During a semi-successful commercial website relaunch yesterday, I found myself answering a couple of support calls as the call centre was overrun for the first couple of hours after the switch was flicked. One particular woman rang in rather upset she was now unable to log into her account (the previous site incarnation had no user accounts, so painstaking efforts were made by other members of my team to migrate the data fully while maintaining a basically non-existent link between posted items and their original authors – inevitably, some mistakes were going to be made).
So of course, I entertained the possibility this could be a bug. She had her confirmation email in front of her, with her randomly generated password, yet she was still unable to log in. I asked what error she was seeing:
It says I’m invalid. It won’t let me in.
Invalid? I hadn’t seen that error before. I asked her to try again, same response.
The passwords were generated on the fly in xxxx-xxxx99 format, emailed out, then MD5 encrypted so I couldn’t check to see if the password was wrong in the database. I checked to confirm she was looking at the right email and it seemed she was… even though she confused me by telling me it “says something about Leeds” (I still haven’t worked out what she meant).
She then went into a rant about the password, pointing out how confusing they are…
Its got a dash in it. The last guy kept asking if I had the right dash, I don’t know! Theres, like, so many different dashes.
Really? I would have thought seeing it printed in an email would give away what sort of dash we were looking for… not to mention the fact that there is, in fact, only one dash on a keyboard. And don’t even get me *started* on copy and paste… 😉
So, after checking through some code for her error message (or any relevant error with the word “valid”) I was running short of ideas, and having tried generating her new password reminder emails with no luck I asked to read her email and password out to me. I try to login, and get the following error:
You are not yet verified. Please check your email.
Ummmm. What? So I ask her – does it say something on your screen about not being verified?
Yeah, valid, verified, whatever
Whatever?? You sit there shouting the wrong error message at me for 20 minutes when its on the screen in front of you, and… whatever??? Frustrated wasn’t the word – I was more pissed about the fact that she’d wasted 20 minutes of my “bug fix” day on a non existent problem. Incidently, I left the office at around 10pm last night. Grrrrr.
Ahhh, maybe I’m just naive in thinking that when you’re using calling a low-cost phone number to call customer support for a website provided free of charge expecting technical support, the least you could do is make the effort to not waste my time!
But the real kicker is that while I was on the phone to her, I realised exactly why when you ring up a major company’s customer support line with a technical problem, they talk to you like an idiot and do everything they can to stop you speaking to someone technical. People like this are the reason why when I ring AOL I get filtered through 3 different departments before I get the guy who knows what TCP/IP is.
And… deep breath.