Taming the Dragon

By Ron Rosenberg

It's important to have the right tools to get your work done in the most efficient manner. This enables you to focus your efforts on your core competencies.

That's why we have a monthly article on "Tools of the Trade" that features many of the tools that we - and our clients - use to become more productive in everything we do.

In fact, I'm using one of them right now - Dragon Naturally Speaking - a piece of software that lets you dictate what you want to say, and then turns it into text that gets entered into whichever application you happen to be using on your computer.

As you'll see from the linked article, I really like this software. The only problem is that when I installed the new version, it wouldn't let me change the default "hot key" settings. These are the keyboard shortcuts you can use to turn on and off the mic and do several other common functions - kind of like Ctrl-S as a shortcut for saving a file.

And this wouldn't even be a problem at all, except that several of the default hot-keys take over the /, *, -, and + keys on the numeric keypad on the keyboard - buttons I actually use quite frequently.

When I try to use the "Options" section of the software to change them, the application freezes and then quits.

Tech Support - Here We Come!

A quick search on the company's website leads me to the phone number for their Technical Support department, and after a few responses to the automated system, and about ten minutes on hold, I'm delivered to the representative.

From the accent, I realize immediately that the call center is probably not in the United States. This, in and of itself, is not a problem - I don't necessarily care where the call center is geographically as long as the people there can solve my issue, and I'm able to understand them clearly.

In this case, the person's English was fine, but his ability to solve the problem...well...not so much.

Customer Service - A Tragedy in Three Parts

Part 1 - Run the Repair Tool

The first rep thought that the problem might be that some part of the software had somehow become corrupted and stepped me through the process to run the "repair" function from the installation package. Since this was going to take some time to complete, I said I'd try that and call back if it didn't work.

It didn't - I kept getting an error message that there was a CRC error on the DVD.

Part 2 - See if the DVD is Corrupted

I called back, and, after another 15 minutes on hold, I got another Tech Support rep - again at an offshore location. After about five minutes of explaining the problem (since they didn't have it described correctly in the notes) he told me to copy the DVD image to the desktop which also failed with the same error. Then, he asked me to copy it on another computer (which did work) but in the meantime, I asked if he could e-mail me a download link, which he did. He told me the process for uninstalling and reinstalling the software which I said I understood.

Again, I told him I'd call back if it didn't work. I uninstalled, reinstalled, repaired, and rebooted, but again, the same thing happened.

Part 3 - Can I Talk to Someone in the United States?

I called back the next day (another 15 minutes on hold) and then spent about seven minutes reviewing the notes with the rep and then got put on hold while he tried to see what he could find out. After about five minutes, the call dropped.

I called back again (I don't really have to include the hold times at this point, do I?), restated the problem again and was put on hold with the same delightful background music I've come to associate with bad service.  After a few minutes, the music stopped and, you guessed it, no one was there.

So I called back again, but this time when I was connected, I asked to speak to a representative in the United States. The rep ignored this and kept trying to get more information so he could solve the problem. I asked for a manager who could help me, and after being put on hold, the call was dropped.

Sorry We Can't Help You

The interesting thing is that a few days later, I got an e-mail that said:

Recently you requested personal assistance from our on-line support center. Below is a summary of your request and our response. We will assume your issue has been resolved if we do not hear from you within 14 days. Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

It turns out that they meant to send me another e-mail with specific instructions on how to gather application data to help them debug the problem, but the message never went out.

So I spent about 20 minutes following the detailed instructions and collecting all the files they wanted.

Interestingly enough, in the middle of writing this, I got an e-mail from them that started with:

Dear Ron Rosenberng,

Thank you for contacting Nuance Technical Support. This email is regarding the issue that you were encountering with Nuance software.

There are 2 possible cause of the issue
- It might be an issue with the program itself
- It could be a problem when you first setup your profile

Can you please try to do the following troubleshooting that might correct the problem

Overlooking the fact that they misspelled my last name, the e-mail continued with detailed instructions on how to uninstall and reinstall the software.

If you're sensing a bit of déjà vu, it's because that is precisely what I did in "Part 2" of the saga I described above.

In addition, in the middle of all of this, I left a message for the company's Vice President of Customer Service...who has not returned my call.

Lessons Learned...

There are a two good ones here.

First, an utterly fantastic product that I use daily can easily become tarnished by an unacceptably low level of customer service. At the time of this writing, I still don't have an answer to my question or a solution to the problem.

Second, recognize that frustration builds the more you have to deal with the same issue. As hope for a solution begins to fade, anger increases, and it doesn't take long for a raving fan to turn into a harsh critic.

Try to be sensitive to what your customers, clients, and members are experiencing, and do everything you can to make the complete experience a good one.