With my MAKE Magazine subscription, I’ve only had to contact customer service for a half dozen problems over three years. Actually, when I think about it, that’s a lot of contact for a magazine subscription, which should be one of those things that you shouldn’t have to contact them; ever. There have been lost issues, a couple failures to activate a subscription initially, and a complete lack of responsiveness or follow-through on the simplest of things.
The customer service department evokes visions of a tiny room, staffed by people who didn’t finish high school, taking a couple calls between inhaling THC-laden smoke and talking about how “nothing beats Led Zeppelin IV, dude.”
Even the most luddite-filled magazines I have subscribed to send out subscription reminders to people, or contact subscribers when there’s a billing problem. These guys are representing fucking O’Reilly. They write the books that teach the people who keep the internet working, and their customer service people can’t be bothered to send out batches of emails to people up for renewal?
I decided that it couldn’t hurt to send an email right to the man in charge, Editor Dale Dougherty. I didn’t even recall at the time I sent the following that he’s the author of one of my top three favourite O’Reilly books, Sed & Awk; it’s like the time I met Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Eric Raymond, and Richard Stallman at an early Linux Expo; geek superheros to one degree or another… though I haven’t had cause to email those guys…
Not that you handle subscription services, but in the event you have influence in the decisions on that end of the business, I’m forwarding my latest email to the top of the food chain.
I have to say that the magazine is so good that I’ve been willing to put up some impressive issues with customer service from day one. In my experience, the people on the phones seem surprised that there’s a magazine even being sent out, let alone that subscribers would be upset that they don’t receive an issue. Today I asked a customer service rep why I didn’t even get an email to remind me to update my subscription information or to re-subscribe as my premier maker account had been declined due to an old card number.
I’ve missed, and reported missing, two different issues. One was resent, and the other report was never answered. Now I can’t even seem to find out what will happen if I re-subscribe. Honestly, I’d go all-digital to save the space on my bookshelf, but I can’t be certain that that’s a viable option if I can’t view issues prior to the most recent.
Anyhow, thanks for an excellent magazine, even if I have to fight for it. I’d actually subscribe to Craft as well, but I fear the potential increase in contact with customer services.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Richard Murray
Date: Wed, May 21, 2008 at 1:33 PM
Subject: Fwd: Your MAKE account login details
Account number is: XXXXXXX
I’m curious why I wasn’t contacted in any way when my premier account failed due to a change in my credit card expiry date.
My subscription has now expired, and the person I spoke to on the phone at customer service just now wasn’t able to tell me if I would still have access to past issues online if I resubscribed to the digital-only version nor if I would receive the latest print edition were I to subscribe to the premier print + digital version.
I’m not sure why I’m even sending an email, as the last time I tried to email customer service to report a missing issue, my queries went unanswered and I just saved off the digital version as a PDF.
The up side of sending an email to the Editor of a magazine like MAKE? He is likely to read, reply, and give me the information I need to get shit done; which is exactly what happened. Within an hour, I have a response from Dale, and a response from Heather the Circulation Director mere minutes after Dale’s. Heather has called upon the head of Customer Service (I assume it’s still an outsourced fulfillment service) to provide the information I tried to request from the customer service rep, and has provided some valuable information as well.
Even if Dale and Heather haven’t solved my problem in that first set of emails, they have given me valuable tools and feedback in, and I appreciate it. As I said, it’s a great magazine, published by a great company, and while you might have to fight for it on occasion, it’s nice to know that the people at the top of the food chain are on your side in that fight.
An hour after I’ve heard from the EDITOR, I get a response to the query I sent to CS (and then forwarded to Dale), providing A) the wrong link for me to re-subscribe and B) not answering all of my questions. Here’s hoping that Walter, the head of CS can make more answers available.