Dear Blackberry

Hola.

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.

Lat­er, Face­less.

 

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.

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One Comment

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  1. Enter­tain­ing, as usu­al

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