how to sabotage a successful customer relationship

ACT! 2006 by Sage software

I’ve often thought that if employees at a company replaced their own name with the name of the company where they currently worked, the employee would treat customers in a totally different way (more better even ;). I think that’s especially important in the increasing virtual business world we all work within, where we buy things from telephone operators, not from stores.

The following story I’ll share now took place today. It involved me and Sage, a software provider who makes the contact management software ACT!

This story is for exposition purposes only, offering my first hand account as a long time ACT! customer (including many upgraded versions and even securing corporate licenses for some of my marketing clients). It’s not written in anger or with a desire for vindication but it’s certainly meant as an example of how easy it is to sabotage a customer relationship if it’s not “your” name on the door.

I have a Treo 650 phone on which I often run my business (voiceover is a very mobile profession…always has been). When I bought the phone, I made a separate decision to also upgrade my contact management system so I bought ACT! 2006.

The purchase of ACT! 2006 was a disappointment in that to get questions about the software answered after 14 days, I’d have to buy a service agreement. I did because it is not easy software to use even having used past versions. After I got my some of my initial questions answered, I never used that service again. I wanted to manage my business, not my software. Oh well, live and learn, right?

At the time of the ACT! 2006 purchase I did not buy the ACT for Palm OS (might not have even been available at the time, come to think about it) which is software that would much of the functionality look and feel of the ACT! 2006 to be integrated on to my Treo 650. As you can imagine, that would be a great convenience.

When I had a Palm Pilot (another hand held contact management device, sans phone and internet like the Treo 650 has now) I had used a similar ACT for Palm software and I liked it very much. So I decided today that I was ready to buy the new ACT for Palm OS.

There was a catch though. My Treo 650 is almost three years old and I may be upgrading that phone to a Treo 700 or 750. I needed to make sure this version of ACT for Palm OS software would work in a newer Treo phones…I did not want to buy another version of ACT for Palm OS software if I did buy a new phone.

Buying Experience #1
So with that in mind, I called ACT! The first sales representative to whom I explained all this advised me of two things very clearly:

1. The current version of ACT for Palm OS would work on my current phone and the newer Treo versions
2. I had already purchased ACT for Palm OS.

Number two was quite a surprise to me I told her and she sent me over to customer service so that I could find out where my ACT for Palm OS software went…it certainly didn’t arrive in my mail.

Buying Experience #2
Customer service said she didn’t know what the other operator was talking about as no such purchase appeared on my record. She sent me back to sales so that I could buy ACT! for Palm OS software. The wait on hold was longer than with the first call to the sales department but eventually I had…

Buying Experience #3
This sales representative confirmed that:

1. I hadn’t purchased ACT! for Palm OS software
2. This current version of ACT! for Palm OS software would NOT work in the newer versions of the Treo phones

He further added that ACT! would be coming out with an upgraded version of the ACT! for Palm OS software that WOULD work in the newer Treo phones in the next four months.

I appreciated that update and asked if I did purchase the ACT! for Palm OS software today, would I be given the free upgrade to the version for newer Treos since I didn’t want to spend twice for basically the same software with minor tweaks for the newer Treos. He said he understood that logic and needed to check on that with “a manager”.

He came back on the line having spoken to his manager to advise me that he really wasn’t sure when the newer version would come out, he said he had only heard that “four month” time frame and nothing official had come out from ACT! so no, I would not be getting the free upgrade.

Big yellow flag for me!

Not having had such a great experience to this point on this call and because my original ACT! 2006 software purchase (and service agreement fiasco) came flooding back to me, I did not buy.

I don’t know if I should ever buy from them. I was a disciple of their software for years…Goldmine or Outlook or anything else couldn’t match ACT! Now I don’t think I could in good conscience direct someone to ACT! based on my most recent experiences.

I’ll leave it to you to tell me whether I am wise to avoid this company in the future, if I am over reacting or if this is just the way business is headed and I am expect too much regarding good service anymore. Right now, I think ACT! blew it with me.

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4 Responses to “how to sabotage a successful customer relationship”

  1. Coming from a customer service background, I think I can explain why this type of thing happens – again and again.

    It never ceases to amaze me that companies don’t realize that their front line support people are their ambassadors. I always described it as your support people are the eyes into the soul of your business.

    Yet companies continually ignore this sector, begrudging them resources in budget, staff and tools. Then they don’t understand why they lose clients and turn around and blame it on their beleaguered custommer service department. Customer service management has to be one of the most thankless jobs in the world.

    I can certainly understand your hesitation to recommend this software after this experience. I would feel the same way.

  2. Hi Elaine!

    Your right about many companies not directing the resources towards the front lines, even though it’s obviously the right thing to do.

    It’s a lot like when I call smaller businesses and their front desk receptionist who is their “director of first impression” comes off as gruff, ignorant or bored!

    I wonder how someone from their client base hasn’t gently advised this vendor about their front desk woes!

    Its not that they’d even have to fire the person…just train them…or spend the dollars to hire better people…but that’s a challenge no matter what size business you run.

    Best always,
    -Peter

  3. Hey Peter: I’ve never used ACT!. But I do use this: http://www.highrisehq.com

    It’s totally web-based, but with limited Treo support because of the weak Treo browser. But on my n800 (or any other good browser), it’s awesome. And it’s inexpensive. Plus with a community of users who post solutions and a small dev team that keeps on top of the forums, workarounds and new features come in abundance…at no charge.

    Good luck!

  4. Craig:

    Thanks for the very cool option.

    With the development of Treo’s, i-phones and other web integrated phone and devices, I am amazed at how underdeveloped software integrating popular CRM software and devices is.

    I understand that technology is always changing and it seems there are too wide a variety of “standards” to match up with every phone but I look at it this way: when a guy like me decides he wants integration with his phone device and CRM….thousands of people before me have likely long been on that band wagon. If a CRM company (and I mean ANY CRM software company) isn’t keeping up with portable device technology as a core focus within their software development, that company is not going to survive in the long term, in my opinion.

    But I’m not a tech guy so I may be way off base on this.

    Craig, thanks for visiting, you are always welcome here!

    Best always,
    – Peter

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