You want me to do what? I've already given you that information!

Companies we love to hate . . .

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

We all have companies we “love to hate.” There’s an old video running around with a marine blasting an HP Printer that failed and the folks on the other end of the phone wanted to charge him for assistance (warning this guy is very angry and not using polite language).

My prime target is AT&T and without going into a long tirade, I’ll just say that I’ve not personally experienced more deplorable customer service at the hands of a company. I’m adding another one now though, Intuit. After deciding that the “gentle warning” on their website that the latest software was best for Windows 7, I paid my money and downloaded the QB 2010 software. That’s when it all began.

First, the software wouldn’t install. The error message claimed that it couldn’t create a directory in the public folders on my CFO’s machine. I figured this was my problem and so it was. After I straightened out the permissions (a bit frustrating with lots of “rebooting”), the software installed. And then I decided that it was smart to register the product since the splash screen warning, in bold red, stated that I only had 30 days to register the product or it wouldn’t function. That tweaked me a bit since I’d just paid about $175 for this upgrade. But, it isn’t unusual for the larger software guys to want you to “activate/authenticate” the software to be sure it’s a legitimate copy. So I swallowed hard and clicked on “Register Now.”

You want me to do what? I've already given you that information!

But I’ve already given you that information. It is in my profile you just looked up.

Once on the registration page, I began a slow boil. There were way too many questions. And they have nothing to do with validating my copy of the software. Many, maybe most of the fields were required. It was obvious they are gathering information to market to me. How many employees do I have, what’s my mailing address, phone number, etc. By the time I got done I was pretty pissed off. And then the sledgehammer in the nose. “You’re almost done. Call the 800 number if you’re in the US . . . . I went ballistic.

I could not believe my eyes. First, after paying for the software, then after filling in a ridiculous registration form requiring information that can’t possibly be needed for validation of legitimate software, these clueless people are forcing me to make a phone call to get an activation number. The poor woman on the other end of the phone when I calmed down enough to call didn’t have any difficulty determining that she had an irate customer on the line.

I apologized to her for being angry and recognized that I knew this wasn’t her fault. I told her that the best thing for both of us was for her to simply give me the activation number so I could finish the installation and turn the machine back over to my CFO. She was pleasant and then started going through all the same information I just had put into that obnoxious registration form! Name, company name, address, phone number, how many employees, why did you upgrade, etc. I couldn’t contain myself. It took another 15 minutes but she finally gave me a six digit number to register my product.

What are these people thinking? Are they thinking? I don’t have any trouble with folks trying to do a good job marketing. Send out a survey. Don’t hold me hostage to registering my software. To make matters even worse, the software itself is a marketing tool. I’m blasted with obnoxious messages to buy products and services and have to hunt around to change settings to minimize this crap. They are gathering a lot of information, more or less forcing it out of the customer. That information is a liability. I can’t wait for them to be raked over the coals for mishandling this information. I’ll join the class action suit on this one (I usually trash them).

Here’s the bottom line. I am now investigating using another software package. It’s too bad. QB is used by lots of people and it’s convenient for my CPA. But I will not put up with being abused by an arrogant company without a clue as to how to treat a customer. If they want to validate the install, just send an e-mail to the registered user with the key. Don’t make me call someone and go through the same information all over again. So as soon as I can install other software, that’s what will happen. They’ve lost a customer.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that the story was the same with all the folks who describe their favorite company to “hate.” It’s all being treated poorly as a customer. How customers are treated is a direct function of how the leadership at the top of the corporation/organization set the culture. So the lesson here is to take a hard look at how we are treating customers – either “on purpose” or because we aren’t paying attention. How is your company doing? Are you listening to the needs your customers express and doing everything reasonable to be responsible to their needs? Are you taking customer satisfaction surveys? Even though you’ve had to cut back due to this poor economy, are you still focused on providing awesome customer experience?