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December 06, 2006

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.


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» Jim Hassett's Not So Excellent Adventure from What About Clients?
Bad service, bad buzz. As Harry Beckwith's young son once said, "too often, service sucks". From Jim Hassett at Legal Business Development, here's "Unhappy customers and my problems with ACT". Don't tug on Superman's cape, dude.... [Read More]



I can't tell you how I wish I ran across your blog a few months ago. I too have used ACT for many years, along with several other CRM solutions. What I liked about ACT over the others was its ability to quickly log phone calls, notes and move onto the next call. After speaking to a Sage rep who explained how many of the features from prior versions have either been improved, enhanced, and bugs fixed, I opted to upgrade. I also choose to purchase some additional add on products, one being Act for Palm ver 2.0 . I had several issues after completing the upgrade that a customer service rep from GA was able to handle. After my 30 days were up, I was told that they couldn't support me unless I purchased either the fee per call or 1 yr support service. They obviously are looking to "push" the purchasers into a support contract in order to increase profits, as they knew they had issues with the software. Anyway, I understand that business model. After spending hours upon hours... overseas with people who spoke in a monitone fashion (and could obviously care less) about my disatisfaction, I am still having issues. To top it all off, I was told that a manager would call me back after I left several messages and hung up with a CSR.

After growing several businesses over the years, I believe in "the purple cow" of viral marketing.

I have learned that when something is good, people don't typically tell anyone about it...when something is BAD, people tell everyone.

May this blog be picked up around the world for all too see.

I found an easy way to get your older ACT! information back and avoid paying the $184.90 to the Sage laughing, got ya, salesperson.

I purchased on Ebay, from David Clark a/k/a Rock Bottom Price a disc for ACT! 2005 Contact Manager, Full Version 7.0 ACT Program. The total cost inlcuding shipping & handling and insurance was $27.14. I loaded the disc and followed the on screen directions and registered the program on line. The program found my old version of ACT! and transfered all my Contacts with all the information I had accumulated over the years about them.

I'm in business again. I printed out all the stored information, just in case Sage plays another game with us. ASAP I'll transfer to a different Contact Manager Program. I will never give Sage Software or any of its susideraries any of my business.

Well it's great to find I am not alone. I too am a long time user of ACT and recently upgraded to 2007. It worked initially and then suddenly created a problem where the CPU is running at 100% and makes the computer unusable. After 1.5 hours on hold to ACT customer service (that name is a joke), I finally ran out of time so it is still not running. The only way I can get the computer back running is to uninstall ACT and also stop two processes that continue to run even after uninstalling the program. Sage is the only company I know that makes you pay to buy something and then makes you pay again to fix it. The company is a disgrace. Does anyone have experience with Gold Mine - are they any better? I am ready for a change.

Jim - I just got the same run around from Sage - They sell a very buggy program then push us into a service agreement to fix the problems inherent to their programming. I own three companies and had been an ACT proponent for many years but this business model of theirs is unacceptable. I just bought three ACT Licenses and those are the last ones I will be buying (or anything from Sage Software).
Feedback on Salesforce or Goldmine would be appreciated.

I, too have used act for many years and purchased the '08 version for the updated features. I am currently on hold after 4 days of hold installation deletions re installations and 7 hours on the phone. Act is history!! I would like to start a class action suit against them. Interested? Any information about other CRM's?

I switched to Avidian Prophet last year and had none of your issues. Try it. It's totally integrated with Outlook and much, much easier to use.

A client asked me to relocate their "ACT 7.0 for Windows" database files to an idle system on the network. The 8-system office can't get into Act when the user busies-up the system where the database files live. I copied them, made it sharable, I could browse them on the other systems, but when I told Act to "Open a database" and navigated to the "contacts.pad" file on the idle system - it just refused to work. Going to the Act Web site I found no help and it looks like they are avoiding all "free" contact with anyone who wants to ask a tech question - unless you have money in hand. They have ignored my email request for an answer. After reading these posts I will now advise this office of financial planners to spread the word - "Act isn't the solution - STAY AWAY FROM IT!

Our Engineering Sales company has been using various Act versions for nearlt two decades. We have 10 users and, like others, kept upgrading to the latest versions (V2008 Premium was the latest) in an attempt to get out in front of the bugs. We may be a bit unique in that we rely heavily on two aspects of the program: Opportunities and remote synchronization for salespeople in field offices. When we finally adandoned Act we had several hundred opportunities totalling over $15 million, most of which were real live quotes, and over 5000 contacts. I personally spent countless hours in 2007 dealing with Act help line in India and the USA. I also spent thousands of dollars to my IT company who also became well known to the Act help desks ( we even got to know some of them by name). The opportunities list had taken on a life of its own - often coming up with different totals and refusing to sort. These were new problems with version 2008 premium,and only added to the frustration we had been experiencing with earlier versions email, hanging, crashing, synchronization etc.
I was extremely reluctant to leave Act behind, as we were so heavily invested in this program, but it became obvious that the problems we were encountering could not be solved.
If Act would actually do what it was designed to do I would move back to Act tomorrow. The layout of the program is the best I've seen, and the Crystal reports are very powerful and (used to ) keeping my sales force on track.

We have very reluctantly moved to Maximizer - clearly an older program and not as flexible nor as powerful, but hopefully more stable. After all, I am trying to run an engineering sales business, not become a CRM expert.
Before you ask - I am not endorsing Maximizer, but my business was suffering so badly I had to do something. And, no, you CANNOT import Act opportinities into Maximizer.

I have ACT 2000. I have been using this product since Symantec had it. I bought and returned the latest product (2005) from Sage,
for a refund in 4 days, with a note in my computer, ( what a piece of crap ). I have been trying to find
a replacememnt ever since.

I have Act 10, the latest and greatest. It wouldn't properly sync with Outlook as advertised. I put up with the problem for a years with the last version because Act 9 would not synch with Office 2007, so I couldn't integrate with Outlook or Word. Every time I open up Act, it wants to set up the program again and it doesn't remember the last data base that I used. Like others on this list, I have spent countless hours on tech support trying to resolve the problem. I'm a consultant, so every hour on the phone (or writing comments online) costs me money. My tech guy says that has tried resolving the same problem for other clients and while working with Sage Software's tech support. He finally gave up.

I got a notice in the mail that I am part of a class-action suit settlement that was filed against Sage Software for Act 2004. They are offering me $40 but not admitting that the product was defective and that they advertised falsely. Four years later, this company is still doing business the same way. I've been using Act since 2.0 but I'm switching to another product.

Not only do I hate this product (v9) but the arrogance of the people at Sage in Newcastle has to be experienced to be believed. If you tell them (a mistake I'll admit) that you are not spending any more money to get the mess fixed they will stop helping you. I have succeeded so far in getting free copies of versions 8 and 9 - since ACT6 none of them have worked reliably and the product stitches you up so you cannot use the valuable info you have in it with anything else.

Since misery loves company – I’m glad I found you all. I’m a 10+ year user of ACT, and have stuck with them as each “upgrade” seemingly made the system less reliable and functional. A couple versions back I actually wrote a scathing (if somewhat therapeutic) letter to the CEO of Sage explaining that whatever “upgrade” that was, had created the most severe erosion of feature and function I had ever witnessed. The red flag this time around should have been when the online order processing website couldn’t process a download order and one license to ship order at the same time. Oh, and I had to wait 10 days to find that out.

We’ve seen the SQL server implemented in ACT in a way that has brought otherwise fast systems to its knees. As the system bogs down more and more, always hoping later updates would address some of the performance issues – only to continue backsliding.

Now, since hardware issues were causing me to update many systems, I decided to go to Vista 64 as well, only to find out that ACT’s “Vista-ready” system doesn’t work on this platform. At all. The lame explanations about why are yet further warnings…I have finally determined to surrender, and pursue some other contact management system for our small 2-user business network.

What a sad thing to have long-time customers falling away like all of us. The ACT product has been such a part of our business lives and successes, the surrender is an admission of defeat like a failed relationship. But several straws have broken this camel’s back, and I’m running away from that train-wreck of a product as fast as I can.

And I thought it was just me.
I have used ACT! 6 with reasonable success but when I have tried later versions I have experienced nothing but problems and ended up spending days trying to remove the software and getting my PC operational again.
I decided that the 2008 version had sufficient benefits to justify an upgrade and started to plan for it. I did a quick check with ACT! support in the UK to see if ACT! 6 and 2008 were able to co-exist. Unbeknown to me, this triggered the start for my free support and when I was ready to install, the period had expired.

Everything I try to do seems to generate problems. The database ends up with errors which maintenance fails to resolve.

Great concept but it leaves me with the impression that the technical competence of the development team is sadly lacking. Perhaps this is their way to generate support revenue.

I too am a long term user of ACT! from v4 onwards. It all went wrong with the upgrade to ACT7. This upgrade converted the database to a format that could only be accessed by ACT7 and later editions. Because of the problems encountered with the program, Sage UK gave me free upgrades to ACT8 and ACT9. I still have problems and have been obliged to pay Sage UK for support to enable me to access my database.
I would cheerfully use another product but because the data in MY database is irrevocably linked to this program I cannot. I feel decidedly stitched up by these people. Their technical people cannot fix many of the problems, blaming either the system for the faults or the user setup. For example, I have an external hard drive for back which spins up everytime ACT opens, delaying the process by at least 30 seconds each time. ACT support say they have no idea why this happens and say they cannot help. There is no ACT related data on this external drive.
I suppose my grievance is that the quality of the product and the way the database is locked to it stitches me up to force me to stay with it in an unhappy and unnecessarily expensive relationship.


Does anyone know anything about Maximizer or Goldmine?

I recently upgraded from my version of ACT! because it was no longer supported. WHAT A MISTAKE! It takes 7 seconds to reschedule an activity (down from 35 seconds after Tech Support worked with me) and I can't drag & drop multiple activities. I'm so disgusted with Version 10 that I don't want to put anymore time into it because I think I'm better off investing in some other software. Version 10 won't transfer my templates from the earlier version, so I'm going to have to redo all of the custom templates I did.

If anyone knows anything about the two programs listed above, I'd really appreciate your help. Or, if you have another suggestion, I'm all ears!


I agree with all of you I have been using act Since DOS 10+ and they cannot even start to support the junk they produce. Over 100 hours with Paid Premium tech NON support in two years. Using a paper system would have been faster.
When Sage bought ACT they closed the original Washington support two years ago (Profit) those were the guys who developed the original versions that worked. Those guys were great they actually warned me it “ACT will not get better”.
I do agree the layout is the best out there, but it is always Locking up, losing data in fields (Phone, E-mail, history and even contacts) and BUGGY. The support staff is Inept. All I can say at this point after trying to get bug fix answers from Sage for 1 hour this morning is: Greedy ,Greedy SAGE.
Anyone Recommend Goldmine or Maximizer?

Sad to read this. I came to this site via a Google search on the phrases "should I upgrade now? is ACT! finally stable and reliable again in 2009?"

I've used ACT! since ... well, whatever the version before 4 was. First Act? Anyway, then versions 4 and 6. Loved it. I'm freelance so my needs are not sophisticated, but I value elegance and reliability and I had that with ACT! up to version 6.

When I bought a new XP computer in 2003 I searched reviews re ACT! upgrades and they worried me, so I held back. I've been searching and reading reviews year after year, and meanwhile using Outlook (reliable but lumbering Outlook). This is the year -- 2009 -- when I give up hope, bury the ACT! dream, and look elsewhere. Sad.

I am still on ACT 2007 (9.0) and had had no problems until I needed to move my ACT system from my desk top to my laptop. Apparently, they outsource all those calls to India. Talked with one Indian person, whom I could not really understand, and then called back, in hopes of getting lucky and finding one I could work with. Finally, the accent-barrier problem solved, and they did help me with the installation questions. Guess that is free, but then, 30 days later, I am experiencing problems with the look-up feature, which in all my years of using the system, never had this happen. But, it has something to do with when the support person transferred over my files. (Do they do this on purpose to sell you a contract for support?) When I called back to support, now they want me to pay $45 for one-time question, or buy a support contract. I am so disappointed in this company!!

I tried to upgrade to Act V.11 for Real Estate, This program would not install correctly, later it would not sync with Outlook, then had problems loading the data file. Each occurence required a call to the tech support. After trying to understand esach other, after striking out languagewise, each time they took control of my laptop and got me running again. Now I have another problem. When I try to start the program the login completes then I get a message that the program had "stopped working". Now I am back to square one, my 30 day help has run out and I will have to pay for future help. In the short time I have had the program, it has worked very erratic, easch issue has been different and I have no assurance there won't be more problems. So, it just sits there and I keep hoping the next issue will be the last one, butr it appears hopeless.

Been a fan of Act since version 2 when Symantec owned it, ow the good old days with excellent free support! Program has gone down hill progressavley since Sage took over milking the cash cow!
Having set the program up to run & sync over 2 computers, the sync and database locked up without reason. Sage just want more support money and then don't know the answers themselves. They suggested I install on "fresh" computers! - My small business can't afford any more CRM downtime so it's into the bin for Act

I'm IT for a small company that uses ACT. My issue is on one computer, no matter what I do, the ACT program hangs up and locks the computer up. I can go to any other website and move around all I want, I've tried removing the virus software, popups are set to all, I've installed new versions of IE and made sure all updates for XP have been done. I've logged on as another user and it does the same thing. I've logged on to another computer in ACT with that users credentials and I do not hang up. You can do one or two things that are pain achingly slow and then the 2nd or 3rd thing you do within ACT puts an hour glass up and locks it up. The computer has Windows XP, a 2.0 processor with 1G RAM and is about 2 or so years old. I'm using IE 8. All other programs (web mail, other web sites and excel, word, etc) run great. Just not ACT. Can anyone help?

I have ACT 5.0 and it used to work fine. Now it will not print a contact report or a contact list. The ACT program displays "ACT has encountered a problem and must shut down". I was going to upgrade to a newer version but the Internet seems full of unhappy users of the newer versions.

Wow. What a disapointment.

We've been using act since the very beginning.
Even the HP200LX pda version.
Always been brilliant. Right through to Act 6.

Every release since then has been a disaster.
Every time promises that the next version, the next upgrade would take it back to the good old days of fault free, robust and speedy performance.
It's never happenned.

The move from the old dBase (up to v6) format to SQL (v7 on) is what killed it. It was never done properly, and it's never recovered

We've never successfully upgraded from Version 6 (Which still runs great and is stable)

Anyway, we've just paid thousands out to go to v10, and it successfully corrupted out v9 db in the upgrade, and to top this off, the client wont run on vista 64.

I had a lot of time for ACT! because of the good old days.

Right now I feel ripped off.
We've invested and supported this product.
With the resources of Symantec and SAGE surely they could have fixed this mess.

Thanks ACT, but I give up

We upgraded to 9.0 - many problems but it's working okay for us to use except for one big problem - I cannot edit the templates because the Field Options box no longer pops up for me. I want to add the "Title" field to their standard letter.adt template, and the envelope template, but have no idea how to find it. Am at my wits end. Does anyone have a blank letter and envelope template, with the title added, that you're willing to share? I use Office 2007 and use Word as my default word processor, not ACT.


Tell me about it!!! After 4 support sessions each of which lasted more than 3 man days, I am still married to ACT! that is the most buggiest solution ever. It does not track user login/logout status though the option is still there. It logs itself out frequently. All contacts get linked to the same company. Exports does not work, and if it does, the session logs itself out again. To top it all, the reseller who sold me ACT! is out of business and the current one says it is a solution bug and only the developer is authorised to resolve it. Sage India agrees politely to all the issues but say that they will just resolve everything in the next patch which never came. If it wasn't for the cost advantage and this damned recession, I would have shown ACT! and Sage, what they are actually worth.

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