How low are your expectations?

Last week we had a glitch with our anniversary discount for users wanting to pay with PayPal, and with everything going on, it took us a little while to notice. We were shocked at how many orders this affected, especially when we realized that exactly two people told us about it.

I know that when I run across a problem, especially when ordering something online, I try to at least email someone at the company to let them know. But, then again, by nature I am a “fixer”. (I guess my job in Support is a natural fit, eh?) The results of my contact with companies are pretty much a mixed bag, everything from no response at all, to the occasional automated reply that has nothing to do with my original email, but more often I’ll get a real response from someone who is at least trying to correct the problem.

Overall, do you expect a low level of service or response? Or is it that you feel it’s pointless to complain? We really try to do better than that, and I hope we are succeeding.

14 thoughts on “How low are your expectations?

  1. Kevin

    I usually try to fix problems when I encounter them. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel worth it.

    For example, my XBox 360 broke, and I had to actually pay to have it fixed since it didn’t break in the way Microsoft was expecting and wasn’t covered under the special warranty. When I sent it back, they supposedly repaired it and sent it back. (Interestingly, they also said they never got it and then deleted my trouble ticket, even though they also said it was fixed and sent it back.) However, it was actually shipped back MORE broken and had to be returned again. I could have hassled them, but I didn’t; I just sent it back again to be fixed. Why didn’t I hassle them? The last thing I want to do is spend MORE time and energy and my own ‘personal time money’ to solve a problem with a 500 dollar toy, especially when the people on the other end of the phone are reading off a script and make audible pauses when their bogged-down support software takes too long to print up a paragraph for them to read. I hate it when people try to pick a fight with me over something, and I likewise don’t want to pick a fight with someone who is literally and intentionally powerless, even if the fight might lead to me being escalated.

    Also, I use to track personal finances. It works by using another service ( to screen-scrape your online banking websites and pulls stuff into one central place. My credit union redesigned their website recently, and Mint understandably stopped being able to work with it. I sent Mint a report following their *exact* instructions on the website, only to get an automated email telling me a) a pile of stuff that didn’t apply and b) that I apparently reported it wrong and to resubmit the form with additional information that I wasn’t told about in the first place.

    I almost reported their instruction failure, but I figured they would just tell me to resubmit it a different way all over again…

  2. David


    I always try to do something. I purchased last week the upgraded ewallet – partly as I had upgraded my Tytn II to 6.1. I made the mistake of buying ewallet at the full price from handago rather than taking advantage of your special offer during the anniversary week.

    I complained (“they can only say no !”) and I got a nice reply from Lee Stutesman who kindly refunded the full price and directed me to the right location to get the low anniversary price.

    So, great service and problem fixed – THANKS.

    I think every one should always complain or try to fix a problem. That’s a great way to get service levels to improve and sometimes you may get a good reply.

    Regards, David

  3. J. Wagner

    I tend to try to fix things as well but when I experience the PayPal problem, I just opted for another source of payment (credit card). It wasn’t that big of a deal to me I guess.

    Thanks for the great offer!

  4. spmwinkel

    Hmm it depends. When it comes to hardware stuff I always consult the warranty terms and try to get my stuff fixed when possible. But when it comes to PPC software, I’ve found out that most of those companies are led by normal people that put in a lot of effort to create a good product. So when possible, I send them a message notifying them of issues. However, I´ve also found out that a fair amount of developers either don´t respond at all, or have a very unpersonal way of submitting feedback.
    In the end I´ve learned to not expect too much. It makes friendly and personal replies a lot more enjoyable, and those replies encourage me to continue communication with the friendly developers I meet this way.

  5. Kerim Satirli

    I usually have high expectations of companies, even though 2/3 of them turn out to be unable to meet them.

    I am merciless in the sense that I will keep contacting a company (some might even call it: harass) up to a point where I feel that I have done everything I can, then I will move up a ladder (think: BBB, shows that will help you get your stuff) … for one reason or another – threatening with the bad publicity of a show always gets the stuff done.

    I do, however, find it rather appalling that one has to result to such measures to get stuff done.

    On the other hand, companies that do provide great service (like Iliumsoft) are companies I will always not only admire but heavily promote with both my friends and random strangers and obviously, the companies that provide me with great service, are the companies that keep my business.

  6. Ink

    This one baffles me as well. We sell a lot on eBay and offer a postage discount for buying purchase multiple items for which eBay doesn’t automatically discount postage because they are two separate items and not multiples of the same item. Most buyers don’t bother requesting a discounted total amount and just go ahead and pay via paypal. Some buyers however send emails demanding that we discount the postage because they have bought more than one item, so its different strokes for different folks I guess.

  7. Jeremie Lariviere

    Generally, if I have an issue when I place an order anywhere, I give it a few hours, if there’s still an issue, a day, after that I generally send an email…

  8. James Rayner

    Being a developer myself, it can be frustrating to try and get good responses from users about issues. The worst is when a user gives up and goes elsewhere to complain, when I would have happily solved the issue very quickly if they had just contacted me first.

    I suppose that when I buy products, I expect a good level of service, some sort of solution or non-automated response within 48 hours, even if it is just an honest “We’re really busy!”.

    Honesty goes a long way, and I’ll be patient with a developer so long as they’re honest and not running me around in circles or ignoring them till convenient.

    It’s a pity i missed the sale, ListPro looks excellent, as do some of the other software

  9. Kevin White

    This is mildly funny… our web developer sent a bunch of questions to PayPal several days ago (one of them was the cart problem that resulted in this blog post), and so far we have received:

    – An automated response saying that they received the email (a good thing)
    – A response from a tech person saying that they will investigate the problems (okay..)
    – Another response from *another* tech person saying that they will personally investigate the problem (!!!).

    What about another email saying that they’ve started investigating it? that they found something but don’t have the answer yet? How about another email saying that someone else is now working on the problem but will start investigating the answer again shortly? HOW ABOUT THE ANSWER? 😉

    It reminds me of AT&T, who will bounce me between about six people until I get to the actual department who can even *look up my account* (I have naked DSL through AT&T – the new AT&T, not the old AT&T or SBCGlobal or Ameritech or Whoever Else They Bought).

    Verbosity is a good thing if it lets you know what’s really happening, but when it’s a series of emails letting you know that someone’s working on your problem, it’s really just that stupid voice tree “Your Call Is So Important To Us That We Put You On Hold And Are Making You Listen to Ads For Our Service Even Though You Hate Us And Want To Cancel” message.

  10. Eugene G

    I find that Americans in general are much less likely to complain about poor service than people in many other countries. Makes me wonder how did they ever come up with that Revolution idea.

    This past blackout is a perfect example. We lost power for over a week and when I called several places to complain I was treated like a jerk – how do I dare to complain, it’s a freaking natural disaster, hundreds of thousands of people are without power and utilities crews work their backs off day and night ! Nobody stops to think that it’s actually a manmade disaster, driven by the utility companies’ use of obsolete, ancient power transmission technology that the rest of the world is laughing at. Ever heard of underground cables ? Oh, they are too expensive to install, especially if you’re a monopoly…

  11. S Potter

    My expectations vary by company, but the willingness to request a company meet my expectations often comes down to cost vs benefit.

    How hard will it be to complain (email form, phone call, written letter)
    How long will it take (on hold for an hour with XBOX)
    What’s at stake (repeating/utility billing, warranty issue, etc)
    Options to resolve it myself (different payment options, go elsewhere)

    With a payment option like the issue you described I would probably just try a credit card (sadly I missed the sale myself). In other areas I’ve spent an hour with my cell provider resolving a $5 issue, and spent 8 months and 6 freight deliveries to get something fixed with my massage chair.

    The fact you would ask the questions shows that Illium seems to have a high level of integrity, so I certainly have higher expectations now.

  12. Lise Charlebois

    I tend to address issues, and I guess my expectations are pretty high. I assume that I will get a human response within 24 hours, and am quite dejected when I don’t. Illium has always responded in that time and I am thankful for that.

    But I have much higher expectations when it comes to bug fixes. I expect a bug to be fixed within days of its being reported, and then patches provided for customers. I see this level of service from JRiver (MediaCenter) who fix bugs the next day, and by my husband’s software company who fix very complicated bugs within a week.

    This is where Illium fails dramatically. I had upgraded to the latest version of ListPro (v5) only to find that I couldn’t write in the Notes field on my PDA, which of course is essential–I take my PDA everywhere, and I have to be able to enter stuff. That’s the point.

    This was in Sep 2007. Illium was very quick to refund my purchase, which I appreciate, but still no bug fix. This I find unacceptable. In my mind, if something is broken, it should be fixed before anything else is done.

  13. Marc

    Our primary method of dealing with bugs is not to have them. Part of the reason we don’t do quick and dirty releases to fix minor issues is that we test like crazy every time we send an application out into the public. This process is a bit slower (and costlier) than just firing off a new version but we’ve also never released a version of any of our products that contained serious bug.

    We’re not perfect though. We do have bugs. The unfortunate reality, however, is that we have to prioritize bug fixes like we do everything else. Serious bugs and/or bugs that impact a large number of users get an immediate response. This has always been the case. Minor bugs, or bugs that affect a very small number of users, get placed in the list to go out with the next scheduled release of the software.

    The challenge here is that this specific issue falls into the second category. We’re very sorry you are having trouble and we’re definitely going to fix this, but it is currently scheduled for the 5.1 release of ListPro (I don’t have a release date set for 5.1 at this time.)

  14. ilyas

    I wait for a day and then do mail to staff of the site. I guess most people don`t do this, since most think staff doesn`t care.

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