And now, Symantec gets it all right

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We all know that customer service is key. I’ve beaten up on many companies over the years when, in my view, service levels dropped below the threshold of acceptability or when someone’s language skills descended into the depths of incomprehensibility. Of late, Dell has been one my targets.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to regale a vendor with kudos for customer service performed expertly. The beneficiary of my admiration today is Symantec.

After receiving a copy of Norton 360 from Symantec’s public-relations agency, I decided to install it on the PCs in my home office, a place where I spend far too much time. First, I uninstalled every last shred of the McAfee software that had caused horrible problems for nearly 18 months. To finish the removal, I delved into the registry and removed every last entry containing the word McAfee.

Next, I installed Norton 360. Smooth sailing. But then problems appeared. The annoying Norton bar in my browser continually noted that my machine was unprotected. It suggested that I click the “fix” button to immediately, well, fix the problem. Alas, clicking the button did nothing. I clicked again and again. I clicked harder and harder. Nothing.

That’s when I shot off an online help request to Symantec’s 24 x 7 support team. Within seconds, a window popped up with Rajesh ready to conduct a live chat and solve the problem. I can read English perfectly, so this was a whole lot better than a phone conversation.

Rajesh asked for permission to take over control of my PC. I downloaded and installed an Active-X control that gave him the power. Now, I sat back and watched as he reproduced the problem and checked registry entries. After 15 minutes he informed me that he would need to completely uninstall and reinstall the software. That process included a couple of reboots, which, thanks to the Active-X control, re-established the session with him each time.

An hour later, everything was running perfectly. And it still is. Curiously, system performance is now a lot perkier.

I’m impressed by how Symantec handled the situation and how it was resolved quickly and expertly — on the first try. I’ve had other customer support situations where, after two years, I’m still waiting for the vendor to get back to me. That network hardware vendor’s name I’ll not reveal.

And that brings me to your customer support structure. Do phone calls get answered quickly? Are e-mail messages responded to? Is there follow through to guarantee the problem was solved to the customer’s satisfaction? Do you ask the customer to rate the experience? Woe unto you if any one of these is not done, for it’s much more expensive to find a new customer than it is to keep a current one.

We could all learn a little from Symantec.

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