Adobe Needs Eight Employees To Completely Screw Up CS3 Cross-Grade

Jay wanted to update his copy of Adobe Creative Suite 2 to CS3 and simultaneously switch the license over to the Mac platform. The first sales rep he spoke with did everything right and Jay was very happy. Then that sales rep disappeared forever, only to be replaced by a comically inept parade of CSRs who can’t figure out Adobe’s own systems, who make up their job titles, give out fax numbers to call, and who—in one case—claim to be on a phone system that doesn’t connect to the outside world.

I wanted to upgrade my Adobe Creative Suite 2 to CS3, and switch from Windows to Mac. I was afraid it would be complicated, but the sales rep, Jim, knew exactly what he was doing. He found the right order code to get me a double-upgrade (I also own Macromedia Studio), and he explained the complete process we’d follow. He’d overnight the Windows CS3 at no charge, and when I received it, I should e-mail back a Letter of Destruction (LOD), so they could crossgrade me to the Mac CS3. He showed me where to download the LOD, so I could fill it out in advance. He was a delight.

When I got the package, I e-mailed the LOD to Adobe, and got a form letter back from “JD” acknowledging it. Great! But three days later, I got another letter from “Edgar P”: “In order to finish processing your letter, please provide a Letter of Software Destruction”…

The rest is a sad story. There are no shocking, egregious, offensive acts by Adobe; nobody was locked in a fitness center overnight, or arrested, or cheated, or lied to. Adobe merely failed. They had forty individual opportunities to delight a customer. Forty opportunities to provide basic, expected service. Or, at the very least, forty opportunities to consider their own enlightened self-interest as a business, and examine their own deficiencies. They showed no interest in doing any of that.

Instead, Adobe failed. Forty times in a row. At every level from the front-line representative to the self-proclaimed manager of North American customer care.

When we posted Jay’s story, we contacted him to see if there’d been any happy ending by the end of the week. There hadn’t been. In fact, the list has grown to even more screw ups and weird responses. Here’s what happens when a designer-type spends a week without the CS3 he shelled out big bucks for:

Hi! Thanks for posting it. The update:

1. I have re-annotated the list, made a few more calls, and it’s now 59 ways. Adobe makes “Yours is a very bad hotel” look like a model for success.

2. Their corporate web site has an entire section called “Customer Engagement: Today’s Business Mandate”, in which their executives write at length about:
a. How Adobe “creates engaging experiences”
b. How Adobe “builds engaging content”
c. How Adobe builds tools that enable Adobe’s customers to engage with *their* customers

See anything missing? Sad, but true: There is no mention of Adobe actually engaging with customers. It’s all very “Put on a sweater, I’m cold”, very Larry Craig, very Eliot Spitzer.

3. I finally got a call from Stephanie, in customer service, who actually has both a last name *and* a phone extension. Turns out that Dawn did ship me the Mac version… to my fourth-most-recent address. (Keep in mind that Jim, the front-line sales rep, managed to ship the Windows version to my current residence.) Someone out there just got a free Master Collection.

4. Stephanie has shipped another copy – to me, this time – which I should receive on Tuesday.

The updated list below:


1. [We got your letter! Please send it.]
Although I sent a Letter of Destruction, and received an acknowledgement of that LoD from Adobe, Adobe’s database didn’t think I had sent an LoD. So I called, and

2. [“Que?”]
I got a rep who barely spoke English, whose name I didn’t catch, who

3. [“One definition of insanity…”]
told me that I should just send the LoD again. When I pointed out that this didn’t work so well the first time, he

4. [Somebody Else’s Problem]
said he’d have to transfer me to pre-sales. Only then he asked what product, and I told him CS3, and he said with surprise

5. [I may have been mistaken]
“Oh! Wait, we handle that here! What’s your customer number?” So I told him, and

6. [Somebody Else’s Problem]
he said “Oh, yes, we have to transfer you to pre-sales, as I said.” So

7. [He may have been mistaken]
he did, where I got a woman named “Kareen” [?] who said that, of course, he shouldn’t have transferred me. So she transferred me back, but

8. [Telephones are complicated]
my call went into the abyss, and after a few minutes of silence I hung up. I called back, and, and got “Ali”, who

9. [One definition of insanity…]
again tried to just talk me into sending it again. Because surely that’d help. When I pointed out, again, that this didn’t work the first time, she

10. [Somebody Else’s Problem]
tried to transfer me to “the department that handles that”. But then she came back a few minutes later, sounding confused, and said

11. [Make something up]
“I think it would be best if you called them directly.” So she gave me the number to call, 800-955-1610. Which of course

12. [Remember fax machines?]
is a very loud fax number. That smarted a little. Fed up, I called back, and got “Christopher”, whose

13. [“Que?”]
name clearly wasn’t Christopher. He told me the number for “executive customer service” is 800-866-8006, which

14. [Make something up]
is really just the automated switchboard. I tried dialing-by-name, and Bruce Chizen was listed, but he’s not CEO anymore. And your new CEO, Shantanu Narayen, is

15. [Engage, but without talking]
not in the phone directory. I looked on the web site for an executive in charge of customer service, but

16. [Designed by committee]
you don’t even have one. Resigned, I pressed 0 for the operator, and got Veronica. I asked for the number to executive customer service, but she said

17. [It’s policy. You understand.]
she can’t give that out – “it’s an internal line”. She could transfer me, though, so she did, and then

18. [Telephones are complicated]
after four minutes of silence, I again gave up and hung up. I called back and got “Ash-a-lee”, who

19. [Your call is important to us]
put me on hold as soon as she answered the phone, without giving her name first. When she came back, I asked for executive customer service, and she

20. [I do not think it means what you think it means]
transferred me to the main customer service phone tree. I hung up and called back, and got Ash-a-lee again. Instead of just transferring me, she

21. [I heard what you asked for; let me tell you what you want]
asked for my customer number. Then, instead of transferring me, she

22. [I heard what you asked for; let me tell you what you want]
asked me what product I was having trouble with. So I told her I had trouble with the customer service staff and the operator. She put me on hold and… I was now talking to Dawn, who says she’s a manager in customer care. I gave her the info, and she logged into the computer

23. [Computers are complicated]
for the next ten minutes, because she

24. [Mostly I just golf]
“hadn’t used this part of it in a while.” Meanwhile, Dawn, how do I get back to you if we get disconnected?

25. [Telephones are complicated]
“I don’t have a direct line.” [She did take my phone number so she could call me.] Eventually, she dug my letter out of the inbox and re-attached it to the ticket. So how long will it take now?

26. [It’s policy. You understand.]
“Up to 48 hours for the warehouse to process.” Well, can’t I just download it?

27. [Tell me more about this “Internet”.]
“No, you’d still need a serial number.” [you don’t have any around? You didn’t write the program that generates them?] Can’t you call the warehouse?

“No, they don’t work 24 hours a day.” [It’s noon in California.] OK, can you

29. [You want me to think of everything?]
at least ship it overnight? [why didn’t she suggest this herself?] “Yes, I can do that. But I

30. [You can’t rush perfection.]
“can’t promise it’ll ship today, because it’s already 3 o’clock in Georgia.” Fine, fine, I give up. So now let’s talk about why it took me an hour to get to you where you can help me. What happened with JD, with Edgar, with Ali and Kareen and Veronica and Ash-a-lee? Why did it take me half an hour just to get to you?

31. [Tell me more about this “closing the loop”.]
“I apologize.” [Not “I’ll look into it”. Not “we’re working on training”] Yes, I appreciate your apology, but don’t you guys have systems in place? How do we prevent this from happening again? What went wrong?

32. [Stuff happens.]
“User error, probably”. I understand; don’t you have some sort of feedback loop? Does Adobe not have an executive customer service department? “Yes, and I’m in that. We have a ‘very small group’ that deals with these issues.” OK, what’s your title?

33. [I’m Ted Stryker, and I’m facing forward.]
“…like I said, manager of.. customer care and sales in North America.” [I can’t remember anyone, ever, when asked for their title, not rattling it off. I frankly don’t think this is her title.] So

34. [Tell me more about this “closing the loop”.]
isn’t there someone who wants to look into why problems happened? You’re in charge of all of this, right? “Yes.” OK, and I have no way to contact you?

35. [Telephones are complicated / Accountability is for suckers]
“No, as I said, it’s an internal line.” So I can’t dial your extension from that main phone directory?

36. [Telephones are complicated / Accountability is for suckers]
“No, you can only get it if you’re physically inside this building.” [If I can get to Bruce Chizen, I find that hard to believe.] Really? Are you considering a new phone system?

37. [Telephones are complicated / Accountability is for suckers]
“I have no idea.” [I don’t believe you. If you are in charge of customer care, and Shantar can’t reach you from his cell phone, you’re talking about that problem every single day until it’s fixed.] OK, and there’s no accountability? You can’t give me your extension, you can’t give me a last name for the operators to transfer me to?

38. [It’s policy. You understand.]
“No, we have a policy, I can’t give you my last name.” [I have never heard of such policy at the executive level, only the call center level. I again find it hard to believe.] “But I’m the only Dawn here. But you should

39. [Accountability is for suckers]
“just ask to speak to our group; one of us will handle it.” But that didn’t work! It took me three tries to get to you! “Well, they’ve

40. [Accountability is for suckers]
“been receptionists for years, and this has

41. [There’s no record of that. We don’t keep records.]
“never happened before.”

I gave up, resigned to hoping that the product would actually ship Monday as promised. Oh, but Dawn called back a few hours later, asking

42. [Mostly I just golf]
“Wait, I just looked at this – you’re ordering the Mac version? I can’t find any record of that.” [I walked her through what Jim had done, and she figured it out.] “Oh, OK. Bye!”

43. [Engage, but without talking]
I know that the PR department always knows who the “fixers” are, so I left voicemail for Holly Campbell. She never called back.

44. [Engage, but without talking]
Likewise, I’ve been impressed with John Nack’s forthrightness on his blog, so I sent him an e-mail. No response.

45. [Engage, but without talking / Accountability is for suckers / It depends on your definition of “is”]
A quick Googling revealed that plenty of Adobe employees have both phone extensions *and* last names. Dawn lied.

…time passes…

On Tuesday, when I still hadn’t received the package, I called the switchboard and got “Vasty”. I asked for Dawn; Vasty said

46. [Accountability is for suckers]
she had no way to transfer me to her. But she could transfer me to [some sort of call queue], and “let’s see where it takes us”. So

47. [Your call is important to us]
I waited ten minutes in silence before I hung up. I called back, got Lamar. This time, I asked for the “office of the CEO”.

48. [I heard what you asked for; let me tell you what you want]
“Which software is this in reference to?” Adobe. “Is it a software issue?” No, it’s a corporate issue. [long silence] “Hold please.” So

49. [Your call is important to us]
I waited seven minutes in silence before I hung up. I called back, got “Lissette”. Maybe we can get some accountability within the switchboard operators group, and work up from there. First, let me make this clear; I do not want to be placed on hold again. Now: Are Adobe operators outsourced, or are they employees?

“That information is not provided to us.” … OK, I’ll ask slower. Are you an Adobe employee? “Yes”. OK, so who’s the manager of the switchboard operators?

“Unfortunately, we show only first and last names, not that information.” … OK, I’ll ask slower. You know who your supervisor is, right? “Yes.” What is their name?

52. [It’s policy. You understand. / Accountability is for suckers]
“Names are considered confidential.” … OK, just transfer me to the office of the CEO. “Here’s the line.”

53. [Your call is important to us.]
I waited five minutes in silence before I hung up. I called back, and got Lissette again. Was I clear that I didn’t want to be placed on hold? “Yes.” Did I ask for the office of the CEO? “Yes.” Who did you transfer me to? “Level 2 escalations.” Why did you place me on hold?

54. [Telephones are complicated]
“That’s how our telephones work.” No, that’s called a blind transfer. Your PBX, like everyone else’s in the past 25 years, allows you to stay on the line until the other person answers. “My telephone doesn’t have that feature.” OK, just transfer me to the office of the CEO. “Here’s the line.”

55. [Your call is important to us.]
I waited five minutes in silence before I hung up. I called back, and got Ash-a-lee (who today is just Ashlee). I’d like to speak to someone who works in the office of the CEO, please.

56. [I heard what you asked for; let me tell you what you want]
The whole song-and-dance with customer number, what product are you calling about, I need some more information first, etc. [I didn’t cooperate very well, I’m afraid.] This is not about software; this is about your corporation. Let me speak to someone who handles the CEO’s schedule. I’m thinking of stopping by, and I want to make sure he’s in town. “Can you hold the line?” No! Just put the phone down. “OK, one moment.”

57. [Your call is important to us.]
I waited ten minutes in silence before I hung up. I called back, and got Ashlee again. Please transfer me, you know the drill. Finally, I got a real person’s voicemail! Melissa something. I left a message. I admit, it was snarky. (I think I implied that a media circus was coming to town.) I’d just been poorly treated 56 times, so *I* forgive me, and that’s what really counts. Anyway…

58. [Your call is important to us.]
She never called back.

59. [Shipping a box is complicated.]
Although Jim in sales (who, I repeat, is extremely competent and helpful) was able to overnight the Windows version – on Friday, for Monday – to my *current* address, Dawn somehow managed to “overnight” the Mac version – on Friday, for Tuesday, under protest – to the house I sold before I moved to the apartment before the apartment before the apartment I live in now.

60. [To be continued?]
On Thursday, I navigated the phone system myself, and left voicemail for John Loiacono. He hasn’t called back, but it hasn’t been very long. Yet.

(Photo: David Wilmot)