Another satisfied customer

It's just a few years ago, and this Big 3 automaker rolls out new software for its dealers, reports a pilot fish doing tech support for the system.

"Every dealership in the U.S. was to use this software in place of printed books and binders to order cars," fish says. "Not all dealers were happy doing it this way, but woe be to a dealer who complains to corporate about corporate's decisions.

"Complaining to tech support was a different story."

Actually, the rollout goes pretty smoothly, considering that the system uses a satellite to update a database every week on each dealer's server.

But there are a few problems -- such as one angry dealership owner whose case is escalated to fish. He complains that several menu items are missing from his screen, and he's sure it's the satellite's fault.

After some discussion, fish determines that the dealer's 12-inch screen can't support the 800-by-600 display resolution the software requires. Those menu items are off your screen, so you'll need to buy a bigger monitor, fish tells dealer.

Dealer grumbles that he'll call his tech guy. But a few days later he's back, and angrier than ever. His "enlarged" monitor is still missing menus, he says, and now the satellite is sending him a fuzzy image.

After a half-hour trying to help the dealer change his monitor resolution, fish figures out why it's not working: The "tech guy" merely taped a magnifying sheet to the front of the monitor.

Dealer demands his own non-fuzzy copy of the database with the next weekend update. Fish knows that won't help, so he brings the software developers and management up to date on the problem.

Next Monday, the unhappy dealer is back on the phone. Fish explains repeatedly that the dealer's hardware doesn't meet the software's requirements to run the software, and a satellite update won't help. After two hours, fish finally files a request for a data retransmission, just to get the dealer off the phone.

Fish isn't surprised when that doesn't help -- and the dealer is soon chewing his ear off again, demanding his own copy of the database.

"Eventually, management took notice of my memos and how long the case had been open," says fish. "The engineers and management finally called the user directly to try to solve the problem.

"They also were unable to convince the user that his hardware didn't meet the system requirements. In the end, they burned a static copy of the database on CDs and washed their hands of any future issues with this user.

"They also informed the automaker that the user would not agree to meet the hardware requirements and that the user would have to take it up with them.

"We never heard from that dealer again."

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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