Business Software: Lots of upgrades, little improvement, even less service

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Yeah, we’re all bombarded with arresting tales of how this new application or that will either double your productivity – or save your network or personal computer from threats lurking around every corner. Plus, we’re all bombarded with ceaseless upgrades, most of which require we stop what we’re doing and reboot. Hell, if I stopped for a glass of wine after every Adobe Acrobat upgrade I’d be permanently impaired. So that means our software is getting better, right? And in today’s day and age you’d think customer service would be getting better as well, right?

Wrong on both counts, IMHO.

I recently experienced a fatal workstation crash. Data all backed up, but the old machine had so much uninstalled or never used software shrapnel slowing the machine –which registry cleaners weren’t flushing out – that I wanted to start clean (yeah, I love new toys). So I bought me an even bigger honker of a workstation and started loading software. Oh, what an ugly and expensive experience – lots of cash outflow with little benefit to show for it other than better start-up and processing speed.

Here’s just a partial list of my disappointments.

Windows 7: That’s the other reason I started over, to have a current OS. But aside from being more secure and less likely to crash, W7 is two steps forward and two steps back from XP. Basically, it’s more different than improved.

Office 2010: Another “two steps forward two steps back” experience compared to Office 2007. Word in particular has become slower and less intuitive – plus less friendly than ever to power users who want to click once, not five times. And the worst part of the conversion is finding how to download the second license for laptops that comes with the purchase. Microsoft is so hell bent on discouraging human contact for technical support – including warranty service – it took me days to wiggle through all the obstacles to find the Digital River URL for downloading the second copy I’d already paid for (I “ran” rather than “saved” the first time).

Adobe Acrobat: A while back I’d screwed up by tossing the original CD and keeping only upgrade CDs – which don’t load without the original. When I loaded my old machine I had to contact Adobe, which was very helpful then. This time I wound up offshore with technical support staff telling me: “Tough luck.” I finally reached stateside service and had to upgrade to get an installation file. Funny with Acrobat, non-stop point and version upgrades both but I never see any difference.

SmartDraw: I made the same mistake as with Acrobat. Once again I had to upgrade to a new version to get an install file. They do send a CD following each download, so once again I hit “run,” knowing I’d have the CD. Which didn’t work, so I had to jump through hoops to get my second download. And to boot, so far the new version seems less intuitive than the last and has proven to be a pain in the butt.

Online back-up software: Entry barriers for selling software online have dropped so low that every Tom, Dick and Harry with storage capacity can offer online service. Never mind their software sucks. Thankfully, most offer free trials, because I ran through 5 programs before finding one with: either granular enough retrieval functionality to avoid downloading a house to get a window; or set-up instructions showing the same screens as in the stuff I downloaded. Mediocrity squared.

QuickBooks: At least this time I had the original CD. But didn’t matter. Intuit, among the least customer-friendly software companies around, no longer offers upgrades. So I had to spring for a full version of QB2011 that offers me not a single improvement over QB2008. Now that’s customer-centricity.

Xerox: The driver for my color laser, which ain’t that old, is not being upgraded for Windows 7, and doesn’t work with W7. Fortunately, my very good local Xerox service shop has a workaround, but it still cost me time, hassle and a service call.

Hewlett-Packard: Mercifully, the drivers for the last piece of HP hardware (we used to be 100% HP) actually worked. I say “mercifully” because HP’s service is now 100% offshore; their techs the most ill-trained I’ve encountered; and the one time I had a serious problem with my exotic, rotating screen monitor (for process mapping) I could find no one with any training or information about the unit. I had to resolve the issue on my own. If this thing hadn’t worked – time to shoot myself.

You get the picture. And that’s not the whole list. Lots of software systems offering different rather than better. Customer service in the toilet. Lots of wasted time. Lots of expense for no discernible new value. And validation – as if we needed any more – that the whole business universe is NOT moving towards customer-centricity.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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