A tale of two companies

Allow me to tell a tale of why customer service is such a critical component of a great product and company.

Let us examine two companies: Logitech and SteelSeries. Logitech makes mid-ranged products, not top of the line but certainly not terrible by any means, and has average pricing. SteelSeries makes “professional” quality products, claiming to be the pinnacle of the technology, and prices accordingly. Both of these companies make “gaming mice” – durable, highly configurable mice with more than your standard 3 button layouts.

I buy a mouse from Logitech, the G5. I use it and it works well for about about two years and then the scroll wheel breaks. Annoyed, I begin a search for a new mouse and upon reading some great reviews and finding out that SteelSeries supports eSports and sponsors Evil Geniuses, one of my favorite teams, I get their top-of-the-line mouse – the Xai. I install it and promptly have issues; Windows says the device will not start. All my other mice work fine, but this one will not. I send their support desk a ticket. I wait four days. No reply. I send a followup to the ticket, send them a Twitter message, then wait another six days. No reply, so I bump the ticket a second time. Four more days, and I bump it one more time. Nothing.

I put it out of my mind for a bit as I am busy getting a new computer, and on this computer I get the mouse working, but have issues with the firmware – it will not upgrade, and the profiles do not load. I update again, no reply. Finally, a month after my initial ticket, I tweet the following out of frustration –

Well I don’t think I’ll ever buy any @steelseries products again. Worst customer support in the history of mankind.

This finally gets a response.

@dgooch Wow, that sounds really horrible. Do you have a ticket number so I can help?

Success! Whoever runs their Twitter account got the support guys to check my ticket (there’s a lesson here – the squeaky wheel gets the grease and all that). I get a response back from them and over the next 48 hours of emailing back and forth we determine the mouse is defective and I need to send it back. The support guy creates me an RMA, and I look at the process – I pay to ship it to them, and then I should get a replacement mouse in about 3 weeks. Not exactly horrible, but far from convenient. I pack it up and get it ready to send in and plug in my old Logitech mouse in the meantime and prepare to live with having no scroll wheel again for a few weeks. Then I stumble across a thread on Reddit about someone’s great experience with Logitech service. I search Reddit and find many other such threads, several of which mention that Logitech will help you for an absurdly long time after you bought the mouse. Now, bear in mind that since I’d had the Logitech for a couple years I didn’t even bother looking for support on the mouse previously.

I go to Logitech’s website and look up their support info. “Wow, they actually have a phone number,” I think to myself, and dial the support line listed for the mice. Immediately I’m connected to a gentleman who asks me what my problem is. I give him the product ID off the bottom of my mouse and he asks me what I have done so far. I tell him that the mouse doesn’t scroll unless I spin it for a long time and then it might move one click, and it’s done this on two computers where other mice with scroll wheels work fine. He says “Okay, well I’ll go ahead and replace the mouse for you. Since we don’t make that exact model, we’ll replace it with a G500 instead, okay?”

Uh, yes. That’s okay. That’s very okay. So how many weeks do I need to wait to receive this and what do I have to pay?

“So I’m going to email you a prepaid shipping label, you send that mouse in to us and as soon as we get it we’ll ship you out a brand new mouse. Should take about 7 business days for the whole process.”

He got my email address and shipping info, gave me a case number, and told me to have a great day. No credit card info needed, no hassle, no sweat.

So let’s recap.

SteelSeries

  • Mouse retails for $90
  • One year warranty
  • No phone support
  • Delayed email support
  • I pay for shipping
  • Replacement takes 3 weeks.

Logitech

  • Mouse retails for $70
  • Three year warranty
  • Phone support
  • No hold time
  • They pay for shipping
  • Replacement takes 7 days.

Guess who I’ll be buying my peripherals from for the foreseeable future?

SteelSeries makes great products. Of this I have no doubt. The Xai even LOOKS beautiful. It’s elegant in its simplicity and the configuration software is very easy to use and offers a ton of features most mice don’t even think of. Additionally, I will give SteelSeries endless props for their support of eSports and sponsorship of pro gaming teams like Evil Geniuses – eSports would not exist without companies like this willing to take a risk and get involved. And it pays – I’d never have been considering a SteelSeries mouth had EG.iNcontroL not sworn by them publicly.

But Logitech also makes high quality products. They’re not as top of the line, sure, but honestly – I’m not a pro gamer. I don’t need any more precision than the Logitech mice offer and honestly the precision either offers is probably way overkill for my skill level. And Logitech is willing to go the extra mile for their customers. In the end, that’s what makes a great product. That’s why I love companies like Logitech and Apple, who really strive to make these situations as easy as possible for the customer, and run away screaming from companies that seem to want to blame the customer for everything – I’m sure you can think of a few of those.

So a word to SteelSeries and any other company out there with a great product but so-so service: sink some cash into the customer service department. Apple’s been the face of a customer-centric company for a decade now, and they’ve rode that ideal into becoming the most profitable technology company in the world. A great product can only go so far without equally great service.

On mice and men

That Logitech Revolution mouse I said I liked a couple months ago?

I take it all back. The problems started up again not long after that, and I ended up switching to the Razer Deathadder, an absurdly comfortable gaming mouse, and I’m having absolutely zero regrets on the matter. It’s the best mouse I’ve ever used, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Why gadget hounds are sadists

I’m a bit of a gadget hound. I like to try out new things as long as I can justify them somehow in day to day life and use. I also shop a lot at Woot. This means I often find good deals on things like mice, headphones, keyboards, and other such computer accessories. Which I buy, on occasion.

A few months back I purchased the Logitech MX-5000 wireless laser desk set from Woot. I liked a lot of things about it, but the keyboard didn’t sit my hands right, and just “felt wierd.” On top of that, it had issues with Linux compatibility, and since I dual-boot Ubuntu, that was a big problem. So, I tried just the mouse for a bit, but the Bluetooth reception was spotty at best, and I went back to my old Microsoft Wireless Desk Set For Less, which despite its low cost has been extremely durable. I just have always wanted a nicer mouse, and the gaming keyboard features of the MX-5000 prompted me to buy it.

Anyway, that was a bust. Then not long ago, they had the Logitech MX Revolution mouse for sale, which I have heard people I trust swear by. The price was reasonable, so I bought that. I used it for a while but then it, too, had the same Bluetooth reception issues. I switched back to the Microsoft mouse but missed the ergonomic feel of the Revolution, as well as the extra buttons (handy for gaming, web surfing, and coding too!), and decided to figure out what was wrong with it in order to fix it.

Let me start by saying that Bluetooth is a horrible, evil technology. Its existence is proof of the existence Satan, much as the existence of Claim Jumper is proof of the existence of a kind and loving God. I did not want to work with it. For one, it operates on the same 2.4GHz band as, well, everything else that anyone has ever made to be wireless. This makes interference a real pain. Also, it has really screwed up functionality in Windows – more on that later. Third, it’s much more finicky than most wireless setups – note that my Microsoft keyboard and mouse were also wireless, and never had a problem at all.

I set out to eliminate as much possible interference as possible. Living in an apartment complex means I will have it no matter what, but I can reduce it at the very least. First I disabled the wireless broadcast on my router from firmware.  Next, I made sure that the mouse was only a few feet from the computer – this required me to move the computer from where it currently was. Last, I took care to move the power strip as far out of the way of the wireless as I could. I plugged everything back in, and while it said I was getting good reception, the mouse was “sticky” and unresponsive.

So I looked at the software. I uninstalled all Logitech and Microsoft wireless software and drivers and then made a fresh install of the latest version of SetPoint from Logitech’s web site. No improvement. This is where Google came to my aid. I discovered that the Microsoft implementation of Bluetooth pretty much sucks on a level roughly on par with Lawrence Tynes’ performance on Sunday, so my best bet was going to be finding a new Bluetooth manager. Logitech seemed the easy and obvious solution, so off I went. After installation, reboot, and configuration – the mouse works great. (Knock on wood.) So, while Logitech’s keyboard still sucks, their Revolution mouse is currently emanating awesome from my desk, and I’m back to being happy with my setup.

That is, until I start looking at widescreen monitors. Sigh…