Monday, October 10, 2005

non-support: Earthlink can't help me help itself

I tried to tell Earthlink about the bug I found in their Fraud & Abuse Submission Form: it displays a useless error page if the text of the phishing e-mail is too big. I know this rarely works with big companies, so I specifically said
I want you to report this BUG in the "EarthLink Fraud & Abuse Submission Form" to the Web engineering manager. Please respond when you have done so.
I also know this doesn't help. "Rachel T 3692" promptly responded with a canned template response about phishing and fraudulent e-mail, completely ignoring my bug report. The template even suggested using the same form that I'm telling them has a bug.

I replied saying that was unacceptable, and "Please respond to my original question below as I wrote it or escalate it to someone smarter than you who can understand my bug report."

I also know that escalation also doesn't work. "Sammie K 3781" promptly responded apologizing for the first response, but included another canned template response about corrupt cookies. Anyone can reproduce the problem I reported in two minutes and see that cookies aren't a factor. At least he or she said "we will surely forward your concern to our engineers and provide you other mean of reporting HTML source of the phishing e-mail".

It is so sad. Clearly Earthlink has no concept that customers could support them. They have a Support organization focused on resolving customer issues quickly at minimum cost, they have an Engineering organization developing their software, and the two have no ability to talk to each other. I doubt Rachel T and Sammie K or their manager have ever met the development and quality assurance engineers working on Earthlink's Web applications. The people in support would probably would get in trouble if they took five minutes to reproduce my bug instead of responding to the next customer incident, or if they took the initiative to find out the QA manager for Web applications and put me in touch with her.

The cluetrain manifesto, which told corporations in part "Figure out how to have conversations with your customers over the Internet," is 6 years old.

Meanwhile I can file bug reports myself against most Open Source applications to deliver feedback straight to the development engineer, with no costly support organization or QA group getting in the way.



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