting to the information I need and I'll go elsewhere until I find somebody who will make the information easy to access - and they'll get my business.

Apple Store's Easy Pay

Though iPod Express is gone from the Apple Store, apparently until next holiday season, it is still possible to find store associates with the handy little "EasyPay" machines for taking your credit card and sending the receipt to your email box. A great boon when I popped in for an iPod case today and the line was huge. Faced with having to wait until another day or wait in the huge line I was debating but was able to find an associate with their express scanner, get the case and be on my way.

In addition to saving time in line these little gizmos do a great job of reducing paper. The receipt arrives in the inbox straight away and one less piece of unnecessary paper is generated. Keep your e-mail capable phone handy and you can check for the receipt's arrival if you have any concerns.

All in time to be home for the last power outage of 2005. Here's to a great 2006.


Subscribe to Customer Service