Tag Archives: customer service

Fanmail (I’m Blushing)

8 Nov 1997 – There are heaps of useful information on the Adaptec web site, though if you start out at the main home page it’s hard to find the CD-R/CD-RW stuff. If you want to look at it, try this URL: http://www.adaptec.com/support/cdrec [link no longer works]

It gives you rundowns (not always complete or consistent, but better than I’ve found elsewhere) on Adaptec’s software. Perhaps more important, it gives basic information about which software supports which hardware, which filetypes are supported in which operating systems, and like that. When the time comes, that’s also where they post patches, upgrades, and such. The honcho is a Dierdre something who has a presence in the newsgroups as well and has demonstrated a great capacity to ignore the flack, keep her cool, remain cheerily offhand, and focus on constructive substance. We need more Dierdres.

Having just started a job with a PR agency (I’m a former magazine editor), I’m acutely aware of the value of the abovementioned qualities. Please keep up the good work.

Subject: Adaptec in trouble ?
20 Nov 1997
From: nobody@REPLAY.COM (Anonymous)
Newsgroups: alt.philips.cdr.discussion

Are things going bad for Adaptec Software Products ? Why is it that “Adaptec CD-R (Deirdre’ Straughan) adaptec_cdr@wnt.dc.lsoft.com” (who also monitors a mailing-list for Adaptec Software Products) in all his replay’s includes a URL to the Adaptec Software Products site on the WWW.

I have heard about direct marketing, but is lurking around in usenet trying to drag CDR-users with some problem’s to a commercial-site not somewhat overdone ? Is this the way to stay alive for a company ?

Some research:

Author: “Adaptec CD-R (Deirdre’ Straughan)” <adaptec_cdr@wnt.dc.lsoft.com> 179 unique articles posted.

Number of articles posted to individual newsgroups (slightly skewed by cross-postings):

  • 68 comp.publish.cdrom.hardware
  • 46 comp.publish.cdrom.software
  • 22 alt.comp.periphs.cdr
  • 21 alt.cd-rom
  • 4 alt.2600.warez
  • 2 comp.sys.ibm.pc.hardware.cd-rom
  • 1 alt.binaries.warez
  • 1 alt.philips.cdr.discussion

All these posting’s contain one or more links to the Adaptec Software Products site on the WWW. I doubt if the advice given by this person is objective.

Subject: Thanx
Sat, 29 Nov 1997

Dear Ms. Straughan,

Just a few lines to thank you and your company for an excellent product in CD Creator Deluxe. One of the contributing factors in buying the program was seeing your intelligent and informative responses almost daily in the various newsgroups. It’s rare these days to see such dedication and interest given to the average consumer. Keep up the good work, and may I take this opportunity to wish you and the team a happy and prosperous New Year.

EMail Encounters: Anecdotes of a Professional Life Online

I’ve spent probably half of my working life answering email. And therein lie a number of tales…

Some people were convinced I had to be mailbot, because I answered so quickly. As I told them: “If we had a mailbot this good, we’d be selling that instead of CD-R!”

The Unexpected Response

It seems that when people write to a general address at a company, they don’t necessarily expect a response, and are surprised when they get one.

I often received extremely abusive messages from people who were angry about products, service, or whatever. I usually managed to respond calmly and politely. Most of the time, the second email from these people was a great deal politer, and a few even apologized for their previous harsh tone. On two memorable occasions, the answer was: “Ohmygod, I’m so sorry! I never thought a real human being would read that!”

Which is a sad statement about how some companies handle their email – how has it happened that this medium, which was supposed to help companies communicate with customers, is routinely used so badly that, when customers write, they don’t even expect a reply?

Bringing in the Big Guns

Perhaps this is why many people, in their very first contact with a company, come in with  bazookas blazing: “If you don’t make me a happy customer, I’m going to sic the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and a pack of lawyers on you.” Or “I’m going to write to all the major magazines about how rotten you are.” As if they had to greet me with a kick in the teeth in order to get my attention.

Again, many of these people backed off as soon as they got any sort of polite and semi-competent response from the company. But it makes for a tiring workday, being barraged with abuse from people who assume that you won’t help them unless they’re nasty.

Perhaps we’d all suffer less stress if we started from the assumption that the people whose job it is to help us actually want to do so, and only escalate to threats if they fail to take that job seriously.

There were two types of aggressives who made me laugh:

  • “I’m going to put up a nasty website about you. You obviously don’t understand the power of the Internet!” (The second sentence is an actual quote that I remember very clearly – I received that message a few years ago, but, even then, trying to tell me about the power of the Internet was a clear case of ‘trying to teach Granny to suck eggs.’)
  • “I’m a journalist and write for [blank] magazine – you’d better make me happy or your name will be mud.” (Not an exact quote, but the gist was clear.) These were both amusing and irritating. By the time I left Roxio, my own newsletters had a combined circulation of over 190,000. I think that qualifies me as a well-read journalist, no? But I always bit my tongue and handed those guys over to the PR folks,  who would give them whatever special treatment they deserved.

Myself, I never treated anyone special. Or rather, I treated everyone the same. I truly felt that all customers deserved the same consideration, and all of their problems and gripes should, as far as possible, be resolved.

This runs counter to the current wisdom of “Customer Relationship Management,” which says that you should use fancy software to determine who your most valuable customers are (those who have bought the most and are most likely to buy again), and make sure that they are kept happiest (offer them special deals and so on – the same principle as frequent-flyer mileage).

Many times, the sheer fact of my answering the email kindly, even if all I could say was that I couldn’t help, reversed the customer’s attitude towards the company and “saved the day.”

Discussion List: Early Experiences in Online Customer Communications

“People want to discuss your product or service online. If you don’t give them a way to do it, someone else will.”
User to User Support by Derek M. Powazek – on WebTechniques

The Adaptec discussion list was created in about 1996 as a way for users of Adaptec CD-R software to help each other. It was actively moderated, meaning that every message was approved by a moderator (initially, me) before being posted to the whole list. This took a lot of time, but spared the community some of the worst aspects of the Usenet (trolls, flamers, spammers, obscenity), and ensured that discussion stayed on topic and didn’t get personal. There were clearly delineated policies about what would and would not be posted. There were complaints from time to time about “censorship,” but these always simmered down with the clearly expressed majority opinion that active moderation was desirable for the list. We actually censored very little, allowing all comments, no matter how negative, about the company and its policies and products. As long as people didn’t rant on repetitively or attack each other, we let them post – if anything, we erred on the side of leniency, and other list participants would let us know when they had had enough of a ranter.

The list was widely held to be an extremely useful forum for help and support with all aspects of CD recording. However, in email-only format and with a high level of activity (up to 75 messages a day!),  it could be a bit much for ordinary mortals. So people began to request a weekly newsletter as an alternative – and they loved it.

In 2002, Roxio replaced the email-format discussion list with Web-based discussion groups.

On the Usenet: Supporting a Company in an Online Public Forum

My presence in online public discussion groups dates back to the CompuServe forums I frequented starting around 1993, where I helped customers with Incat’s CD-R software, and CD-R technology in general. I was eventually invited to start a section specifically for Incat software. Then a friendly user wrote me: “Hey, you should be out on the Usenet – they’re saying nasty things about your products.” (“What’s the Usenet?” said I…)

I was very visible on the Usenet until February of 2000, when I hired Adrian Miller to provide more technical know-how and detail than I had time to. Selected (nice) comments about both of us are given below; not all the comments were nice, but the nasty ones tend to be unrepeatable!

Even as early as 1995, the Usenet was plagued with trolls, flamers, and spam-mongers. So someone suggested a private mailing list, where folks interested in serious discussion about CD-R could get together in a more civil atmosphere; the CompuServe forums were fine for this, but were not open to non-members of CompuServe. So the Adaptec CD-R list was born

Customer Comments on Usenet Presence

> on Mon, 23 Jul 2001, Deirdre’ Straughan wrote

> FYI, as of July 13 I no longer represent Roxio in these newsgroups or anywhere else.

From: mikah <mikah@nospam4me.com> Yeah, I know… and I’m still trying to figure out who I’m never going to forgive — you or Roxio.

10/15/95 – Your presence on the internet was a major part of my decision to purchase the HP system. Also, the Easy-CD Audio is a very nice utility. I hope that your merge with Adaptec will not decrease Incat’s innovation or responsiveness!

11/17/95 – Re: 2 second delay recording CD-DA: If only more people would post stuff that is that informative and enlightening

Subj: Write at once Section: incatsystems – January 25, 1996: I believe this is one of the best support forums and this is one more reason to buy Easy CD writer software.

12/8/95 – I really appreciate your activity on comp.publish.cdrom.hardware – many other discussion groups lack people who know and are willing to share their information. Makes a good impression of Incat systems, too.

12/19/95 – Incat probably has the best support of all the major companies. I have constantly seen you posting at various groups and your articles at some web sites. Your articles and posts have been extremely helpful in understanding the complicated nature of CD recording.

1/24/96 – I’m with Hewlett Packard support. I’m sending you this mail to say you’re doing a great job on the newsgoups

3/7/96 – …myself, my acquaintances and I’m sure others are always inclined to purchase from companies that make a presence on the net.

3/23/96 – I think it’s great that you guys consistently monitor the news groups and answer questions. Not many companies out there do that.

March 27, 1996 – …with Deirdre on line here, I felt sure that first-rate assistance was available; it was only a question of when, not whether, I could get help.

5/3/96 – Thank you for your participation in the newsgroups for CD-R. I purchased EasyCD Pro 95 (version 1.1.410) just because of your active participation.

I appreciate all the work you do here online. One of the reasons I bought the Smart & Friendly with Incat software was so that I could ask Deirdré tech support questions!

5/30/96 – …thanks for publicly supporting your product. I don’t see any names from HP tech support or Corel tech support on the cdrom.hardware newsgroup. It has made an impact on my decision about which software to buy.

5/27/96 – I would like to commend you and your company for having a presence on the internet that can actually be felt. A lot of companies out there say they have email and internet support and it is little more than what seems to be one person sending out one sentence answers that are not very helpfull.

6/28/96 – …I doubt if the 90 days trial will be necessary – I’ve been impressed by users comments in the comp.publish.cdrom.* newgroups and by the technical support given in your postings in the same forums.

August 13, 1996 – Your comments to everything posted here are always helpful and enlightening and this is one of the finest support forums I’ve seen.

9/19/96 – But did want to say thanks for your response. Your presence in these newsgroups (and the newsletter!) is much appreciated. I hope your boss realizes how useful all of this stuff is to us users out here!

17-Oct-96 – Thanks. You are doing a great job of keeping in touch with your users via the newsgroup(s). I wish all vendors had similar policies (and people to act on them so efficiently).

23-Nov-96 – Welcome Back.These newsgroups have not been the same without you 😉

Subject: CDR Advice! – 28 Nov 1996 – Newsgroups: comp.publish.cdrom.hardware – Deirdré — You’re doing a great job here, thanks for all the helpful posts.

04-Dec-96 – Deirdre’, I would like to thank you for your informative posts to comp.publish.cdrom.hardware. The support you provide there influenced my decision to go with Adaptec’s mastering software.

18-Dec-96 – I don’t know what your employer’s attitude is towards your interaction with the usenet groups, but I for one think it is an excellent thing…

…Though you are in a difficult position, as witnessed by the needless comments you received (wasn’t from me, hope you didn’t take them personally, but it is only human for them to hurt a little) and it would be impossible to conduct an online support group in this way from a corporate point of view, I hope you will continue to try to reach a happy medium. Your postings are always the first I read.

18-Dec-96 – nice to see you commenting in alt.cdrom-groups. that is what exellent customer-support is all about!

12/19/95 – I picked up your email address from a posting in the comp.publish.cdrom.hardware newsgroup. I will probably buy a HP 4020 soon and will need some software for it. Incat seem to be the best supported product through your own efforts.

1/11/96 – I am going to buy an HP CD Recorder, solely because of your presence and support on usenet. You take time to explain and help, and you know customer bitching is constructive feedback.

8/3/96 – the work that you do as a representative of Adaptec and your postings to the news groups are invaluable and more companies would be wise offer the quality support and time that you do.

5/14/96 – .Every once in a while, I log on to Compuserve and pore over the CDROM and CDVENB forums. I continue to be amazed at the thoughtful responses you give to the hundreds of messages that go by. You are doing a great job.

06-Nov-96 – I’d just like to congratulate you and your company on providing such detailed and helpful support online. Although I haven’t yet got a CD-R , I read these groups in preparation, and I’m always impressed at your helpful replies. This is the sort of service that other hardware/software suppliers would do well to emulate.

2/18/96 – I respect the effort you’re putting in to supporting Incat and Easy CD software. I see you all over CIS and the Internet and you’re always giving tips and help. I hope Incat knows all of this!!!

3/1/96 – …Its support like this that makes people choose your product over a competitor’s who dont use the net.

2/1/96 – BTW, I have been following this newsgroup for a few months now, and it’s nice to see a company rep getting involved on-line. Keep up the good work.

2/3/96 – I work in Pinnacle Micro Tech Support. I am glad you are up here fielding the flames tossed out.

1/24/96 – Thanks for the helpful response. I just started to monitor the comp.publish.cdrom.hardware and software news groups. I have seen several of your messages and look forward to seeing more as they seem to contain very useful information

Jul 25, 1997 – Newsgroups: comp.publish.cdrom.hardware

>That’s a good thing? A marketing person to advertise products instead

>of a technical person to help user. Hm.., which one do I like more?

Be fair. Deidre does help people here and at adptec mailing list I don’t know his technical background but he surely isn’t a marketing guy. Adaptec having a person looking at newsgroups and helping people using adaptec’s products is a good(and smart) movement. I wish other companies did the same (for ours and their own good).

15 Aug 1998 – Thank you for being on this USENET group… I appreciate the fact that Adaptec is a company that cares enough about its products and customer service to have a representative here. You have shown great patience and great restraint – there are several people on this NG whom I would have throttled by now if they were giving me the flak they are giving you.

You should be commended. It’s a thankless job, but I want to thank you. As a result of this, I will put Adaptec products at the top of my shopping list from now on.

6 May 1998

Dave Ulmer wrote: I realize that I’ll probably attract a lot of flamers with such statements and candor, but so be it. For those of you out there who know Deirdre, myself, and the ever-lurking development crew, I think you understand the efforts we undertake to be responsive and proactive, and that we’re not big, bad, bureaucrats, but a collection of individuals who stand by our customers and really do strive to make CD-Recording easier, more reliable, and what YOU want.

Yes, Deirdre is really a masthead for you company! I had serious trouble trying to upgrade my by HP request crippled Easy CD Pro to the NT4 friendly version during the special rebate offer. I sent repeated emails to your sales dept that went unanswered (due to understaffing at the time…), but my plea to her magically produced the chance to get the upgrade before the curtain was lowered. As a subscriber to the “A_CDR” mailing list, I am even more impressed by her efforts (have you reappraised her salary recently? There exist other companies that would need such a resource…)

24 Nov 1999 – How many other newsgroups have representatives from companies tapping in and helping / defending products? Adrian’s coming in here amongst a crowd of folks demanding answers and he’s handling it all quite well.

Subject: Re: De-Commercialization of News Groups

30 Nov 1999 – Newsgroups: comp.publish.cdrom.software, comp.publish.cdrom.hardware, alt.comp.periphs.cdr, alt.cd-rom

I welcome the presence of Adrian, for the most part. D’ is okay too, but she really never posts anything of End User Value. It is more of a facade or show than anything helpful. She does keep us up to date via e-mail, but that signature tag is almost as big as her e-mail. =)

If Adaptec wants to help out people in this news group, then I say they are warmly welcomed, if they do not attempt to mislead. Give support where needed, like Adrian has done.

I would ask that Adaptec’s Representative, Adrian, to stay in the news group. There are no other company’s reps out here trying to help end users. I think highly of Adaptec attempting to do the same.

So. If Adaptec is straight with the posters from the get-go, and keeps their positive role about them, I see no commercialization.

Subject: Thank you. – Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2001

I just wanted to express my thanks to both you and Adrian Miller. Adrian had helped me quite some time ago with a problem I was having, by responding to the article I posted in the alt.comp.periphs.cdr newsgroup.

I’m just felt like writing this now, as I have become appalled by the large onslaught of personal attacks the two of you have had to graciously endure in the said group. Why these people have nothing better to do than constantly berate you, and Roxio for no substantial reason is far beyond me. I just wanted to say there are in fact many of us who appreciate the work you do. Thank you.

Subscriber Comments About the Adaptec Discussion List

In response to complaints of censorship on the discussion list, Stan (a long time Adaptec/Roxio List recipient) wrote:

Adaptec/Roxio has always ‘paid the freight’ for their own, honestly identified “moderated” <news group> & openly controlled forum.

“Their” newsgroup exists as a wise, long term business decision to: 1) Cultivate real world user feed back – good & bad, 2) Demonstrate a competitive degree of dynamic, end-user help & self-help, 3) Monitor for and accept or ignore trends etc. and I assume other benefits to Roxio.

Adaptec/Roxio’s <NG> is voluntary and still cost free the last time I checked.

If one does not like the moderation/control/restriction yada, yada, yada, [insert your own catch phrase here] one remains free to go to one or more of the thousands of USENET <NG’s> to revel in unrestrained freedom to find as productive & efficient & focused CDR info resource as exists here. (Good Luck finding another Mike Richter)

1 Apr 1998 – Many thanks to Deirdre for her tireless work in moderating this forum. It is one of the few really useful tech discussions of this depth and usefulness on the Web, and much more in the spirit of the original Internet. Thanks also to Adaptec for allowing her to do this. It is the very thing that creates an image of a firm worth doing business with. Consumers are Not blind to service. I have read every digest since signing on about 2 weeks ago, and all backlog, and have found the information has in one way or another solved all my problems to date

10/31/95 – …I plan to try Easy-CD in part because I am so happy Deirdre’ is active on this list. [This referred to the now-defunct CDR-L list, a third-party list in which I was active before starting the Adaptec CD-R list.]

8/18/96 – Just wanted to shoot an email over to you thanking you for your excellent job with the “Easy-CD mailing list.” Unfortunately the Easy CD Digest now has so much volume that I no longer have time to read it, so I must regretably unsubscribe (don’t worry…I unsubscribed the correct way <g>) I guess it’s an example of too much of a good thing.

I’m writing ’cause I just wanted you to know your efforts are appreciated… and I’m sure I’ll be asking you a few questions here and there.

30 Nov 1998 – Thanks for the service you provide. Between the LIST, Mike Richter’s CD-R Primer & Andy McFadden’s CD-R FAQ I have a resource library that will soon go to a second binder. Appreciate your work, efforts, comments, and information.

10 Dec 1998 – You guys (Adaptec) make a great product and you guys (D’) run a great List!

26 Jan 1999 – It’s good to see a forum that allows discussion and also criticism/praise of a company’s products.

26 Jan 1999 – Having signed up to your list some time ago now, may I congratulate you on a splendid job well done. I was advised to read the list when I invested in a CD-RW Drive and I have managed to solve all my problems so far with the assistance of your subscribers having encountered and solved the problems before I experienced them.

13 Feb 1999 – I’ve been subscribed to your list now for a few months (and very helpful have I found it).

24 Feb 1999 – Congratulations on a great mailing list. I subscribe to many and I know what it is you go through. It is obvious that you enjoy the job, and that shows through in your “list mom” comments to your cyber-community. It is not “just a few minutes a day”, as some would suspect. It looks to me like you have a full-time job with this large list.

3 Jun 1997 – I offer this information to others because this list has helped me figure problems before they became serious problemsThank you for this forum and making it the best on the net

8 Apr 1997 – this is unique and effective. Lately it seems to me as if most software support units provide mostly PR and guidance at the hardware equivalent of finding the power switch. Here folks at least are able to get forward-going suggestions from people that have some knowledge of the problem.

1 Nov 1996 – [The list] has been a great help to many people using your software and your hardware products. The knowledge and help that contributes to this list is much greater than the sum of the participants. I, personally, have learned many things on this list and I have also contributed to helping others. The participants of this list vary widely, from home customer, business user, to vendors of devices. To me, Adaptec was becoming a very respected name, mainly for the people behind all the services you were providing.

I’m sure this list was also taking some load off your tech support people because answers could be obtained from this list. You’re also missing out on a lot of free advertising. I’d seen many suggestions to buy an Adaptec host adapter that had more capability for their applications.

If there is anything that I can do to help convince you that this list is an asset for your company, just drop me a line. [Refers to a period when the Adaptec mail servers could no longer handle the list load, but we hadn’t yet outsourced it.]

17-Feb-97 – First let me thank all of you on this list for your informative and expedient support. This has to be the best location for tech support I have found for ANYTHING. I am now happily and successfully burning many a disc

15-May-97 – you have definitely got one of the best-run lists I’ve encountered in my 14 years on the ‘net.

14-May-97 – you are providing a vital and otherwise outstanding service to the CDR community

25-Mar-97 – I have been a recipient of this forum for a few months now. Quite a service for learning and growing with this changing technology!

04-Apr-97 – Subj: D. J Parker’s “Seven Steps . . .” Article [Emedia magazine]

I found Dana J. Parker’s article, “Seven Steps to Successful CD Recording” ( April 1997, Vol 10, No 4 ) to be well written and very informative. I wish you had published it a year and a half ago when I was struggling with many of the issues she covers.

Unfortunately, she neglected to mention one of the best resources anywhere for both novice and advanced users of CDR technology. This resource is the EasyCD mailing list. ..The list is a moderated free support forum sponsored by Adaptec. Three of the experts mentioned in the article ( D. Straughan, P. Crowley, and D. Grimes ) regularly provide solutions and answer questions on the list. Representatives of Yamaha, Phillips, and Adaptec also monitor and clarify hardware related problems. I would highly recommend the EasyCD list for quick and accurate answers to basic or advanced CDR questions.

26 Jan 2000 – Man, that was nasty. I would like to thank Adrian for posting it. I goes to prove that he/Adaptec (Yes, I have had my problems with their software too) have a good list here. The fact that the previous message was posted gives me re-newed interest in the list. And just so you know, I am not an employee of Adaptec or any software or hardware company for that matter 🙂

11 Feb 1998 – The list alone is a service many firms don’t offer. It’s moderated to keep the content relevant and eliminate the spam, we’re notified whenever there’s a product upgrade available or when the website changes. Just the cost for the, ummm, ‘person-hours” to maintain the list would cause many firms to shut it down.