Unhappy customers and my problems with ACT
This is a copy of a letter I am sending to customer support for ACT, the contact management program I have used for many years.
Congratulations. Sage Software succeeded today in getting me to spend $184.90 to buy an ACT upgrade I did not want. It seemed this was the only way I could get the program working on my new laptop.
You could not have given me worse service if you tried. When I moved programs and data to my new laptop, everything worked very smoothely… except ACT. Since I use ACT to keep in touch with 796 of the people who are most important to my business, this was very bad news. This led to:
1) Several days of confusing error messages, none of which mentioned a need to purchase anything new. I began to suspect money was the issue when I explained the problem to someone who helped me make the move, and he said that “some companies create this sort of problem as a sleazy tactic to get users to upgrade.”
2) This led me to call the phone number you provided. But it was closed Saturday and Sunday.
3) On Monday, I spent over an hour on hold, and being bounced from one person to another, including being assigned a case number that would not be accepted by your system.
4) When I finally got technical help, my helper could barely speak English, and had to repeat most instructions several times. After 45 minutes of this, he said he would send me an email with a link to a technical article that would solve my problem immediately. I asked him to stay on the line to verify that the email arrived. He said his mail server was down and I’d get it in 10 minutes. 24 hours and several calls later, it still had not arrived.
5) That’s when I decided to give up and pay for your upgrade. My reluctance had a little to do with the money, and a lot to do with the last time I upgraded ACT, and spent many many hours getting it to work.
6) I then spent four more hours downloading the new program, and trying to get it to work. This included another hour on the phone with technical support in India. This person seemed much better, took control of my computer, and proceeded to delete many system files. The she said, don’t worry, everything is great, now you can install it on your own. I said it didn’t feel great and asked her to stay on the line. She refused about 10 times, but did stay long enough for me to check my email for a message from ACT. But now my email no longer worked, due to a new error in Outlook that I had never seen before about a missing file. Since she had just spent an hour deleting files, I said I thought she should help. She said it had nothing to do with ACT, and I should call Microsoft. As I write this, ACT is working, but I am re-installing several other programs to try to solve the new problems ACT caused.
You won the battle, and got my money. But if this is the way you treat customers, I guarantee you will lose the war.
When I emailed Joe Morrell about these adventures, he replied “ACT has a very good product with a lot of solid features, but they should be ashamed of their customer service. They are so useless that you really are pretty much on your own.” (Joe is known by some as a consultant at Navigant, and by others as my daughter's boyfriend.)
I own a company that helps law firms develop new business, and am often asked what I think about ACT. In the past, I’ve said that I have used it for several years, and was reasonably satisfied. In the future, I will tell this story, and explain that I will switch from ACT to Salesforce as soon as I can find time.
The moral of the story is that one dissatisfied client can lead to millions in lost revenue, as he or she tells important business contacts about the poor service that a particular firm provided. In a 1995 Harvard Business Review article, Thomas Jones and W. Earl Sasser described the threat from “customers who have had a bad experience and can’t wait to tell others… with each telling, their stories grow in intensity…”
I plan to tell this story when I give speeches about the importance of exceptional customer service in the internet age. It will help me to make the point that any firm that treats their customers badly should expect unhappy clients to email all their friends, and then post the details in their blogs.