Losing Sight: Bad Customer Service and the End of Adobe

Imagine the following nightmare: You sign up for a product that you’ll need for 6 months. Based on the pricing, you decide that it would be better to sign up for a 1-year subscription.

You pay your bill faithfully for software you don’t even need anymore until the end of your subscription window.

Fast forward one month after your subscription is over and you now have been auto-enrolled for another year. This is not what you wanted — so you contact customer support. They offer to cancel your account for a mere 50% of the remaining $500 left on the yearly contract. Despite your protestations, there’s literally nothing you can legally do.

It’s your fault too — it was in the fine print. “Accounts will auto-enroll if you do not cancel within the 12th month of the annual subscription”. You missed the reminder email — it was buried in the thousands of emails in the “updates” section in your gmail account. It’s your fault for not being vigilant — at least, that’s how the customer service agent has been trained to make you feel.

Your choices now are to pay the cancellation fee (50% of the annual subscription, which could be as much as $250), or to accept their 2 free months they’ve “generously” offered and pay the slightly lower cancellation fee a few months later. Either way, chances are pretty good you’re done with this company and its products forever. You go Online to post a nasty review only to find that they company has a 1-star rating on ConsumerAffairs.org and is generally loathed because of said billing practices and poor customer support.

The company in this story is Adobe, and the product is Photoshop. And they’ve decided that, rather than simply enjoying sales on the number 1 product in the category for the past couple of decades, they need to resort to scammy billing practices typically relegated to mail-order real-estate courses, computer learning DVD scams, and CD music clubs.

It’s surprising considering that the consensus in business is that customer service is the right way to go. Many companies have fallen away and died on the vine due to poor service. This makes sense too — poor customer service sets people on the lookout for something — ANYTHING — that can do a comparable job and creates a market opportunity for the enterprising entrepreneur looking to compete.

Does Adobe think that their products are so ubiquitous and necessary that they don’t have to worry about customer service? So did Blockbuster Video, whose draconian late-fee model so enraged Reed Hastings that he started his own video rental service which delivered movies through the mail with no late fees; and while you might think that Netflix won the video rental war because of streaming video, it was their “no late fees” DVD subscription service that built the house in which streaming video was born.

Blockbuster isn’t the only example — there are countless behemoth companies that lost sight of the golden rule of business and not lived to tell the tale.

Adobe — I used to love your products. Your engineering is en pointe. Take my money because your products are good, not because you can hold my bank card hostage.

Written by

Entrepreneur. Engineer. Educator.

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