Customer Service

Network Solutions (NOT)

The name Network Solutions might lead you to believe the company is in the business of providing solutions for networking issues. It seems they are instead in the business of providing excuses.

Following several hours in which their account manager login returned an error I called customer service. The form says to "please try again". I did. Many times. A call to customer support led to a few minutes on hold listening to a very poor rendition of the Cannon in D.

Speaking to Chris PHADEUS001 (no last names please), I learned that the problem is an unscheduled maintenance window where they are either incapable or too lazy to put anything on the web. This is more akin to the service expected from Ma Bell in 1960, where their lack of posting to a website could be understood. Even beyond that what sort of call center cannot put a message on their menu explaining the problem.

Evidently Network Solutions discovered a problem that would have caused the information entered to not propagate properly.

Hopefully somebody in the trade press will pick this up and explore how the coincidence occurs that an unscheduled outage occurs late on a Friday evening when seemingly few would notice. I guess the domain registrar migration may come sooner rather than later.

The customer is always right?

I had a very bad customer experience recently. About a year ago i purchased a software package that I've lauded several times. It does its job well. After some time spent moving last year and a few other things I got around to re-installing and starting to use the software again. As I did so there was a new beta version of the software.

Some history is necessary to understand this completely. The product had released version 3.0 as its first version, numbers having been changed to protect the guilty. The "upgrade" from 3.0 to 3.1 was free. Now comes 3.5 as a free 'beta' version that expires. It takes some work, not much, to install each beta but there were some nice fixes to old annoyances. So I downloaded beta 3.5 and installed it. Several times through the beta cycle as a matter of fact. Along the way I contributed several hours to the beta testing of the new product, a worthwhile trade for the new features.

Once 3.5 was released the download went away and was replaced by a site asking for a modest fee for the upgrade. Of course by this time my data was all in 3.5 format and there was little option but pay the fee. At $20 it wasn't a huge deal but it really made me much less happy about the product. It is still good but I'll watch out for updates. As a part of the form for the upgrade it asks for comments so I mentioned that I was disappointed.

There is a note to business people coming. Take your mother's advice. If you can't say anything nice keep your mouth shut. A customer won't like the "well I posted it over there" response. Not at all. The response I got said the information had been posted on a beta email list and on the blog of the product's owner back in November. Great, so I'm supposed to know that I should have to subscribe to an optional list or read the archives of a blog instead of being able to think the documentation that comes with the download would actually contain the information. At the end of the day I know that this developer doesn't care much about the user's experience. They've put together a pretty good product but I don't expect it to last with the attitude employed. So there is my story, well almost.

DirecWAY, Ground Control & XML-RPC Redux

I've written previously about the problem with DirecWAY which I purchase through their reseller Ground Control. DirecWAY has a problem with their web accelerator that breaks XML-RPC calls between this site and others. Today I found it breaks XML being sent to eBay through the eBay API as well.

The first response I get when I tried to approach them is that the application I'm using must be the problem. Since they don't know that XML-RPC is they figure it must be me. So, here's what I did. Setup a web-proxy that sends web-requests on a port other than port 80. XML-RPC calls work just fine when using the proxy. Switch to port 80 where DirecWAY has Web Accellerator running and see the web surfing speeds remain the same but now all your XML-RPC calls will be truncated.

Sometimes a VAR such as Ground Control can be very helpful in these situations. On the other hand they can do what Ground Control has done and say that well, they're not sure what to do. DirecWAY tells them everything is working correctly. So, of course it is. Neither Ground Control nor DirecWAY seem to understand networking well enough to appreciate the testing that I've done and accept the meaning of those results. I guess it is time to redouble the effort to get DSL out here.

A litte worse than none

Nevada Power has managed to do it to us again. Tuesday night we endured about an eight hour outage as a result of a thunderstorm. Not terribly unusual and something that is to be expected in the rural portions of Nevada or anywhere. Last night about 3 AM we awoke to the sound of the UPS's chirping throughout the house. It seems the power had once again gone out.

Places to avoid

Perhaps I should start a list of places to avoid. These are businesses that don't understand customers. For several months I'd regularly shopped at an ARCO station at the corner of Paradise Road and Tropicana Avenue. Tonight there was a new sign on the pump saying credit cards had to go inside to pay. If I'll pay the ATM-tax imposed by the station owners I can pay at the pump, if not I have to go inside.

It seems this is probably to get more customers to use the ATM instead of the credit card function of the pump and to shift the costs from the profitable company to the individual consumer. With a little good luck the plan will fail, however. In my case at least, they have gone from a customer spending a few hundred dollars a month at their store to a non-customer. I'll gladly stop a block away and not have the hassle of going inside to pay.

Resting place

This weblog will soon reside in a new place. Readers will still access it with the same name and things will look the same on the surface. Behind the scenes it will move to a different computer and a new home on the internet. One of the issues is my current host's inability to deal with a small, yet annoying, issue. They run web-page stats just after midnight. With the software used it produces a nice daily average. Except, since the program is run just after midnight, it averages the 40-50 page requests from midnight twenty past the new day with previous days. Owing to this problem the stats are not very meaningful until near the end of the month and not totally accurate until after the end of the month.

I brought this to their attention. "Nobody else has complained," was the response. So because nobody else has taken the time to point out that either properly configuring the software or running it 30-minutes earlier would solve the problem my business will migrate elsewhere.


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