Monday, January 11, 2010

non-support: Suddenlink can't help itself

My cable bill appears on my bank's billpay site, but when I click "View Bill" nothing displays. My bank can't fix it. So first I tried Suddenlink's "Chat now":

S Page: my problem with viewing my Suddenlink statement through my bank's online bill payment system. Can you assist with that?
Dana: Unfortunately, no. We provide the statements to your Suddenlink.net account. ... Viewing it via your bank's online bill pay, could be an issue with their system.
S Page: No, wsc.suddenlink.net is definitely doing something wrong. My bank's billpay site shows all my other electronic bills fine. It presents the amount and date of my Suddenlink bill fine, but when I try to view the Suddenlink bill, a) it only works if I reduce my browser security settings and b) even when I do that I get "JSPG0036E: Failed to find resource /WEB-INF/jsp/lang/en/atl_cferror.jsp".
S Page: This is a highly technical flaw with https://wsc.suddenlink.net/EUR_ViewBill/Controller/ProcessCheckFreeAuthorisation?data=...
Dana: That could still be an issue with their site. Have you been able to view your bills at that site before?
S Page: As I said, *every other electronic bill* I get works fine. Problem a) has been around for over a year, but the error message b) is new.
S Page: Do you have a bug reporting system? I want you to enter in it "Customer reports two problems with wsc.suddenlink.net's presentation of online billing to another billpay system. ..." I would be happy to provide more details but there's no point if you don't have a method to report problems with this system.
Dana: We do not have a method to report this that I am aware of. I can report it in your account.
Dana: Everything that I am finding on that error appears to be software issues so far.
S Page: Well that's completely lame. I'm trying to help Suddenlink fix a problem with a service it provides! Suddenlink must have a director of web software engineering who needs to know that your electronic bill presentation system isn't working. Yes it's a software problem.
Dana: (no response)

I tried again with Melanie on the phone. She also had no means to report that their bill-presenting software is broken, the best she could do is e-mail her supervisor.

It's the same sad pattern as Earthlink support and Symantec support. They can all help a customer with certain classes of problems, but the company is structured to be incapable of letting a customer help them.

The future of the web is supposed to be autonomous bits of software talking to each other on behalf of customers, but dinosaur companies aren't set up to support the interaction.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

web: nested levels of anthem.com (Blue Cross) web site woe

The Anthem (the insurance formerly known as Blue Cross) web site doesn't tell you what your medical coverage is internationally. So use the Provide Access link to fill in their Member Access Feedback Form to suggest they need this.

Ahh, but inevitably SPage's law I kicks in:
The part of every Web site with the most problems is the feedback form for reporting problems.
Sure enough:
  • I can't type anything in the form. Its textareas start off disabled, but when I click "No, the information was not easy to find" the textarea underneath doesn't enable. So the Member Feedback Form doesn't work.
  • Fine, I'll use their general Contact Us form to submit a bug report about their feedback form:
    Please pass this feedback on to your manager of Web Site engineering.

    Your Member Access Feedback Form (arrived from the _Provide Feedback_ link) does not work in my browser, Firefox 3 on Windows.

    I am never able to type in the textareas. They start off disabled. I think when I click "No" in the radiobutton above one, it is supposed to enable. The form displays a bunch of JavaScript warnings and errors in the Error Console, in particular this error is basic bad Web programming:

    Error: document.all[obj_textArea] is undefined
    Source File: https://secure1.anthem.com/wps/myportal/escmybcc/kcxml/04_Sj9SPykssy0xPLMnMz0vM0Y_QjzKLN3GNDzZw0i_IdlQEADWd-xo!
    Line: 933

    For how to fix, see, e.g. http://developer.mozilla.org/en/docs/Migrate_apps_from_Internet_Explorer_to_Mozilla#Accessing_elements

    Again, please pass this BUG REPORT about your web site on to the engineering manager of your anthem.com Web site and reply when you have done so.
    Wow, free QA. Anthem is lucky to have me as a customer who can help them fix their Web site.
    • But SPage's law I kicks in, recursively! I click [Send Message] and get:
      Message length should be less than 540 characters.
      These clowns can waste days writing dynamically-enabled textareas that don't work, but they can't put the HTML to display "Message (540 characters maximum)" on a form, or write a simple script that updates "18 characters remaining"?!
    So I have to remove all the useful information from my feedback. But the failures continue:
    • When the form redisplays telling me how I've screwed up, it loses the state of its dropdown.
    • The displays "Email(ampersand)nbspAddress". Someone left off a semicolon in the HTML.
    • Subject isn't marked as required field, but if I don't choose something from it, I get the error "Please select a subject."

    At this point the Contact Us form doesn't work to report the Member Feedback form that doesn't work to report that the Web site doesn't have needed information. As always, some Vice President of Customer Relations is congratulating himself that they get so few complaints.

    There's no subject on this form for "Web site problem", so I'm using "Grievances". All these complaints are going to some poor drone in the "Grievances" department at Anthem who has no idea who runs the web site.
What was I doing? Oh yes, trying to find out about travel coverage. More problems:
  • Maybe the Certificate Booklets (nice meaningless term) for my coverage have the information. Even though these are basic links to PDFs, every single one gives a 404 - File not found.
  • Once you've logged in as a member, there's no search on anthem.com's web site.
  • When your session times out because you're busy making notes about everything wrong with anthem.com, you have to log in again. That's understandable, but you login to some useless promotional site, and when you click to get back to the members site you have to login a second time.
  • If you go to a missing page , you get redirected to www.anthem.com/anthem404.html. But!
    • This picture says

      This content has been Moved to Our New Portal
      Redirecting You Now

      Wait as long as you like, it never goes anywhere.
    • Even though the page URL says "404", anthem.com never returns a 404! To my browser this is a legitimate page. The Vice President of Technology is congratulating herself that they have no broken pages on their web site.
    I should amend SPage's Law I to add: the error page for a web site has errors.
Just awful. I will send $15 by PayPal to anyone who can give me the work e-mail address of the QA Manager of anthem.com.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

non-support: Symantec can't help itself

I ran Cygwin setup, which contacts the Internet to update this fine free collection of UNIX utilities for Windows.

Norton 360's firewall pops up an alert "A program is attempting to access the internet", which is fine. The bug is that the Alert said "Name: NCH Swift Sound Setup". I don't have any such program. Norton's signature database or algorithm is mis-identifying the Cygwin setup program.

So I contact Symantec Technical Support and say "Please pass on this BUG in Norton 360 to its engineering manager"

But company tech support can't handle that. They only know how to help customers, they're incapable of helping the company. So the first reply I get from "Solomon.S" is this issue might occur if your PC is infected with virus or virus-like programs. I reply that my virus scan is fine and "I am trying to help Symantec improve Norton 360 by informing you of this bug in your program." I get another reply from Solomon.S telling me how to change the status as "Allow" in firewall settings for NCH Swift Sound.exe.

Here's my third message.

You still don't get it and I am angry and frustrated that Symantec as an organization is too stupid to accept my bug report.

I am *BEGGING* you to file the following BUG against Norton 360 in your internal bugbase:

"Customer reports that Norton 360's Internet firewall alert mis-identifies the setup.exe program from the Cygwin product as NCH Swift Sound Setup."

How can I be any clearer? I don't need help, Symantec needs help.

How can you stand your job when you have no ability to improve the quality of Symantec's products?

Open source: experienced users like me get a bug login and file a bug against the project; other users can find the bug and comment on it. Eventually someone with QA or engineering ability looks at the bug and the project gets better. Commercial product: the support organization is a barrier to improving the product.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

web: Sprint bites the hand that feeds back

On Sprint's page explaining my plan details, the link for Night & Weekend Minutes explains
Night & Weekend Minutes
Caller ID shows you the numbers for most incoming calls, so you know who's calling before you answer. It even provides the number for the incoming calls via Call Waiting.
The explanation doesn't match the heading. No problem, I'll tell Sprint about the problem using their Email us form.

Ahh, but inevitably SPage's law I kicks in:
The part of every Web site with the most problems is the feedback form for reporting problems.
Sure enough:
  • The form lays out incorrectly in Firefox 3
  • The form is limited to 1200 characters of feedback, but its character counter doesn't work.
  • Once you've given feedback, if you try to fill out the form again, Sprint's botched session management jumps straight to "Your email has been sent to Sprint Customer Care." Sprint knows their form is screwed up, it warns you "To send another email, please sign off and log back in to your account."
  • All these pages have the identical title "Sprint - Welcome", making navigation and back button and bookmarking useless
Because the form is broken so many ways, few customers can stand using it, so Sprint customer service can pat themselves on the back for getting few complaints.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

stuff: low-quality Hi-Def at Best Buy

Criticizing Best Buy is like shooting fish in a barrel, but their sales effort is so poor they have to hear it over and over.

I want a new TV. It's in a bright room so I want LCD rather than plasma. I don't want to block the fabulous view so 46" is my limit. According to this fine explanation, at my 10-foot viewing distance I won't be able to discern the finer resolution of a 1080p set (1920x1080), so a 720p set (usually 1366x768) is sufficient.

So I go to Best Buy. The TVs are arranged at random, with plasmas next to LCDs. Most are running concert video footage that's 480p at best. A few are playing DVDs. Some have the sharpness control set so high that hair and fur sparkles. None of the sets I want to compare are next to each other. So picture quality comparisons are simply impossible. They are selling a Samsung true 1080p TV for less than the Samsung 720p TV that the salesman recommends to me, and there's no indication of why the lower resolution TV costs more.

Later I go to Best Buy's web site and try to compare. They have a Sony KDL-46S2000 for $1,979.99 and a Sony KDL-46S2010 for $2,519.99. There is absolutely no difference between them in Best Buy's online comparator, and the individual product page for the cheaper set lists many more features. Each TV in the comparator has several features that no other set has, e.g. for "Brightness" the Samsung has "500 cd/m²" and the Sony has nothing, while for "Remote control type" the Sony has "Standard" and the Samsung is blank. ??!

I could read the Plasma and LCD Flat-Panel Displays AVS Forum to get feedback from some impassioned expert users, but most product threads have 400 replies and some have over 2,500 replies!

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