Those of you that know me or have spent any time reading Ramblingsss are aware of the fact that I might be a tiny bit opinionated (that’s okay, Faceless. I laughed a little bit when I wrote that, too). You also know I can be a tad impulsive — particularly when I’m excited, or annoyed. And that will be my justification for posting what follows below on BlackBerry’s Facebook page this evening (Edit: Responses from other Facebookers? Dozens, many with similar tales of woe. Responses from BlackBerry itself? Zero.).
After being uncharacteristically patient in waiting for a response, I figured I’d do something a bit more Me-like to get their attention. Please read on, and wish me luck.
I love my Blackberry; I really do. Sometimes, I even believe it loves me, too.
Sure, ours has been a complicated, tension-filled relationship; many of the deepest unions are. My loyalty to that relationship has been tested over the years–and yes, I’ve admittedly experimented with new technologies)–but I have always returned. Our strange love affair has continued on.
In the years that we have been together, I’ve learned to live with some of the maddening oddities of my Beloved, many of which are easily outweighed by her pure utility (to paraphrase BlackBerry’s own words, “I need tools, not toys”). She knows where I’m supposed to be, even if I’ve long forgotten; she remembers who I need to talk to and how best to reach them; her alarm wakes me up in the wee hours of the morning, her gently-blinking light preparing me for the horrors my inbox has in store.
Her previous incarnations were near-indestructible: I watched in horror as my 7250 disgracefully bounced down an escalator at O’Hare International, and then smiled at the stunned face of the fellow that helped me find the battery door as she powered on, a few scars on her thick plastic back the only evidence of her fall. My 8800 went for an unintentional swim in a mall fountain; a little shakeout and a nap in some rice and she was right as rain.
As she matured, her tank-like disposition was softened by sleek lines; her hard plastic casing was swapped out for more elegant materials. But, her new sophistication brought along fantastic new communication and productivity tools: all welcome additions to my mobile office.
“Sounds good…thanks for the fan mail”, you at BlackBerry might be thinking at this point. And I wish it was, but this isn’t that kind of letter.
My latest Blackberry is a white Z10. She’s gorgeous; far bolder than the Bold that preceded her, and her new OS has enough potential to be truly revolutionary. However, all of that must be followed by one important caveat:
When she works.
Because when she doesn’t work, I’m torn between the urge to jack-knife her into the ground as hard as I can or dousing her in gas, and watching as she slowly melts into a pile of bubbling plastic. The most disheartening piece of this is the fact that the angst I feel isn’t really caused by the device itself; the cause is Blackberry’s complete lack of support, service, and general care for the satisfaction of their customers.
I bought this device while traveling through London (just days before the Z30 was announced, ironically), despite all of your very public corporate struggles, the proclamations of your pending demise and the choir of voices shouting That’s a mistake – just buy an iPhone, already from friends that had already left your brand behind them. I bought my Z10 anyway, and then proceeded to show it off wherever and whenever I could to anyone that would listen.
And I was starting to make progress. That’s a cool phone, or show me that Hub thing again, or Maybe I was wrong were becoming common replies to my impromptu demos in the elevator, on my train ride home, or at a conference I was attending filled with older model Blackberries. I wanted people to love Blackberry again like I had; I wanted them to see what it had to offer and to give it a desperately needed second chance. To my chagrin, it started acting up shortly after I returned home, but I didn’t think much of it; I’ve bought devices while on trips abroad before and never had much of an issue to have it remedied. This would pass, and my evangelism could continue.
I contacted the retailer in London and explained the situation, along with the impracticality of returning the device to the UK for repair. After far-too-much back and forth, they finally recommended that I contact Blackberry directly and inform them that they suggested that I reach out; certainly, they would guide me to a suitable solution. I live in Toronto, after all: it’s BlackBerry’s unofficial home turf. In the financial core of the city that I frequent daily, they are in every hand and pocket, buzzing and chirping away.
One wouldn’t think it would be an issue to have it fixed locally; one would think that a company eager to regain the loyalty of their customer base would be happy to provide a solution and put me on my way.
One would be incorrect.
The following weeks were spent attempting to interact with anyone, my quest for service ultimately ending at the comically-misnamed @BlackBerryHelp support service (for usage tips, I understand — but seriously? Twitter for SUPPORT for a $600 device?? Someone needs a good slap), which simply parroted the same useless “help” back to me again and again when they decided to reply at all:
“Hello! Please contact the service provider or original point of purchase to get more options on this specific situation” (which I explained several times that I already had) always followed with “Do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions. Have a great day!” Oh, I will…as long as I don’t need to use my phone, I suppose.
That interchange ended in my final reply (a few replies in succession actually, as there’s only so much that I can say in 140 characters) explaining the situation yet again and my displeasure, to which I have had no further responses. I would probably have been content with “Sorry for your luck. Have a great day!” at that point…at least I would have felt like someone was actually listening. But I can’t say I’m surprised, based on the lack of helpful responses that I had already received.
In the end, I still have a phone in need of either repair work or an exorcism, and I am still faced with the same three sad options I started with:
1. Spend additional funds to ship a 3 month old device to the UK for repair (not to mention the sheer inconvenience of being without the device itself for who knows how long);
2. Spend additional funds on a local non-warranty repair for the aforementioned 3 month old device; or
3. Abandon my decade-long love affair with my Beloved, move onto one of her competitors, cease singing her praises and give satisfaction to the not-so-small army of naysayers that are eager to remind me that they did indeed Tell Me So.
I work in technology; I am well aware of the tendency new equipment has to behave badly, I am quite conscious that even the most thoroughly-tested software has bugs, and I fully understand that no device is immune to issues. And I’m okay with all of that: no product, regardless of what the marketing tells you, is perfect. With that said, I am also quite conscious of the fact that the service and support behind that new tool is really what people are paying for. They pay for the security of knowing that the people that built your expensive new purchase will stand behind it when it breaks, no matter where you purchased it or why it may have failed. I have seen this in action first-hand at one of your competitors… and I have gone on to spend literally thousands of dollars on their products and services as a result. Trust me, it works.
That sense of service is what makes a company not just a fad, but a true market-leader; it is also one (of several) reasons your competitors have pushed you to the brink of obscurity over the past few years. It’s the one thing that in a crowded market of “me-too” products that can set you apart and truly matters to your customers, some of which find themselves miles away from home and would kill for a payphone, because their “state of the art” tool stopped working. And it is also the one simple thing that Blackberry as a company, despite years of their products living in the pockets and hearts of thousands of their loyal users, appears to still be woefully out of touch with.
I still love my Blackberry; I really do. I just wish someone at Blackberry would even pretend to care that I did, too.
Thanks for reading.