Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's Up With Technical Support and E-Mail?

I'm really baffled that vendors of all sorts accept e-mail support requests but take days to return and answer them. Not only is e-mail a great way to communicate when you don't have time to hang on the phone, it's a truly great way for a vendor to save money. The person responding just needs a computer, access to the company's knowledgebase and a data connection to the Internet. No office space, no free coffee, and home workers cost less than on-premise workers. Distance workers are willing to accept less money than their commuting cousins because they have the privilege and convenience of working from home. In fact, the savings can be even greater since they don't need to be in the same state as their employer so they can hire people at the lowest possible wage differential. It costs less to hire someone in Boise than in New York, but they're just as trainable and just as smart.

So how come e-mail technical support is so poor? Why is it that at worst it takes an hour to get a technical support rep on the phone and it takes days to get one to return an e-mail? These are people who've asked us to purchase their product, and when we try and contact them in a manner they should be excited about, they ignore us. What am I missing?

The problem gets even worse with shareware or freeware. In this case the phrase caveat emptor comes to mind. If a developer gives out their e-mail address for technical support questions that aren't answered by FAQs or other documentation, why don't they answer e-mail support questions from your users? Really, what gives?

I sell on Ebay, and when I get an e-mail with a question about an item, I answer it immediately. Not only am I motivated to make the sale and get their money, but I want to demonstrate that I'm acting responsibly and professionally and that if they buy from me they can have a certain level of trust that the item is what I say it is. When software companies and shareware developers don't answer e-mail, it just indicates a level of disdain or unprofessionalism. Either way, I scratch them off of my vendor list for any future purchases.

If you've had the same experience with vendors, maybe you need to do the same.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Mac Office 2008 a major disappointment

I am just appalled that after 4 years, Mac Office 2008 is the best that the dedicated Mac business unit at Microsoft could offer. Other than the fact that it now runs native to an Intel Mac, the lack of improvement is stultifying! Entourage is the biggest disappointment. Here are some examples.

The following is a little thing, but indicative of the carelessness that went into the interface for the program. Why would you offer a toolbar icon for Mark Read and not offer an icon for Mark Unread. In Outlook 2007 Mark Unread is such a used feature that it is now hard-coded on the message ribbon!

Why is the Remove button still dimmed even though the command to Remove All Attachments exists under the Message menu.

There is still no support for archiving using PST files.

Still no Notes compatibility with Exchange.

There is still no Insert Item choice as there is in Outlook. Each item attachment has to be done in a separate e-mail.

Many alert sounds don't work in Leopard. The newsgroups are awash with complaints about this. How could that problem have gotten through beta?

How about the sync problem with Blackberrys? E-mail deleted from Entourage will not delete from a Blackberry device as it does from Outlook. To add insult to injury, Pocket Mac will no longer sync with Entourage, and this is apparently by design! Does MS expect everyone to migrate to Windows Mobile?

Another surprise is LDAP. Outlook tunnels LDAP over port 80. That means if you try and address an e-mail to someone not in your Contacts list, Outlook will still be able to resolve it with the GAL, even if you’re connected to Exchange over the Internet. This same functionality was missing from Entourage 2004 and is still missing from 2008.

As detailed by David Pogue in his review of Office 2008, macros no longer work. It is now necessary to use Applescript to accomplish whatever shortcuts you created with macros in 2004.

Entourage still doesn’t support forwarding for complex HTML. If I have an e-mail that contains a lot of formatted HTML, it will be reduced to nothing but links and text when I try and forward it. This is particularly surprising considering that Outlook has no problem doing this, and has had the capability for the last few releases.

Lastly, I'm experiencing sudden shutdowns of Entourage. (We're sorry, but Entourage...) In other words, PC behavior on a Mac! Considering that it is now running native to the Mac OS and not in emulation, Entourage should be more stable than the previous version, not less.

I haven't had as much time to review Word, Excel and Powerpoint, but if they're anything like Entourage, they're going to be major disappointments. For now, if e-mail functionality is important in your computer usage, you'll still need to use Parallels or Fusion to run Outlook. The new version of Entourage is barely more functional than Entourage 2004.

What a shame.