Update 2014-11-07: Commenter “Karen” posted the solution in the comments at the end of the article.
As regular readers of this blog have learned, I seem to be stricken with a curse that prevents me from ever getting good customer support. And the latest example is a situation with IGG Software, makers of the iBank 5 software I use for personal finance management.
On December 4, I emailed IGG Software, reporting issues with iBank 5 connecting to a bank it advertised support for:
I tried to login to CapitalOne 360, via direct connect. After entering my customer ID and access code, I was presented with a dialog to answer two security questions. I’m sure I answered them correctly, because I referenced screenshots of the bank website when I originally setup the security questions. After a few moments, I was returned an “invalid login credentials (402)” error.
Subsequent attempts to login did NOT present any security questions; rather, simply returned the “invalid login credentials (402)” error.
About a week later, I got a reply from “Jared”:
I’d like to take a look at the Direct Access log that is created when you attempt to log in/download from your account. Here’s how to generate the log I need…
I’ve worked with Jared in the past on other iBank-related issues, and he always demonstrated himself to be competent and knowledgeable. In this instance, he outlined a procedure to enable logging and retrieve the associated log file.
Unfortunately, however, after following his instructions, no log file was created at the location he specified. And while looking for that file, I discovered something really weird—iBank had created an aliased copy of my home folder in the iBank application support folder.
I created a few supporting screenshots and sent the following reply to Jared:
I followed the procedure, but the com.iggsoftware.iBank5 log folder remains empty.
Also, I noticed a strange root hierarchy to that folder:
Is it normal that the parent folder in that tree contains what appears to be a full replica of my user directory?
Notice that I use Dropbox to host my screenshots. It’s very convenient; just snap a screenshot with command-option-4, and Dropbox automatically uploads it and puts the URL on your clipboard. (I’m mentioning this, because it becomes relevant to this story later on.)
A week later, I’d not heard back from Jared, so I emailed him a reminder. A week after that, I emailed him once again, pointing out that two weeks had now passed.
At that point, I received a reply from “Melissa”:
Jared is no longer with IGG Software. Can you please give me a brief summary of the issue you are having so I can try to assist you?
Well, that’s unfortunate—support ace Jared is no longer with IGG Software. And the first contact with Melissa is a bit strange; she’s asking me for a summary of the issue? Can’t she see the communication thread with Jared—that is fully quoted in this very email?
I replied to Melissa:
The only thing you’re missing from the thread below, including supporting screenshots, is my original email to Jared. Here is a copy of that… … So there are two open issues:
- The issues I’m having connecting to CapitalOne 360.
- A clarification as to why I’m finding an entire aliased replication of my home directly in the support directory of iBank.
Melissa replied that they’re investing the connection issues, and then added:
On the other issue, I am not clear on what you mean about the aliased replication…. Can I have a screenshot or two to help me understand that?
To which I replied:
The screenshots are in the thread history of this conversation (in this same email.)
To which she replied:
I am not able to see that view, so can you please email me the information again?
What view is she talking about? How in the world is it possible that she can read a portion of my email, but not the whole thing? I replied:
The whole support thread is appended below, in this very email. As it has in all previous emails. How is it possible you can’t see it? And if you can’t read the history thread quoted in this very email, how do you propose I get it to you?
And that is when things got really weird. Here’s what Melissa sent me next:
It looks to me like you are using Dropbox, is that correct?
We do not recommend Dropbox as a file location for your iBank document (data file) because it has been shown to cause corruption and/or data loss.
Your iBank document belongs in your Documents folder on your Mac, and the application in the Applications folder, also on your Mac hard drive.
Oh. My. Goodness.
She figured out how to read the whole email, and evidently saw my screenshot URLs, which include “dropbox.com”—since, as I mentioned before, they are hosted on Dropbox.
And from that, she assumed that I’m using Dropbox to store my iBank data file, and sends a response that might be relevant had I been reporting a data corruption issue.
Very frustrated, I demanded to be put in touch with somebody else, and she replied that she’d forwarded the support issue to her manager. A few days later now, and I’ve still heard nothing.
Who’s at fault?
Although I was frustrated with her, I can’t blame Melissa. As far as I can tell, she’s doing her best, and responding to issues in accordance to the manual she’s been given.
The root of the problem is the function of customer support leaving the people who make and use the software, and being delegated to people who don’t use the software and have little technical expertise.
And what’s really frustrating, as a customer, about the whole thing isn’t just that my problems don’t get solved; no, far more than that, the real problem is wasting my time.
Owning a company that sells software products, I know that customer support is challenging. And once you have a reasonable number of customers, providing support can take a good chunk of a team’s time away from product development. So I fully understand why companies, when their customer base grows enough, choose to delegate support. But what we typically find today isn’t the answer, and ultimately just transfers the problem of lost time from the company to the customer.
There’s got to be a better way.