Friday, March 13, 2009

From Great to Gone- Adobe technical support

First let me say I love Adobe, not just the products but the company is one I admired for many years. Their products were great and the support if you had a dumb user question, which I can be prone to, was fast, helpful and professional.

Over recent weeks my opinion has been sliding. Now while I like the product I don't do a great deal with it other than create pdf documents from Word files, so I have been quite content with the capabilities of Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0 and have no real reason to upgrade. A couple of months ago however i started to get a message telling me that my computers configuration had changed and that I need to reactivate. This process was done on the web, so other than a "that's interesting" thought I ignored it and carried on. Then I had a new window pop up and tell me that I had exceeded the allowable re activations and I had to phone in to activate. So I called, waited on hold the requisite 8 minutes and got this done. The third time I had to call I asked why, I had purchased the product why did it keep shutting down. What I really wanted to know was if this was a thinly veiled tactic to annoy customers until they upgraded to a new version. I was informed that this was a bug and that there was no way to fix this. OK fine, but I still hadn't discarded the "this is a way to annoy me till I upgrade" thinking.

Two days later and I am back needing to phone to activate and here is where the fun begins. Again the requisite 8 minutes on hold before an answer. Once connected to an agent the audio quality was my first clue, it was poor, lots of 'clicking' sounds. I walked through the same diagnostic process, expecting the same answer I usually received. But this time the same symptoms resulted in a different answer. I was told I needed to download a patch that would correct this problem. As I had now been on the phone for close to thirty minutes I asked if it could be emailed to me as I had a conference call I needed to attend. I was told the agent couldn't send me an email. Aha, the penny dropped inability to send an email is often code for an offshore call center. That fit with the agents accent and when I asked it was confirmed as a call center in the Philippines. I quickly noted the download site and ended the call so I could attend the conference call.

After I completed the conference call I went to the download site (tinyurl) and downloaded the patch. I followed the instructions and with the compulsory reboot fired up the application. In thirty seconds I was told I need to reactivate. Great the patch didn't work. Back on the call to the call center, eight more minutes and another agent tells me I was directed to the wrong file. Again and with increasing frustration I asked if they could email me the patch and after sitting on hold for 3 minutes while the agent checked with her Supervisor and miracle of miracles now they could send me an email.

I received the email in minutes and rather than the application it contained a link to another file. Once again I followed the link and directions. As I write this, the problem still exists and I need to call the call center again. But I have been thinking about why I have had these problems. What could the company and call center have done differently to assist me? I help companies streamline and improve contact center efficiency and effectiveness everyday so I have good familiarity here. First Agent training. The fact that I could make many calls over many months and keep getting the same wrong answer tells me that agents are not well trained and probably not tested for comprehension. Second Empower the agent. The agents are "not allowed" to send emails. This is not uncommon in outsourced offshore center and can be rationalized as saving agent time, but in practice that is often not the case. The real reason for this restriction is that the company doesn't trust the outsourcer enough to allow email access. Great they don't trust their own partner, but I am supposed to trust them! Third Quality control. The download site had few instructions and no confirmation after install that the problem was corrected. QA should have identified the inaccurate file reference and the vague instructions. QA should also have identified audio quality issues that were evident on two of my calls. Fourth Demand management. It is clear to me the the targeted ASA ( Average Speed of Answer) is 8 minutes, as each of my calls were answered in approximately this time-frame. When 8 minutes? Is the the most cost effective ASA, the balance between the degree to which it will tick off a customer, before they hang up and buy a competitive product? Fifth, product upgrade. This still could be a tactic to get customers to upgrade. I can envision the planning meeting dialogue..."Yes we will erode the usability in older product versions until the customer upgrades". While I don't seriously believe this is the case, the accessibility, quality and the sheer amount of time spent dealing with this makes me wonder. Sixth Metrics. I don't know what they are measuring in this center, but I suspect that First Call Resolution (FCR) isn't one of the key metrics.

Of course poor service can actually cost more than good service. A quick answer and an email including the patch, (instead of the link), could have solved my problem in less than 2 minutes. Over my last two calls I spent more than 50 minutes on the phone and I still don't have a solution. What has that 50 minutes cost the company versus the 2 minute process I suggested?

Adobe has great products and they used to have great support. It's a good thing that the product is high quality, because the support or lack thereof will not win them any fans. As is evidenced by my experience my opinion of Adobe has changed significantly based on these calls. My opinion today is much worse than before I called. This opinion erosion is linked to customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and intention to repurchase.

Poor service can provide a false economy in appearing to reduce support costs, but if it costs you customers this can be a dangerous double edged sword. A company really needs to understand this relationship before they make significant change to their support service.


Colin Taylor said...

Well it is now March 26th and yesterday following yet another call to Adobe support and a manual reset, it appears that I am now operational again. We will see.


Anonymous said...

Cost cuting.... Quality is not important for Adobe, worst the support will certainly stop to be free in a couple of days. Low quality and expensive services, that is the direction that Adobe is taking since creative suite 1. Most of the products are poor, palme d'or for premiere or soundbooth. Adobe took a new direction since a couple of years : mainstream, with the elements products. Better for them to sell a lot of low quality products not expensive than good ones for pro, like in the past. I made my choice, stop to freeze my computer with all those flash and Acrobat updates, Adobe is banned from my machine... Good luck to you Colin, but if you want to continue with Adobe, you will have to put the hand in your pocket...

Films4U said...

I've also had problems with Adobe. I had to install a new hard drive. All of my Production Premium CS3 applications are activated except Flash CS3 Video Encoder. I have reinstalled it. I have deactivated all of my CS3 and reactivated it. The Encoder still has not activated.

I entered this in the Adobe Support Portal on June 25, 2009. No one has contacted me. Today is June 30, 2009. I have held for Technical Support for several HOURS. I am an Editor. I paid for the software. I am LOOSING MONEY due to the fact that no one at Adobe cares to answer the Support Portal or answer the Technical Support phone. At this point, I am willing to PAY for support for something that should be free. What is going on at Adobe? I have invested 10 years in learning and using Adobe products. I think I made a mistake in supporting them this long. They are not supporting me in any way.

Unknown said...

You should consider yourself lucky that you have had 8 minute responses to your calls. My first attempt lasted 3 hours, and I hung up. Today, I have been on hold for 55 minutes, and will hang up again. I just bought Adobe Lightroom, and have a question about installation. Think I'll buy more? No sir!