Archive for December 3, 2017

#EpicFail: Linksys Serves Up The Most Disappointing & Frustrating Tech Support Experience I’ve Ever Had

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 3, 2017 by itnerd

I’ve been reviewing Linksys products for a while now. My experience with these products has been positive for the most part. And even when a Linksys firmware got pushed to my WRT32X which crippled it because I was dumb enough to leave auto updates on the router in question, I was still bullish on them. But when I tried to reach out for help from Linksys, that started to change. First of all, I reached out to Linksys via Twitter to ask them about the firmware as well as to ask about downgrading to the previous firmware as Linksys for whatever reason doesn’t have any downloads available on their website:

Now in the past, it would have only taken the @LinksysCares account an hour or two to respond. But they never did. The thing that really got my attention is that when I used the tool that allows me to see what interaction a Twitter user has with a given company, I could see the @LinksysCares account answering other questions before and after mine. That sort of suggests to me that for whatever reason, they didn’t want to answer my question. That didn’t inspire confidence as it appears that this is a touchy topic for them for whatever reason. Even if it wasn’t, the fact that they didn’t respond leaves one with that impression which is worse for them from a perception standpoint.

The next day I wrote the article that I linked to above. My purpose was not to trash Linksys, but to point out to others to not be me. Now in that article I pointed out that I tried to get the attention of Linksys because there were no download resources available and I was as a result crippled. Here’s where things got interesting. ASUS saw this story and immediately offered up a ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 router which would be the direct competitor to the WRT32X. They promised to ship it out for Monday arrival. Clearly ASUS sees an opportunity to take some marketshare away from Linksys by having me review one of their products, thus I accepted their offer. 

At the same time that was happening, I decided to phone Linksys to see if I could get assistance with this issue. Now according to Linksys, you need to fill out this form before you phone to make things easier for you. I did that and then phoned. The wait time was insanely quick which was good on their part seeing as it was Friday at about 4PM. But the person I got couldn’t find my info, so she had to take it down again which burned about 10 minutes of time. That suggests to me that either the form that you fill out prior to calling them is of no value, or she wasn’t on the ball. Either way, it wasn’t a good start to the interaction. Once that was done, I told her what the issue is and all the troubleshooting steps that I did prior to calling. That’s important because I don’t want tech support reps to waste time trying stuff that I’ve already done. Except that she tried to get me to repeat the same troubleshooting steps while trying to get me to a second level tech support rep by putting me on hold multiple times for up to five minutes per hold. When she couldn’t do the latter, she said that someone would have to call me back in 24 to 48 business hours. Which meant Monday or Tuesday.

Let me stop here for a second and tell you why this is a #Fail. The companies who pay me to set up high performance contact centers get this advice from me. You have to have your best equipped, best educated, and best prepared people on the front lines. If you do that, these are the people who will solve your customer’s problems quickly and efficiently which in turn will give your business a great reputation. It appears to me that Linksys subscribes to the logic of having lower skilled reps on the front line. That means that they will have lower rates of customer satisfaction and a lower reputation for the company. By the time I hung up with her 38 minutes later, the reputation of Linksys was lower in my mind. That’s when I posted this to Twitter:

I then went about my business not thinking much of this experience. After all, while I did have a crippled network, I did have Internet access. Thus I could make do until Monday when I would get the ASUS hardware to test and review.

Fast forward to Saturday night. My phone went ding and when I checked it, I saw this:

Here’s the kicker. I hopped onto my MacBook Pro to pull up the social media management tool that I used and saw this:

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Radian6 is one of the tools of choice that allows you to track the sentiment of your company on social media in real time. Thus this said to me that one of two things was in play. Either Linksys from a social media standpoint was asleep at the switch, or they ignored me until a competitor popped into the scene and then they were forced to react. The cynical side of me says that latter was in play, but I am open to them convincing me otherwise.

In any case, I traded direct messages with them and they promised a call back within 24 to 48 hours. That takes us to Sunday where the call back happened and I got a Level 2 support agent. Unfortunately he tried a lot of the stuff that the first agent that I spoke to on Friday suggested which makes me wonder if they just got someone to call me back and say that they were a Level 2 agent. By the end of the call he had me send him a sysinfo dump of the router which is a complete and detailed log of the router’s configuration and how it was performing and promised to escalate it to engineering because he claimed that he had not heard any reports of this issue with this firmware. Here’s the problem with that statement. Linksys’s own community forums has a thread where people are complaining about a variant of this issue and I even added my own 2 cents to the conversation. Thus someone at Linksys must be aware of it. In any case, that interaction took 31 minutes that I will not get back.

I figured that this was the end of it and I could go back to my day. But the Level 2 rep called back and asked me to try downgrading the firmware to the previous revision. I pointed out that would have done that if it had been available on their download page. To which he replied that they pulled it because of some sort of issue.

Let me stop there for a second and point out something. The fact that this guy actually said that there was an issue with the previous firmware that caused them to take it off their download page was proof positive that the @LinksysCares Twitter account didn’t want to admit it to me on Twitter and chose to ignore me instead rather than help me. That’s a #fail.

Then he directed me to a DropBox to get it. That struck me as odd as you’d think that a company the size of Linksys would have their own resources for this sort of thing rather than relying on DropBox. But I did as he asked and uploaded to the firmware to the router.

That’s when things really went sideways.

You see, downgrading the firmware turned out to be a bad idea as it took the router of the Internet. He then instructed me to reset the router. That didn’t work either. Then he tried to walk me through something that he called a “recovery reset” which still didn’t work. In short, the router appeared bricked. He apologized to me profusely and then made a stunning admission. He had never performed a downgrade of a firmware on a WRT32X before. That blew me away. Why would he suggest something that he had never tried before? That’s a great way to increase the potential that things would go sideways. And to admit to this to a customer is even more stunning. On top of the fact that all his calls are likely recored and someone at Linksys is going to hear that and take a very dim view of what he said.

His next step was to tell me that someone else would reach out to me to arrange to send another router overnight. But that would likely not happen until Monday at the earliest. Then we disconnected. Total time invested: 32 minutes.

Because I wasn’t the sort to give up, I tried his suggestions repeatedly over the next 30 minutes or so. Whether it was through luck or persistence or both, I finally got the router to reset. Now one thing that the Level 2 tech wanted to do was to skip the wizard driven setup so that the router wouldn’t go out to the Internet and update itself. I told him several times that this router is designed to get a firmware update the first time you plug it in and there’s no way to opt out of that. Unsurprisingly that’s exactly what it did, and it highlighted another negative point in terms of this interaction with Linksys support: I know more about their products than they do. That’s really bad.

But at least I am back online.

I am at the point where I am looking forward to having a look at ASUS has to offer. I promised them that I would get their router online as soon as I had it in my hands, and get a review posted after I ran my usual suite of tests. That’s great news for ASUS, but bad news for Linksys. The thing is that this whole experience with Linksys wasn’t disappointing because the product was bad. After all, I was willing to give them a pass on the fact that a piece of firmware that was pushed to this WRT32X took it from the best router I have ever tested to being sub par. It was the support, or rather the lack of support that made it disappointing.

To top it all off, I sent an update via direct message to the @LinksysCares Twitter account. And they replied to that update….. Though I don’t think they read it. The most recent reply is at the top:

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Right now, I truly have no words for the above.

I tell the people who hire me to create high performing contact centers that people are willing to forgive product failures to a point. But they are never going to forgive customer service failures. So you have to come to the table with a good product, but better customer service. Linksys only has the former working for them. And that’s not good for them in the long term because great customer service is what will win you long term customers. And that’s what’s lacking from this interaction.

UPDATE: A reader pointed me to these Tweets from users who have the same problem that I do with the WRT32X:

It seems that Linksys has a growing problem on its hands.

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