Customer Service RIP – Update

A while back I posted a rant about customer service in general, and about my problems with a particular telescope manufacturer specifically (Celestron). In fairness to Celestron, I think I should post an update on the situation. I did finally receive a response (to my emails) from Celestron customer support, though it did take a couple of weeks. After a number of exchanges over another couple of weeks, I also managed to convince them to pay for the shipping to return the item, and to ship the repaired/replaced item back to me. The item in question is now in transit back to Celestron. I will post another update when I know the final result of the exchange.

Microsoft Silverlight « Josh Anderson’s Blog

 Microsoft Silverlight « Josh Anderson’s Blog

I always find the predominant attitude in the software and Internet world amusing – it is important to have alternatives, unless they come from Microsoft!

Also, the installation model for Silverlight is not all that different from Flash – if you go to a site that uses Flash, and you do not have it installed, it asks you to install it.

BTW – given the market share enjoyed by both Opera and Safari, it is fairly generous that any effort is made to support them at all.

Customer Service RIP

We all live this every day.

We go to the airport – wait in ridiculous lines, get strip searched at security, sit and wait for flights that are late for no reason.

We go to the bank – and if we want to speak to an actual person, wait in another ridiculous line, and charged outrageous service charges for the privilege. Or we can bank at a machine, or online, and get charged ever bigger service charges.

Our phone company, our doctor, our government. Everywhere we turn, customer service has gone downhill. And the sad thing is, no matter how bad the service is now, you know it will be worse next year, and the year after, and the year after.

Do these organizations purposely set out to suck? No – I would be willing to bet that every organization you deal with (even the government) claims to have a policy which puts customer service first. When was the last time you heard a company openly declare “We don’t give a crap about our customers – so there!”

Often the only refuge from bad customer service is with expensive, luxury items – most companies which supply these goods go out of their way to provide outstanding service. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

This brings me to the trigger for today’s rant. A company called Celestron. Celestron makes telescope, and has for a long time. In fact, they are one of the primary manufacturers of telescopes for amateur astronomers in the world. While these telescopes are not expensive on the scale of a yacht or a Mercedes, I would definitely classify it as an expensive, luxury item.

A couple of months back, I purchased a fairly expensive telescope from Celestron. Quite honestly, I am thrilled with the telescope. Optically and mechanically it is everything I wanted. I have so far enjoyed every minute of using it.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for one of the accessories I ordered with it. This item is a PowerTank, basically a wrapper around a car battery to allow me to power the telescope in remote locations. This item did not arrive with my telescope – in fact I only received it this week. It also arrived broken. Doesn’t work. No signs of life. Nothing.

So, I contact the dealer who sold it to me, and he contacts Celestron. Celestron tells him that I have to contact Celestron directly. This is where the real fun begins. Firstly, Celestron – a world-wide vendor of a luxury item, and a market leader – has no toll free support number. I have to call them long distance in California. Second, no one answers. I have tried twice now to call through, and both times have spent well over half an hour on hold (on long distance, listening to a polite lady’s voice tell me that someone will be with me “momentarily”. I tried using the eMail support form on their web site, with no response at all after 2 days.

I also note that, according to the documentation that came with this door-stop I now own, that if I wish to make a warranty claim, that I must pay for return shipping on the item. This means that if I want to get it replaced, I will need to pay more in shipping than the item cost in the first place!

Fortunately, the dealer who sold me the item (Astromechanics in Barrie, ON) has offered to make things right. Thanks, Dave. 

The long and short of this is, that despite the fact that I am overwhelmingly pleased with my new telescope (heaven help me if I ever need support on that), I will never buy anything from Celestron again, and would strongly recommend to anyone who asks that they not either. So, Celestron, you have lost at least one customer.

The real irony here is that I chose Celestron over Meade (the market share leader) because of horror stories about Meade’s customer service.

So this is the sorry state of our society. For the most part, customer service no longer exists (except occasionally in small, independent companies like AstroMechanics). For me, this is one of the reasons that the economy is where it is – because this poor customer service is reflective of poor management in general. And for companies that lose customers and fail because of it – can’t happen fast enough for me!

NOTE (May 28, 2008): I want to make sure that it is absolutely clear that my concern is with Celestron, not with the vendor who sold me the PowerTank, telescope, etc. AstroMechanics has been extremely helpful and responsive, and my experience with them has been great. – fgy

More stupidity – Soviet Microsoft: Stockholm Syndrome Among Unswitchable Windows User?

 

Soviet Microsoft: Stockholm Syndrome Among Unswitchable Windows Users

This crap is getting ridiculous. First Microsoft is the Soviet Union, and now anyone who does not agree with the “Microsoft is an evil empire” crowd and switch to inferior desktop environments such as Linux, or closed, over-priced systems like Mac (both of which I like in the right context, and both of which I have developed software on) is obviously mentally impaired and suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

People, get a freaking life. This is bloody software, nothing more. If you like it, buy it and use it. If you don’t like it, DON’T. Either way, stop playing amateur psychologist, political analyst, or whatever else you are playing, and please, please, please STFU. 

Confessions of an airline executive – CNN.com

Confessions of an airline executive – CNN.com

This is an interesting article. unfortunately it does not address the main outstanding question I have – why does the airline industry (and this includes not just the airlines, but the airport authorities, government agencies and all others involved in this continuously worsening mess) believe that it is acceptable to provide atrocious customer service, disrespect their customers, and generally perform badly in all aspects of their operations, and yet feel they should stay in business. Quite honestly, most business that were run this badly would be dead in months.

As a side note, a couple of weeks ago I had written a post (more of a rant than a post) about my recent experiences flying. I saved it, but did not post it, as I was not online (I was on a plane). Unfortunately it seemed to disappear from my saved drafts. I took this a s I sign that I should not post it! To summarize, though, I was on my 4th trip in two weeks – one to Toronto, and three to other endpoints, but going through Toronto. So, a total of 14 flights. The “on time” performance on these 14 flights was somewhat less than 50% (and this is considering anything within an hour of on time as “on time”). What was disturbing to me was that none of the delays were due to whether, air traffic congestion, or any cause “outside of the airline’s control”. In all cases, the cause airline mismanagement. For example, 2 cases of “the plane is not working”, because the flight segments between Toronto and Moncton are all crappy, old, small planes. Another case, we could not leave Moncton because the incoming plane from Toronto had not arrived. Why? Because no ground crew had been assigned in Toronto to the departure gate, and so they could not load the plane. Yet another case, we sat on the plane for 45 minutes after having landed at Toronto because no ground crew was available at our gate (what, they were not expecting us?).

All of this reflects the fact that this airline (and almost all others with whom I have travelled in the last 5 years) accept that lousy service and disrespect for passengers and their time should be the norm. And they will continue to think this way as long as it costs them more to fix the problem than accept it.

So, how do we make it cost them more to be incompetent? Well, how about every time they are late due to their own incompetence, everyone on the flight gets a partial refund. Say, $50/half hour delay? Make it cost them money, and they will fix the problem. 

Of course, this will only partially address the problem, since we still have to deal with airports, security, and other aspects of the experience which are designed without any consideration for the customer.

CANOE — CNEWS – Canada: Kids book removed from schools

CANOE — CNEWS – Canada: Kids book removed from schools

This article is interesting to me, but not so much because of parents concerns leading to the book being pull from shelves. I mean, the entire point of religious schools (Catholic or otherwise) is to shelter kids from content they feel is “non-whatever-religion-they-follow”. What I find comical is the last line:

“…by British author Philip Pullman, an admitted atheist.”

An admitted atheist?!?!?!

The writer makes it sound like it is some sort of crime or deviant mental state, like an “admitted axe murderer” or an “admitted child molester”.

Atheism is a valid belief (not a lack of belief, as some would try to imply). Would any journalist worth reading say someone was an “admitted Catholic”? or an “admitted Jew”? Would they get away with saying it?

(December 20, 2009: note that the above link is broken – Canoe.ca does not seem to have maintained the article)

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