Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Adobe: Bad Customer Service

I just held for 2 hours with Adobe tech support to get an unlock code for CS2 upgrade. (For background, that's what you need to do to validate an upgrade installation that won't recognize the original media you're upgrading from.) I was incorrectly transferred at least twice, waiting for 20-30 minutes at each transfer. When I finally got the unlock code, it didn't work and there wasn't a thing that they could do about it. When I offered that I was using Windows Vista (they never asked) customer service literally said "Ah-HAH! That must be the problem", blamed the whole thing on Vista compatibility, and helpfully suggested that I wait for CS3 or roll back to Windows XP.

I asked to be transferred to a supervisor, who told me that Microsoft wouldn't give Adobe the necessary components to test their software until just recently. I explained that I have personally tested software on the beta versions of Vista for two years, and that the final bits have been available for months.

What was worse than waiting for two hours or listening to made-up excuses is just that no remedy, not even a symbolic gesture, was ever offered. I suggested that it would be helpful if Adobe could contact me when an update is released, rather than expecting me to visit the website every day. She said "That's not possible, we have a lot of customers." Not possible? Hardly. Not practical? Maybe. Not willing? Bingo.

The thing that makes this all even crazier is that I was able to install CS1 without issue, and upgrade on top of that (on *gasp* Vista!) - solving my own problem. It's a shame that the people who I talked to today lacked the imagination (or, seemingly, the energy) to suggest it.

There are a couple of takeaways from all this that I intend to relay to my customer service people:

1) Don't make your customers wait interminably.
2) If your customer paid you and can't use your software, "tough noogies" doesn't cut it.
3) If you can't answer your customer's question, have someone get back to them who can answer it.
4) Throw me a frickin' bone, here. If there is no solution to be had, give the customer something - anything - to show that they're not just another $1000 to you. Maybe a reduced-price upgrade when it finally does arrive, maybe just a follow-up email to say "sorry we couldn't help you".
5) Don't try to throw something technical-sounding at your customer in the hopes that they won't understand it and just go away.

I know what it's like to not have an answer for someone who deserves one. I understand that everybody has a somewhat different capacity for problem-solving. I understand that customer service people are usually the people in an organization who are the least empowered to offer resolution. But PLEASE give the impression that you're trying.

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I'm a Mac... and HEY!!! LOOK AT ME!!!

I just got a new Vista box at work and I'm getting it all set up, trying to get used to the new locations of everything. My particular pain point is that the VPN client my company uses hasn't yet been updated for Vista. But I digress...

The thing I really want to talk about is just how much bling they added with Aero. It's like they had a big meeting and someone said "Look, we all know that people love Macs because they're purty. We have to make Windows cool-looking too. How can we do that?" "I know!!" someone else pipes up. "We can make the windows semi-transparent!!" "Yeah, that'd be awesome!" says someone else. "We should also put some gleam on them, like a glassy reflection." "And dropshadows!!", chimes in another. "Yaaay!! Isn't designing things fun?? No longer will Windows be known as 'the ugly OS'."

Seriously, Vista is way over the top in terms of aesthetics. Pick two of the added design touches and it would have been enough. But dropshadows, transparency, glows, white strokes, bevels, reflections and blur all at once? That's called "trying too hard".

I don't consider myself a fan-boy, but I couldn't help but to be inspired to propose a new Mac vs PC commercial.

Mac: Hello, I'm a Mac.
PC: Wassup dawg, I'm a PC. (he's wearing MC Hammer pants)
Mac: Hey, PC, nice pants. What's that around your neck, a huge analog clock?
PC: Yeah, isn't it cool? They gave me a bunch of new fashion accessories this time. Yup... I finally got my wardrobe up to date.
Mac: Umm.. Yeah. Isn't that thing a little slow?

With apologies to my boss, who came up with the Flava Flav clock gag.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

WPF/E = JavaScript + Windows Media Player?

So, I just checked out the Microsoft Community Technology preview of Windows Presentation Framework Everywhere, the supposed "Flash Killer". After seeing this, I'm under the impression that WPF/E and the Flash Player are not really in the same conceptual sphere.

WPF/E seems to boil down to some JavaScript libraries and Windows Media Player (and maybe a little SVG) so far. It's unclear to me how much of the animation is controlled by JavaScript and how much is handled by the WPF/E ActiveX control: some of the examples have more animation-oriented JavaScript than others. All of the interactivity appears to be handled by JavaScript. In the network-aware examples, there is an Ajax library that looks to be responsible for communication.

So, in concept, WPF/E seems to leverage existing web technologies and tries to handle their varying implementations. Flash Player, on the other hand, provides its own implementation for those technologies.

I have a lot of questions about how WPF/E works. Does it leave the JavaScript interpretation up to the browser, or have they implemented another JS interpreter in the ActiveX control? Does WPF/E handle image display, or is that left to the browser as well? Basically, all of my questions boil down to this: is WPF/E merely coordinate the various technologies it uses, or does it actually provide its own implementations of those technologies?

If WPF/E is just coordinating a variety of implementations, it will always be limited by the browser, and Flash will always be a jump ahead.

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