Tag Archives: customer service

Experience with Webroot antivirus software ends on a sour note

I’d never heard of Webroot anti-virus software until the beginning of 2012, when my McAfee subscription was about to expire. Disappointed by the high subscription fee for McAfee’s anti-virus product, I set out in search of a more affordable way to protect my computer. I found Webroot had good reviews and an attractive subscription price. For $45 plus tax, I got a three-seat license, allowing me to protect my computer, my husband’s and my son’s. You can also get a nice cash-back reward if you start your purchase at Ebates.com — currently, you get 75 percent off your Webroot software via cash back.

Things went very smoothly with Webroot throughout my initial subscription. I never had any problems with computer viruses, malware, etc. I even got a free upgrade to the company’s top-of-the-line product. As the renewal period for my subscription approached, Webroot sent me an email reminding me the product would be automatically renewed on Feb. 13 and explained how I could turn off the auto-renewal if I wanted to. When I noticed the renewal price was $80 (due in part to that free upgrade to a more expensive product), I turned off the automatic renewal on Jan. 30. I received an email confirming I’d successfully completed this task.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email on Feb. 6 stating my subscription had been automatically renewed. While this renewal was at a price $20 cheaper than what was stated in the initial email, this didn’t change the fact the product was renewed without my permission. Equally  concerning was that the product was renewed a week early, and based on the new expiration date, the company had shaved a couple of days off the subscription I’d previously purchased.

I emailed Webroot about my concerns and asked them to reverse the unauthorized charge made to my credit card and to restore my remaining subscription. I received a response in about six hours — an impressive turnaround time. While Webroot did refund my money, it also canceled my current subscription, leaving my computer unprotected. The only way I figured this out was to check the software icon in my system tray — the company never pointed out it had taken this action. Concerned about the safety of all the computers on this subscription, I emailed Webroot again and asked them to restore the remaining week of my subscription. While the company did so within a few minutes, it offered no apology for its mistake.

Overall, Webroot has been a very reliable product, but its customer service when the time came to renew was clearly lacking. I plan to try a new anti-virus software for the next 12 months. In my next post, I’ll offer tips for how to choose such a product.

Have you tried Webroot? If so, what was your experience with the company?

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Lowe’s makes online appliance purchases impossible

I enjoy shopping at Lowe’s, but the company has made it impossible for me to purchase an appliance online–twice. My most recent shopping failure at Lowe’s.com unfolded over the last week. My goal? Purchase an upright freezer before the Lowe’s 10-percent-off sale on appliances ended. Not only is online shopping faster, but I wanted to start my purchase at Ebates.com so I could get a 2.5 percent cash back on my purchase.I tried multiple times to buy my new freezer online, both from a desktop and a laptop computer and using Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Each time I tried to complete the online checkout process, I got an “Error code 22” message. Finally, I emailed Lowe’s to ask why I couldn’t check out online. A customer service representative called me to say Error Code 22 corresponds to some type of sales tax calculation error, and there was nothing she could do to fix it. She offered to complete my order over the phone, but I declined, hoping the company would resolve its online issues over the coming days, before the sale ended.

Tonight, it became clear online ordering from Lowe’s was still futile, so I called to place my order over the phone. It took 28.5 minutes to order a freezer over the phone. I sat on hold on at least four different occasions during the call while the customer service representative attended to various problems arising from the ordering process. At the end of the call, he actually had to transfer me to my local store so they could take my credit card number and apply the payment to the order. A properly executed online order would’ve taken about four minutes, so ordering by phone took seven times longer than ordering online.

Unfortunately, this isn’t my first failed attempt to order an appliance from Lowe’s.com. Last summer, I needed to purchase a new refrigerator, but my online order wouldn’t go through. That time, I kept receiving a different error code. In the end, Lowe’s blamed that ordering problem on special characters entered into the “special instructions” field of the online order form–the section of the form where you provide directions to the delivery driver.

A company as big as Lowe’s should have plenty of information technology resources at its disposal. Surely the company’s computer gurus can find a way to provide an easy online ordering experience for customers. While they’re at it, maybe they could make it easier for the Lowes.com phone representatives to assist customers. When a customer has her item number and payment information handy, it should never take more than eight minutes to complete her order.

What experiences have you had while shopping at Lowes.com?


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U.S. Bank offers gracious response to typo on credit card payment

I carry a U.S. Bank credit card because I like the rewards it offers. As with any credit card I use, I am careful to pay the balance in full every month and avoid finance charges. That’s why I was surprised when I discovered an interest charge on my current statement.

I called U.S. Bank’s customer service line for cardholders and pointed out that I’d paid my bill in full well before the due date. After reviewing my account, the customer service representative discovered what had triggered the interest charge on my account. Although I’d entered the dollar amount of my payment correctly, I made an error in the cents column: instead of paying the dollar amount plus 98 cents, I’d entered 68 cents when sending my payment electronically. So, I’d underpaid my bill by 30 cents.

Even though I missed the mark by a tiny amount, U.S. Bank was allowed to charge me interest on my average daily balance for the entire statement period. The total interest charge was more than a few dollars and a painful penalty for such a small mistake. Thankfully, U.S. Bank was gracious about my error. The representative could see that I always pay my bill in full each month, so it was clear to her the 30-cent shortage was the result of a typing error. She credited back the interest that had been charged to my account.

U.S. Bank’s decision to refund the interest charge is a mark of a company that cares about its customers. Instead of taking a hard line on its policies, the company gave its customer service representative the flexibility to erase my mistake. In doing so, it increased the likelihood it will keep me as a customer.

Please learn from my experience and triple-check your entries when paying bills online. While U.S. Bank was gracious to me this time, I don’t expect it to erase similar mistakes I might make in the future. In fact, I may just start rounding up my bill payment to the next dollar to minimize errors.

Have you experienced a gracious response from a creditor or other business who overlooked an honest mistake you made? Please leave a comment to share your experience.

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Netflix delivers solid customer service, despite its PR flubs and changes

Netflix, an online video rental and streaming service, made headlines in 2011 when changes to its subscription plans triggered customer outrage. As a public relations (PR) professional, I saw a lot of ways Netflix could have handled the situation better. While its changes led many customers to cancel their accounts, Netflix did not lose my business.

Before the firestorm, I’d found Netflix to be a reliable company with strong customer service. My experience hasn’t changed, and a couple of recent moves by the company have reinforced my commitment to Netflix.

My main interest in Netflix is renting and returning DVD movies by mail. I originally subscribed to Netflix to take advantage of its vast selection of classic films, but I also watch newer releases from time to time. The movies I rent from Netflix consistently arrive quickly. When I get an occasional “bad” DVD that skips or stops, Netflix makes it easy to report the problem and receive a replacement.

This week, a DVD I wanted to rent wasn’t available in the Netflix shipping center closest to my home, so it will take a few extra days to arrive. Netflix notified me it was shipping the next movie on my wishlist immediately, so I wouldn’t have to wait for my next DVD. The company gave me this extra DVD for free, even though I’d used up my DVD allotment for this billing period. Around Christmas, Netflix gave me an extra free rental as a holiday bonus.

New Netflix customers can sign up for a DVD-only plan or streaming-only plan for $7.99/month. Plan that combine both options start at $15.98/month. Netflix makes it easy to change plans by logging into your online account. You can make the changes effective immediately and pay a pro-rated amount for the current billing cycle or let the changes take effect when your new billing cycle starts.

In addition to movies, Netflix offers many television shows, including series from decades past, like Magnum P.I. and The Muppet Show. If you like to watch streaming videos, you can do so with your Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 or other Netflix-enabled device. You can also watch movies and TV shows on your computer.

Unlike other DVD-rental services, you don’t have to leave home to take the movie back, and you can keep it as long as you’d like.

Does Netflix cost too much? That’s a call only you can make. What I can say is the company delivers solid customer service to its subscribers with convenience and easy account management. That’s worth $8 a month to me. After all, you can barely buy one box-office movie ticket for that price.

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When deal falls through, Living Social offers proactive customer service

If you’re looking for a good deal on activities, lodging or food, you can find it on Living Social. In November, I discussed a glass-blowing experience I enjoyed at a deep discount thanks to one of the website’s offers.

A few days ago, I got a glimpse of how the company handles deals that fall through, and I found its customer service impressive.

In November 2011, I purchased a voucher for smoothies at a local retail chain. At the time of purchase, Living Social required me to specify at which location I would use the voucher.

Then, last week, Living Social notified me that the location where I planned to get my smoothies was no longer in operation. I didn’t even know this because I’d been in no rush to use the voucher. Living Social offered me the choice of using my deal at one of the chain’s two remaining locations or getting a refund. I chose the latter, and the company emailed me back the same day to say it had processed my refund request. The refund showed up on my credit card within three days.

I’m impressed by Living Social’s handling of this experience. The company saved me the hassle of going to the smoothie store and finding out it was closed, and it gave me options for resolving the situation. Once I made my choice, the company acted it on it immediately. These are hallmarks of a company that cares about its customers.

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Marketing overload—Allstate overwhelms customer with sales pitches

“Please make it stop”—that’s the subject line I used when emailing my Allstate agent this week. It referred to the barrage of telemarketing phone calls I’ve been receiving from my insurance company. I’ve only been an Allstate customer since July, and I’ve already asked the company twice to remove me from its telemarketing call list. My agent said she took my name off and even inputted a fake phone number for me into her system, but the calls keep coming.

Sometimes there are “live” people trying to sell me an Allstate Motor Club subscription. Other times there are automated phone calls that I hang up on before I hear what service is for sale. And phone calls aren’t the only marketing method Allstate uses on its customers. I get letters in the mail trying to convince me to purchase life insurance. I get automated newsletters from my agent pitching various services. It’s worse than walking into a car dealership where five salespeople are milling around the showroom. It’s like I’m running past lions wearing a meat poncho. Once they’ve got you in their sights, they just keep pursuing.

Maybe somewhere in some fine print I signed when establishing my automobile and homeowner’s policies, I unwittingly agreed to be targeted by Allstate’s marketing department. Here’s the thing—if I want more insurance, I’ll call and ask for a quote. I don’t want an email box cluttered with marketing messages or trees dying in the name of selling me additional insurance. And I sure don’t want telemarketers from a company I am paying already to call me.

This week, I used a link provided in the emails to unsubscribe, so hopefully, those messages will stop. My agent said she found out about five additional tasks she has to complete to stop the phone calls—this sounds like a very inefficient way of protecting customer’s privacy and respecting their wishes. I sent her an email this morning to ask how I can end the U.S. mail solicitations.

My advice to Allstate: take an opt-in approach to marketing. Ask customers to explicitly agree to receiving your sales pitches, or be thankful for their existing business with your company and leave them be. Your current approach is not a hallmark of quality customer service.

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State Farm delivers solid service on property claim

On October 10, I got the phone call no homeowner wants to receive. It was from my real estate agent, frantically asking where the water shutoff valve is in the house we are trying to sell. What followed was a load of bad news. The water heater in the home had failed, sending a few inches of water throughout the entire finished basement. The water heater had apparently exploded, blowing a hole through the drywall. Water was running out the back doors of the walkout basement. Since the home is vacant and no one had been there in two days, the water could have been leaking out for as long as 45 hours.

Soon after my phone call to a restoration company specializing in emergencies of this type, I called my State Farm agent. He filed a claim immediately, and I received a call that same morning from an adjuster at the national office who asked questions to get my claim rolling. That afternoon, the local adjuster assigned to my case called to arrange an inspection of the damage. He agreed to meet the restoration contractor at the home, so I wouldn’t have to make the hour-long drive to let him into the house. A couple of days later, my agent’s office called to make sure the claim was proceeding smoothly.

The local adjuster handled the claim very fairly, even agreeing to pay for the increased electric usage at the home caused by all the industrial fans used to dry out the basement carpet. The national adjuster advised me that State Farm will also pay the hefty water bill we are likely to receive for the many hours the water heater was pumping out water.

We received our first check from State Farm exactly three weeks after the incident took place, and it covered all the charges for mitigation and repairs. We have not yet received our water bill, so it’s too soon to report whether that part of the claim will go as smoothly.

The one area where I feel customer service was lacking from State Farm is in their e-mail correspondence. About two weeks after the claim was filed, I sent the company’s national office an e-mail asking when to expect the first payment. I received an auto-response which said (in part), “Please understand you will not receive an immediate response from one of our claim representatives because your e-mail will follow the same process we have in place for the paper mail we receive. Normally, mail is attached to a claim and reviewed by one of our claim representatives within a couple of days of receipt at our office.  Since e-mail communications are not secure, we will not be responding to you via e-mail.”

The insecure nature of e-mail is not a sound justification for failing to replying to messages electronically. To answer my question, State Farm would not have to release any personal information; they could just tell me when to expect a check. Or, the company could set up a secure website where customers could send and receive encrypted messages. Refusing to correspond with customers by e-mail is bad business. Interestingly, the local adjuster did correspond with me on other matters through e-mail.

I never received any answer to the payment question I submitted by e-mail, not even via a letter in the mail or a phone call. Overall, though, I am quite pleased with the assistance I’ve received from State Farm. My home is now fully restored and ready for a buyer.

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Walgreens’ Register Rewards program not worth the effort

I recently highlighted how you can use the CVS Extra Bucks program to get cheap and free items without spending a lot of time clipping coupons. Walgreens has a similar program called Register Rewards. Unlike the CVS program, you don’t have to register to participate in Register Rewards. While this is an admirable feature of the program, it fails to deliver a good overall experience.

With Register Rewards, Walgreens offers select items at a sale price each week, then gives you extra savings in the form of a coupon you can use on most merchandise during a future shopping trip. Here’s why I think the program isn’t as good as the CVS Extra Bucks promotions:

Prices: Walgreens generally charges more than CVS for similar products. This week, Walgreens had Softsoap body wash for 2 for $4 with Register Rewards; the CVS price with Extra Bucks was 2 for $2. Even when items are on sale at Walgreens, you can often get them cheaper at a discount retailer like Walmart.

Expiration dates: CVS usually gives you a month to redeem the Extra Bucks coupons you receive. Walgreens only gives you two weeks. Sometimes, Walgreens doesn’t have anything on sale I want within two weeks, and I have to use the coupons on something else.

Bonuses: CVS gives you bonus Extra Bucks on a seasonal basis, based on how much you’ve spent in the store in the preceding months. Walgreens can’t offer this feature since you don’t register to use the Register Rewards program.

Signage: I have lived in two different states this year and shopped at Walgreens stores in both locations. I consistently find the stores do a poor job of putting up signs to help you identify which specific products are included in the Register Rewards program that week. For example, there may be 15 types of Colgate toothpaste on the shelf, but only one specific type and size qualifies for the reward.

In-store coupons: To get sale prices on many of its items, Walgreens requires you to redeem coupons you must clip out of its weekly ads. This is just silly. If it’s on sale, just give me the sales price without the hassle.

The disadvantages of shopping at Walgreens and using its rewards program far outweigh the benefits. I recommend spending your time targeting savings at other stores.

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Don’t pay too much for cable and Internet service

I recently moved to a new city and signed up for cable television and Internet service from Insight Communications. I had a good experience as a previous Insight customer a few years ago, so I welcomed the opportunity to use the company’s services once again.

My feelings of goodwill went downhill after I received my first bill. I noticed the amount was higher than what I’d discussed with the agent who signed me up for service, so I reviewed the bill line-by-line in search of the extra charges. I quickly discovered the problem: Insight had added $16 a month to my bill for a subscription to HBO.

I never requested HBO service, nor did I want to pay for it, so I called Insight customer service to discuss the issue. The agent said the charge was added to my bill because I received HBO at no charge during my first month of service and, after that, customers get charged for the channel. She quickly agreed to remove the charge from my bill and discontinue my HBO subscription. The frustrating part for me is that I don’t recall anyone saying, “We’re giving you one month of HBO free, and then you’ll have to pay for it unless you call to cancel.”

In reviewing my bill further, I also discovered a $3 monthly charge for a modem rental. I own a modem, but the technician who installed my service didn’t ask if I had one; he just installed Insight’s device. I asked the customer service agent if this charge could be removed from my bill in future months if I return their modem and hook up my own. She assured me this would be no problem.

In light of this experience, I offer these tips for dealing with cable companies and other service providers:

Check your cable, cell phone and similar bills each month to ensure the amount you are being charged is the amount you agreed to. If you’re on an automatic payment plan, it can be easy to just file or toss the bill when it arrives, but be sure to check the total first.

• Use caution with “trial offers.” Although I don’t recall agreeing to a free trial, it’s possible I did. If you sign up for  promotions that require you to cancel within a certain period of time to avoid charges, make a note on your calendar so you won’t forget to cancel the service by the deadline.

• If you use cable Internet service, consider buying a modem of your own instead of paying a monthly fee to rent one from the cable company. You can buy a good, brand-name modem for around $55. This purchase would pay for itself in less than two years if you’re paying $3 a month to rent a modem. Before buying, verify with your cable provider that using your own modem is an option. You might want to buy your own router as well if you’re renting one now.

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Reschedule delayed flights yourself with help from the Delta Web site

It’s unlikely any airline will ever be known for its stellar customer service, but a visit by my stepsons over the Labor Day weekend revealed some tools that can improve your experience when you’re confronted with delayed Delta flights.

On their way home at the end of the weekend, my sons’ itinerary included two connections. Before we left for the airport, I checked the flight status on the Delta Web site and found their first flight was already delayed, making it likely they would miss one or both connecting flights. Next, I went to the “My Trips” link on the Delta home page and entered the name and confirmation number associated with my sons’ itinerary. Once their flight plan appeared on the screen, I used the “Find alternate flights” link to see what other flights they might be able to use to get home. Since their original departure flight was delayed, Delta offered me the option of rescheduling their flights at no charge. By doing this, I got them home four hours earlier than originally scheduled, with only one connecting flight.

The “Find alternate flights” tool is not perfect, however. On the trip to our home, my sons’ first flight faced a delay of more than two hours, causing them to miss their connecting flight from Minneapolis to Louisville, Kentucky. Before they left the starting airport, Delta rescheduled them on a connecting flight that would arrive in Louisville four hours later than the original flight. The “Find alternate flights” tool showed only this option, but I wanted to determine if any others were available. To do this, I followed the same steps I would to purchase a ticket, searching for one-way Delta flights between Minneapolis and Louisville. I found a flight that would arrive almost two hours earlier than their new connecting flight. By using the “view seats” link on the reservation screen, I could see 15 empty seats on the flight. The website would not allow me to rebook the ticket myself, since this option did not display under the alternate flights link. However, I advised my stepsons to go up to the gate agent and present him with the flight number for this earlier connection, along with the number of available seats. By doing this, they got rebooked on the earlier connection at no charge.

Lessons learned:

    • While airlines usually rebook you automatically when you miss a connection, they may not place you on the best replacement flight.
    • Don’t hesitate to politely advocate for yourself if you are aware of a better flight option than the one the gate agent gives you.
    • You can see all available flight options by following the steps to reserve a flight on the airline’s website.
    • If you don’t have wireless Internet access at the airport, a friend can change your flight for you if they have your confirmation number.

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