Escalating into a complete tech support breakdown

A botched tech support call to Adobe almost makes an enemy out of a fan

While fuming on hold, Art decide to use the time to file his grievance with the Gripe Line. "I'm nearly two hours into a customer service call to Adobe and I'm angry," he vented. "Two years ago I bought the academic version of Flex Builder 2. Today I decided to upgrade. But the site told me my Flex Builder 2 serial number wasn't upgradeable. I could find no warning that the academic version couldn't be upgraded so I called customer service."

Art's call started out just fine. A customer service representative told him his serial numbers should upgrade without a problem; he just needed a "challenge code." But that code didn't work and the service rep couldn't figure out why. So he transferred Art to technical support. Technical support told him his version could not be upgraded.

[ Frustrated by your tech support? You're not alone. Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

And thus commenced Art's two-hour circular saga from customer service to technical support and back to customer service. Tech support told him customer service lied. Customer service gave him the impression they think the tech support people are idiots. He even got hung up on a few times along the way.

"My bile is beginning to rise," confesses Art. "But I'm still calm and polite." He asked for a supervisor. He got hung up on some more. He was sent to silent hold for 20 mintes. They even transferred him right out of Adobe's phone system. Finally he reached the sales department.

"I have to admit that this guy took ownership of the problem," he says. "He did some checking, decided tech support was right and customer service was wrong. He wished he could help me, but I was not entitled to upgrade except to another academic version, which I'm no longer eligible for. He said he'd be happy to refund the price of the upgrade edition and let me buy the standard version for $250."

And if that resolution had come when Art called initially, he probably would have been satisfied. "In my present state of mind, though," he says, "I'm tempted to declare that I'll never use Adobe products again or recommend them to a client. But I can't do that. Adobe has a number of products that are essentially unbeatable. I will continue to use them and, where appropriate, recommend them to my clients. It's obvious that the quality of Adobe's developers far surpasses that of its support staff.  But the company needs to treat customers better."

Well, that's two hours of Art's life he'll never get back. So I forwarded his letter to Adobe to see if the company wanted to comment on what happened. I heard back within 24 hours.

"It is Adobe's goal to provide our customers with the highest-quality service and provide quick, effective assistance," explained a spokesperson. "We regret this was not Art's experience. In this case, the customer support and escalation process broke down. This is not what we want for our customers and we've worked directly with Art to resolve the issue. We appreciate his patience and understanding and will be using his feedback to help improve our processes going forward."

Next, I checked with Art to see if Adobe had resolved the situation to his satisfaction.

"On Monday I got a call from a Senior Customer Service Consultant at Adobe," he says. "She not only apologized but got my software activated. She stayed on the line until I had everything working. Then at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, I got a note from an Adobe VP which was also very apologetic and concerned. He said Adobe is reviewing its support policies and procedures and that my experience was a part of that review. For all the hassle, I do feel pretty darn good about Adobe right now."

All's well that ends well.

Got gripes? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

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